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Improve the Moment: A DBT Stress Management Technique

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Improve the Moment: A DBT Stress Management Technique

Improve the moment is a DBT strategy used to better deal with negativity and stress. When the situation cannot be changed, or you feel to overwhelmed doing anything, improving the moment can be used help you feel more positive and be better able to tolerate the negative. This is also a good strategy to use when stuck in ruminating thoughts that are creating more stress and anxiety. Rather than letting those thoughts take over, you can replace the thoughts with positive ones though improving the moment techniques.



Improve can be used as an acronym to help remember the particular ways you can improve the moment. IMPROVE= Imagery, Meaning, Prayer, Relaxing actions, One thing in the moment, Vacation, Encouragement.

  • Imagery is mental visualizations to distract, sooth, and boost confidence. Use imagery to imagine a situation different than the actual one. You can imagine coping more effectively in the particular situation or tolerating the stress better. Another way to use imagery is to have a safe, secure, happy place to mentally be in. It can help to create a mental space when not stressed that can be used when trying to improve the moment. Image a place where you would feel safe and calm. Imagine all the different details: what you would physically put in the space, what do your surroundings look like, what would you hear and smell, etc.


  • Meaning: Find or create meaning or purpose from the situation you are in. It’s about making lemonade out of lemons. Think about what you are learning or gaining from going through this. Remind yourself that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Think about how this stressful situation is helping you get somewhere positive.


  • Prayer: The goal of prayer is to open yourself up to the moment. It does not have to be religious or spiritual if you do not connect to that. Pray to something outside yourself about being able to better tolerate the pain and understand why you are going through it.


  • Relaxing actions: Engage in activities that generally calm you down. When you can relax, you are better able to deal with what life has thrown your way. Being relaxed also keeps you from engaging in dysfunctional and ineffective coping mechanisms. Some examples of relaxing activities are taking a bath, drinking something warm, massaging your neck and scalp, and doing a deep breathing exercise. Everyone has different things that relax them; find what relaxes you.


  • One thing in the moment: When stressed, it can be difficult to just focus on one thing, but it is important as a way to stay grounded and settle down. The key with this skill is to remember that the only pain one has to survive is just in this moment. We often add to our pain by getting caught up in remembering past suffering and worrying about future suffering that may come. Staying focused on just the here and now, even if that entails stress or negativity, makes it much easier to manage and tolerate.


  • Vacation: Take a vacation from the situation by briefly leaving it for the moment. When you are overwhelmed and stressed, sometimes you just need a break to be able to recuperate and then get back to it.


  • Encouragement is about being your own cheerleader. Rethink the situation and talk to yourself in an encouraging way. Think about what you would say to someone you cared about if they were in the situation or about how someone would talk to you. Replace all the negative thoughts with words of encouragement. For example, “this is too hard,” can be flipped to “I can get through this.”


Improve the moment is not about using all these strategies at once. Find the ones that resonate with you in times that you feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or down. You may use different improve the moment strategies at different times, depending what you are dealing with. The end goal is to get out of a negative headspace by doing something that brings more positive thoughts and feelings.


It is also important to find balance between improving the moment and staying in the present. Improve the moment is not to be used as avoidance or to evade responsibilities. Improve the moment is a way to calm yourself down and energize you enough to then go back into the stress and do what is needed to move forward.

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