When you can’t escape a distressing situation, distract yourself from it. But distracting yourself doesn’t mean avoiding it. You can’t just sit back and watch TV until the day has gone. You have to come back to the problem and approach it rationally. Distraction requires you to return by choosing a better way to respond to it.

Many people respond to difficult situations with extreme anger or sadness. They may even use tantrums and other harmful behaviors to get away with it. But that’s neither healthy nor effective. The key to managing distress is identifying what works best for you and using healthy coping skills in your daily life.

ACCEPTS is an acronym based on skills that offers you options to reduce distress and improve your ability to cope. Each of the following components of the skill allows you to distract yourself from distress, manage negative emotions, and improve your overall well-being.

  1. Activities: Choose activities that can take your mind off a situation and keep you engaged. E.g., cooking, gardening, fishing, and so on. Make a list of activities and choose what sounds good.
  2. Contributing: Choose an activity that can be of service to others. This helps improve mood and develop a sense of purpose. E.g., volunteering, surprises, or donations.
  3. Comparaisons : Think of a time when you felt different from what you’re feeling right now. Think of others who’re living with more difficult emotions than yours.
  4. Emotions : Chase a different emotion than what you’re having right now. E.g., If you’re feeling sad, then watch a comedy show.
  5. Pushing Away: Chase away a negative thought you can’t deal with right now. Tell it to go away. Put it in a locked box.
  6. Thoughts: Engage yourself to think of something (other than what’s bothering you). E.g. Count 1 to 10, pick a color and look for it outside, and so on.
  7. Sensations : Engage with a strong physical sensation. E.g., Hold an ice, feel a texture on the wall, and so on.

The following worksheet requires you to write down activities that you performed against each ACCEPTS skill. Then rate 1-5 based on how effective the particular skill was in helping you cope with the situation. 

Remember that not every skill may work for you. So, here’s how we suggest you to use the ACCEPTS skill worksheet:

  • Tailor activities based on what best resonates with you.
    • Experiment with different activities within each skill.
    • Combine at least 2 to 3 components to help tolerate a situation.
    • Incorporate these skills as part of your regular self-care routine.
    • Make sure to measure their effectiveness over set time (weekly or monthly).

Describe a distressing situation that happened to you. Mention who, what, when, and where?

Click here to download free DBT ACCEPT Worksheet in PDF format.

SkillWhat did I do to practice this skill?(Rate 1 to 5) How effective was the skill in helping me tolerate my distress?
Activities (What diverts my attention away from distressing thoughts/emotions?)  
Contributions (Doing something for others)  
Ccomparaisons (Gain perspective by considering others’ challenges)  
Emotions (Intentionally evoke positive or neutral emotions)  
Pushing Away (Mentally set aside distressing thoughts for a while.)  
Thoughts (Occupy the mind with absorbing activities like reading or puzzles)  
Ssensations (Use sensory experiences to cope with distress)              

Rate effectiveness of a skill: (1: “I couldn’t stand the situation at all,” 3: “I was somewhat able to stand the situation,” 5: “I could use the skill and tolerate the situation pretty well.”)

Following Are the List of Behaviors You Can Pursue to Practice the ACCEPTS Skill.


Journal your thoughts and feelings on paper.Attend a social gathering.
Meditate for relaxation.Learn a new skill online.
Solve puzzles (crossword or Sudoku).Write e-mails.
Play a video game.Visit a museum.
Tend to the plants.Clean your room in the house.


Bake something for a family member.Volunteer at your local charity or community.
Create handmade items to give as gifts.Offer to help a neighbor with chores.
Teach a skill and share it with others.Offer support to someone in tough time.
Express gratitude/appreciation to someone.Donate blood.
Write a thoughtful letter/email to someone.Surprise someone with something.


Think of people going through something similar as you.Connect with someone who have overcome something similar.
Compare yourself with someone less fortunate.Acknowledge your progress by comparing your present self with past self.
Read stories of resilience and triumph.Reflect on challenges that you’ve already passed.


Listen to emotional music.Perform activities that bring a sense of accomplishment.
Read books that bring joy, sadness, laughter, etc.Create a list of happy memories to revisit when depressed.
Practice gratitude by counting things you’re thankful for.Connect with loved ones who offer support.
Surround yourself with positive influences.Find joy in simple pleasures.

Pushing Away

Put distressing thoughts on paper and set it aside.Refuse to think about painful situations.
Think of leaves (negative thoughts) floating away in a river stream.Leave the situation mentally.
Think of balloons (negative thoughts) drifting away.Deny the problem for the day.
Imagine placing worries in a bubble and watch them float away.Imagine putting the pain on the shelf and box it away.


Engage in thought-provoking conversations.Listen to podcast that captures your interest.
Challenge your mind with quizzes & puzzles.Detach from persistent thoughts.
Write a journal to explore your thoughts.Count to 10.
Learn something new through online courses.Spot a color when taking a walk outdoors.
Distract yourself with a hobby.Repeats words of your favorite song.


Take a hot or a cold shower.Go outside and feel natural elements.
Hold and squeeze a soft ball.Taste your favorite food mindfully.
Go out in sunny weather.Participate in yoga or dancing.
Listen to loud music.Enjoy a relaxing massage.
Explore textures by touching soft fabrics.Experiment with different aroma (e.g., scented candles).

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Last Update: 17 April 2024

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