Using TIP to Tolerate Distress

Next time you’re overwhelmed with a strong emotion, consider using the distress tolerance tool called TIP, which stands for Temperature, Intense Exercise, and Paced Breathing. TIP is a tool that can be used to quickly change your body chemistry and reduce strong emotions.

The TIP skill is particularly helpful in situations where you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to calm down quickly.

Here’s a breakdown of each component of the TIP skill and how to apply it:


The first step in the TIP skill is to change your body temperature. This can be done by either taking a cold shower or holding your face in a bowl of cold water for 30 seconds. You can also place an ice pack on the back of your neck or forehead.

The reason this works is that it stimulates the mammalian diving reflex, which slows down your heart rate and reduces feelings of panic and anxiety.

Intense Exercise

The next step is to engage in some intense exercise. This can include jumping jacks, running up and down stairs, or doing some other high-intensity activity for a short period of time.

The reason intense exercise works is that it releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that improve mood and reduce feelings of pain and stress.

Paced Breathing

Finally, the last step is to engage in paced breathing. This involves breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, and then exhaling for four seconds. Repeat this for a few minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body.

The reason this works is that it activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you relax and feel calmer.

Example: When to Use TIP

Let’s say you’re feeling overwhelmed and anxious after a long day at work. Your thoughts are racing, your heart is pounding, and you’re having trouble focusing on anything else. You decide to use the TIP skill to help change your body chemistry and calm down.

Temperature: You start by splashing cold water on your face, neck, and wrists. You might also take a cold shower, put a cold pack on your forehead, or go outside in cold weather without a coat.

Intense Exercise: You engage in intense physical activity, such as running or jumping jacks, for a few minutes to help release some of the excess energy and adrenaline that is contributing to your anxiety.

Paced Breathing: You slow down your breathing and focus on taking deep, slow breaths. You might count to four as you inhale, hold your breath for a count of four, and then exhale slowly for a count of six.

After using the TIP skill, you notice that your heart rate has slowed down and your thoughts aren’t racing as much. You feel more grounded and centered, and you’re able to tackle the rest of your evening with more ease and clarity.

Final Thoughts 

Together, these three components of the TIP skill work to change your body chemistry quickly and effectively, reducing intense emotional states and helping you feel more in control of your emotions.

It’s important to note that the TIP skill is not a replacement for therapy or medication for mental health conditions. However, it can be a helpful tool to have in your arsenal when you’re feeling overwhelmed or need to quickly change your body chemistry.

Contact Me:

If you’re interested in learning more about distress tolerance, please reach out to me, clinical psychologist, Dr. Christine E. Dickson through my website.

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