TIPP-ing the Distress

Getting to that place of “healthy and safe” means finding some balance. You notice that I didn’t say getting to the place of “being ok” because it is perfectly ok to not be ok!! When we are waaaaay over on the emotional side of the scale and need to move back toward the rational side to even things out, one distress tolerance skill is known as the TIPP Skill.

TIPP stands for Temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, and Paired muscle relaxation. This skill is designed to help get you away from that breaking point, the “last straw” moment, or as one website calls it, the metaphorical ledge.


Whether you notice or not, when we get upset, our body temperature raises. You are going for a literal “chill out” moment with this skill. Suggested ideas include holding an ice cube in your hand (or a cold pack), splash your face with cold water, step out in snow in bare feet (don’t stay out so long you get frostbite), or take a cold shower.

(I)ntense exercise

Don’t let the word “exercise” scare you off. Is there an activity you can do that matches your emotion? Increasing your oxygen flow helps to decrease stress. If you are runner, go for an intense run. Not a runner, how about some jumping jacks? Shoot some baskets or another sport. Be mindful of your physical limits and be safe in what you chose. For a long time I was very limited in my mobility yet I was able to pace around pretty well and that worked for me. Wearing yourself out seems to be a great distraction tool.

(P)aced breathing

Yes, breathing is always going to be a part of every skill! As mentioned before, when you are in different emotional states, your breathing will be different. Be mindful of how you are breathing and try to pace your breathing by slowing it down and taking good, deep breaths. Breathe out slower than you breathe in to help return to a calmer pace. Think about the different mindful breathing exercises. This is a good place to practice square breathing.

(P)aired muscle relaxation

This works with your breathing. Choose a muscle group – let’s choose your arms. As you breathe in, tense up your arms (not so tight that you get a cramp), notice the tension. As you breathe out, relax those muscles. Notice how they relax. Repeat with these muscles then move on to another set. Notice how your body starts to relax. I will do this by starting at my toes and working my way up my body.

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