Woman practicing paced breathing

TIPP Skills: Easy DBT at Home

March 21, 2023

4 min.

TIPP skills are a specific set of practices based in principles of DBT that can help you calm down, self-regulate, and get back on track with your mental health.

By: Sarah Fielding

Clinically Reviewed By: Dr. Don Gasparini

Learn more about our Clinical Review Process


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Table of Contents

In the world of mental health, it can sometimes feel like education and care are out of reach. It can be challenging to determine what to do when you’re feeling depressed or stressed, with emotions overwhelming you. When you learn about a new skill to try, there’s hope that it will work for what you need and when you need it. To make things easier, some options, like TIPP skills, are easily tailored and slightly alterable depending on how you’re feeling. These distress tolerance techniques are quick, free coping mechanisms you can use from your home. 

What are TIPP skills? 

TIPP stands for: 

  • Temperature
  • Intense exercise
  • Paced breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation

They stem from dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a talk therapy that focuses on regulating emotions, interpersonal effectiveness, mindfulness, and distress tolerance. It also looks at balancing opposing perspectives and finding a comfortable middle ground. DBT can be helpful for people with mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and substance use disorder. It can also provide restorative care to people who self-harm. 

TIPP fits well into DBT, focusing on calming the body and coping with distress. Individuals have also found benefits in using TIPP skills to cope with self-harm urges. ​​

At their core, TIPP skills provide a quick, easy way to regulate your body’s emotions. Here’s everything you need to know about TIPP skills and how to use them. 

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How To Try TIPP Skills


It’s common for people to ask, what is the TIPP water skill? Well, whether you want cold or warm water depends on how you’re feeling. Stress can cause your heart to race and make you feel overheated. Cold water is your friend here. You can try taking a cold shower, splashing water on your face, or walking in the cold, fresh air. This is not a situation where you need to sit in an ice tub for as long as you can bear it. 

If you’re feeling depressed or sad, your heart rate might have slowed down. Here is where you bring in hot water instead. Take a hot bath, sit with a heating pad, or even have a hot cup of tea. The hot water can restore your heart rate to a regular rhythm. Be careful that the water is hot enough to be soothing but not too hot that it burns you. This is all preference-based, so adjust the temperature to a comfortable heat — for some people, that might be just above warm. That’s fine. TIPP skills are all about taking the general coping mechanism and tailoring it to serve you best. 

Before you try this part, be mindful of any health conditions that may flare up from temperature changes. Ask your doctor about any conditions or medication you take that mean slightly extreme temperatures are a no-go. 

Intense exercise

This one is clear-cut. Intense exercise is any sort of movement that releases energy. Have your emotions ever felt completely pent up? When emotions keep building, they need to be let out somehow. Even 10 minutes of jogging, jumping jacks, or any other mini-workout you like can be enough to let some of the tension you feel out. For some people, this may involve a short walk or seated exercises. Again, as you move through this, be conscious of what’s right for you, not what you think you should be doing. Listening to your body as you go can help with this. 

However, if you’re living with or recovering from an eating disorder or have any reason to find intense exercise triggering instead of calming, go ahead with paced breathing. TIPP is about making you feel better, not causing difficult emotions. 

A young man runs intensely to help his mental health

Paced breathing

It’s incredible how much a few good breaths can do to lessen stress. Paced breathing is all about taking slow, intentional breaths. If possible, try to have your inhale last two to four seconds and your exhale last a little longer, around four to six seconds. Breathe from your belly as you do this. 

Try maintaining this pattern for a few minutes if you can comfortably do so. If you feel calmer, continue doing it for as long as you want — you can never have too much healthy deep breathing. 

Progressive muscle relaxation

Sometimes you have to go tight to feel light. Progressive muscle relaxation is the process of tensing and loosening your muscles one at a time. You can start seated or lying down, whichever is more comfortable for you. Tighten one muscle, such as your upper back or one of your arms. Hold it for five seconds, and then release it. Make your way through your body muscle by muscle, and you should feel the tension releasing as you go. 

Be conscious of if you have any existing injuries, and consider skipping those muscle groups. 

Do you need more support with
your mental health?

Charlie Health can help.

DBT Skills at Charlie Health

Do you want to learn more about using these skills and DBT as a whole for your mental health? Charlie Health offers a virtual Intensive Outpatient Program. DBT-trained therapists use techniques such as TIPP skills to provide support for clients. Get started with Charlie Health today

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