BY VAALPARK MHU | August 20, 2021

Blog By
Dr Elsabe Botha
Clinical Psychologist

“The biggest challenge for women in the 21st century revolves around the issue of choice – the freedom for women to choose who they become. We must support women to unleash the power to propel them to achieve that goal.” (Ndileka Mandela – Founder of Thembekile Mandela Foundation, first granddaughter of Nelson Mandela)

One of the biggest challenges that woman face is, most probably, all “the hats that she must wear”. She often has family obligations, must take care of the children (and sometimes elderly parents as well), has work responsibilities and has to be “super-wife” to her husband as well. Increasing demands to fulfill all the roles might make them feel overwhelmed. That often leads to feeling like a sense of failure. Women also seem to be spending more time meeting the needs of all the important ‘other’ in their lives, leaving them with little to no time for nurturing themselves. Not to mention, having a choice of who you want to become…

Perhaps you have experience this as well: It is a cold July morning; the frost is laying white outside. As you open your eyes in the dim light, you realize, it is loadshedding and the kids must get to school! You jump up, run in circles, stop, and realize you better wake up the kids. After you get dressed you must prepare something for all to eat before heading to work and the kids to school. With a sandwich in the hand all storm to the car. Now in the started the car, you’re already late. Irritated you look back to see why you son is still standing at the back door? With a half scream and half cry, he says “Flat back tire”. You’re an emotional mess, you don’t know if you want to sob, shout or laugh hysterically.

Sometimes we don’t have control over what is happening to us, but we always have control over the choices we make to handle the situation.

One of the DBT skills that can help when feeling like an emotional mess, is Emotional Regulation. Emotional Regulation involves the ability to manage or “influence which emotions you have, when you have them, and how you experience and express them. Regulating emotions can be automatic as well as consciously controlled.” (South African DBT Institute)

The goals of Emotional Regulation are to:
• understand and name the emotions being experienced (identify your emotions);
• decrease the frequency of unwanted emotions (change unwanted emotions once they start);
• reduce emotional vulnerability (increase positive emotions), and
• decrease emotional suffering (stop or reduce unwanted emotions once they start).

Some practical advice from DBT for reducing vulnerability to unwanted emotions is to practice the “ABC” guidelines. This might help you to feel less helpless in emotionally challenging situations.

A – Accumulate Positive emotions. Focus and refocus on positive experiences. Don’t
let worries swallow you up.
B – Build mastery – schedule activities to build a sense of accomplishment.
(Challenge yourself to do something difficult, but possible.)
C – Cope Ahead – Think about a situation that prompts unwanted emotions:
1. Imagine ways of coping effectively in that situation.
2. Imagine coping successfully with new problems that might arise. (DBT Skills Training by Marsha M Linehan)

Dr Elsabe Botha