Mental Health


Welcome back to DBT skills, the part of your week where you learn evidence based ways of being in the world without it sucking a lot! Last week’s skills (PLEASE) seemed incredibly simple, but are actually some of the most necessary skills to keeping your emotions stable and awesomesauce that are out there. This week’s skill is a little more challenging but brings great rewards (like taking over the world. Ok, that might be overselling). Today’s skill is “build mastery”.

This is another one of my favorite skills (it’s possible that I actually just really like DBT skills in general since I say this about almost all of them, but they have made my life infinitely better). Building mastery is a way to feel in control of your surroundings and yourself. Essentially it means doing things that make you feel accomplished, whether getting better at something you already feel confident about or learning something new. Anything you can see yourself improving at (gaining mastery over) counts as building mastery. For me, using the phone is building mastery. I’m not good at talking on phones and they make me anxious, so every time I successfully make a phone call I get the thrill of knowing that I got something done and I got better at something hard.

Building mastery doesn’t have to be huge. Sometimes it’s as simple as making yourself dinner. If you’re really struggling with your emotions, starting with some of these smaller things can build up confidence to remind you that you are capable, which then gives you the motivation to move on to larger things.

It might seem obvious that getting things done makes you feel better, but building mastery is more about reminding yourself that you are competent and capable, not just getting things done. Especially when you learn something new and challenging, you get a sense of being able to find new ways to affect your surroundings and be in control of yourself and your actions. It seems simple, but incorporating ways of challenging yourself into a regular schedule reminds you periodically that you are a functional human being who can get things done, which in turn helps with larger struggles around emotions and accomplishment.

As a final note, I found this pdf of the DBT skills handbook that’s available online and is a great resource if you want exercises to try out for each of the skills. Check out page 54 for some practice at building mastery. Now get out there and master something.

Featured pic is the first mosaic I ever made.

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at

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