Coping with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)
The Janne McMahon Quiet Room at BPD Co headquarters is a warm, welcoming space available to people who need quiet, soothing time following on-site therapy appointments.
Soothing strategies and self-help
If you experience the symptoms of BPD, you may wish to try some of the following soothing strategies and self-help tools. There are downloadable apps and websites which can also assist you in these soothing practices.
Things that help me comfort myself:
- Pick or buy fresh flowers
- Pat an animal
- Cuddle a soft toy
- Eat a favourite treat
- Have a soothing drink
- Change my bed sheets
- Look myself in the eyes in the mirror and say “it's okay to feel this way”
- Have a bubble bath
- Comfort myself as though I’m a distressed, small child
- Use perfume/hand cream
- Wear comfortable clothes
- Sing favourite songs
- Hold a safe, comforting object
- Say a quiet prayer
- Sit in a safe place
- Write in my diary or speak with empathic person
- Hug someone or hug myself
- Keep the lights on or put music on to sleep.
Things that help me to relax:
- Meditation, yoga, breathing techniques (Suggested apps: smiling mind & calm)
- Listening to music.
Things that help me with my relationships:
- State a boundary and stick to it
- Remove myself from a situation rather than say something I know I will regret
- Apologise if I have done something that warrants an apology
- Request (not demand) for someone to change something that isn’t working
- If I am feeling rage, remove myself from the situation and wait until the feeling passes.
Things that help me remember to take care of myself:
- Remind myself to eat healthy food even when I don’t feel like it
- Keep regular appointments with my support network even if I am feeling 'okay'
- Reach out, speak with someone I trust
- Take medication as prescribed (in consultation with prescribing doctor).
Identify and engage in things that help me:
- Express/respond to my intense emotions
- Distract myself
- Distract by contact with other people
- Comfort/take care of myself
- Ground myself and focus
- Stay focused
- Relax/become calm (Suggested apps: In Hand and Breathe2Relax).
- Do a body scan to identify what I am feeling in my body
- Do a feelings check — what am I feeling in this moment?
- Identify five things I can see, hear, and feel.
Things that help me when I am in crisis:
- Create a personalised crisis plan when I am well (Refer to Coping Kit instructions)
- Let someone know how I am feeling
- Take medication prescribed for 'when necessary' (p.r.n.)
- Kick cardboard boxes around outside.
Things that help me distract myself:
- Watch a movie (or re-watch something familiar)
- Exercise - walking/running/dance/stroll on the beach
- Do puzzles or participate in a hobby.
Things that help me with my anger:
- Punch a pillow
- Find a private place to scream (for example, in the car)
- Cut a block of wood
- Shake like a dog.
This list of strategies and tools were collated by Spectrum following an online survey of their consumers in 2015.
Web page content reference: (Spectrum 2015).
Distress tolerance box, emergency, soothe box, coping kit
A number of examples of these can be found online, and are found useful by many people living with BPD for managing distress.
'How are you feeling' matrix
This matrix, courtesy of mind.org.uk, can be useful if you’re feeling overwhelmed, through guiding you to focus on one feeling at a time. Below are some ideas that you could try to see if they work for you.
Different things work at different times for different people, so try to be kind to yourself if some things don’t work for you. Over time, you might develop your own tips to add to this list too.
Feeling angry, frustrated, restless
- rip up a newspaper
- hit a pillow
- throw ice cubes into the bath so they smash
- do some vigorous exercise
- listen to loud music
- do a practical activity like gardening or woodwork.
Visit the how to cope with anger page for more tips.
Feeling depressed, sad, lonely
- wrap up in a blanket and watch your favourite tv show
- write all your negative feelings on a piece of paper and tear it up
- listen to a song or piece of music you find uplifting
- write a comfortable letter to the part of yourself that is feeling sad or alone
- cuddle a pet or a soft toy.
Feeling anxious, panicky, tense
- make yourself a hot drink and drink it slowly, noticing the taste and smell, the shape of the mug and it's weight in your hand
- take ten deep breaths, counting each one out loud
- write down everything you can think of about where you are right now, such as the time, date, colour of the walls and the furniture in the room
- take a warm bath or shower — this can help change your mood by creating a soothing atmosphere and distracting physical sensation.
Visit the self-care for anxiety and panic attacks page for more tips
Feeling dissociative, spaced out
- chew a piece of ginger or chilli
- clap your hands and notice the stinging sensation
- drink a glass of ice cold water.
Visit the self-care for dissociative disorders page for more tips
Feeling wanting to self-harm
- rub ice over where you want to hurt yourself
- stick cello-tape or a plaster on your skin and peel it off
- take a cold bath.
Visit the helping yourself cope with self-harm page for more tips
Share your techniques
BPD Co would love to know your top self-soothing tips to add to list below, including any South Australian-produced resources. If you would like to share your favourite soothing techniques, email Health.BPDservice@sa.gov.au.
There are a number of apps listed below which people have found useful. You may wish to consult with Beacon, a portal to online applications for mental and physical disorders. Beacon has a panel of health experts who categorise, review and rate websites and mobile applications.
Smiling Mind - This free guided meditation app will help put a smile on your mind, anytime, anywhere and every day.
Reachout - Offers a ‘toolbox’ of free helpful apps.
BeyondNow - This is a suicide safety planning app (plus online resources) that can help you get through tough times.
Note: BeyondNow is designed to be used as part of your overall mental wellbeing and safety strategy. It is not intended to be your only form of support. Ideally you should work with a health professional or support person to create your plan.
In Hand - This app takes you through different activities in times of stress or low mood. It aims to focus on the present moment and bring back the balance. You can find it via Apple Store or Google Play.
Note: This app was developed in the UK. The emergency contact numbers are for the UK but the content can be accessed from Australia.
Calm - This is a simple mindfulness app that is intended to bring clarity and peace of mind into your life. You can find it via the Apple Store or Google Play.
Note: This app is free, but if you want lots of extras you’ll need to pay a yearly subscription. However, there are several free sessions available, so you can give it a try and then pay only if you choose to.
Breathe2Relax - This app is centred on the basic concept that breathing into the belly (diaphragmatic breathing) provides deeper relaxation than simply breathing into the chest. Designed mainly for use by individuals with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, the app helps with mood stabilisation, anger control, and anxiety management. It’s a portable stress management tool with breathing exercises that have been shown to decrease the body’s ‘fight-or-flight’ stress response.
Lifeline - offers a number of free self-help tools, a coping kit, and fact sheets.
LifeSIGNS Self-Injury Guidance & Network Support (UK) - is a small user-led charity creating understanding about self-injury. Their mission is to guide people who injure themselves towards new ways of coping, when they are ready.
Mind.org.uk - explains BPD and offers support and resources including self-care. Please note contact numbers are based in the UK.
Get Self Help - offers self-help and therapy resources, including worksheets and information sheets, and self-help mp3s downloads.
Diarycard - DBT Diary Card and Skills Coach app.