4D Distract

This page tells you more about the DBT ‘distract’ skill for ‘crisis survival’.

Distract is one of the 4 crisis survival skills of Distress Tolerance.  Crisis survival skills are about helping you tolerate and survive a crisis situation, they provide you with tools to help you cope with and get through a difficult experience and to manage overwhelming emotions.

Crisis survival skills are like a ‘sticking plaster’ to get you through a crisis.  They are short-term solutions.

How do I ‘distract’ myself?

This skill is about reducing your contact with the event or situation that is the cause of the crisis or the intense emotions.   This can lead to positive changes in your emotional response.

This skill is really useful when you feel really stressed; the actions involved give you a break from your difficulties; chance to step back so that you can process what’s happening (and connect with ‘Wise Mind’).  At the same time, the actions help to keep your mind on positive thoughts that will get you through the moment.

How can I remember what to do?

There are 7 DBT ‘distract’ techniques, a helpful way to remember them can be to think of the phrase ‘Wise Mind ACCEPTS’:


Activities: Do an activity to keep your mind busy.  Something you enjoy or maybe something new.  It could be exercise, hobbies, cleaning, visiting friends or family, going for a walk, doing homework or playing sports; you choose!


Contributing: Do something kind for somebody else, volunteer, donate something, do a job at home to help out, listen to someone.


Comparisons: Compare yourself to someone less fortunate than you; think about all the things you can be grateful for.


Opposite Emotions: Think about what the negative emotion is that you are feeling now, decide what an opposite emotion to this would be; then do something that will help you to create this new positive emotion.  You might choose to listen to music, read a book, watch a film…


Pushing away: Push the situation away, leave it for a while.  You might physically remove yourself from the situation, or block it from your mind.  This skill allows you to reduce your contact with the emotional triggers.


Other Thoughts: Count things, watch tv, read a book, do a puzzle.  At least in the short-term, triggering other thoughts can help to replace the negative thoughts that are causing your current negative emotion.


Intense other Sensations: Hold an ice cube, squeeze a stress ball, listen to loud music, stand out in the cold.

Remember, hard times pass.  These skills will help you to get through the moment.


My 4D Toolkit Activity

Be prepared and plan in advance all the different ways you can distract yourself.  This fun sheet has the potential to be distracting itself!

4-Distraction download button

Distress tolerance

Related Pages – Crises Survival: Self-soothe, Improve the moment, Pros & Cons

Related Pages – Acceptance Skills:  Acceptance, Acceptance Exercises

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