Self Soothing Techniques
Self soothing techniques can be helpful if you’re experiencing high anxiety or strong negative feelings. It’s also a useful technique for anyone who wants to shift how they feel. It’s gentle and helps redirect the thoughts where the emotions may have come from. Life happens, as we all know, but sometimes, feelings happen which can be difficult to sit with, so if you need some extra tools to allow the feelings to sit with you, these self soothing techniques can come in useful.
This is a strategy used by many therapists to help someone who is experiencing high anxiety, or overwhelming feelings to engage to bring them back down to a calmer state. For some people, there is a lower tolerance to stress so they have a heightened experience of negative feelings in response to this lower tolerance. This can wreak havoc on one’s senses, emotions and behaviours.
It’s a technique drawn from Dialectical Behaviour therapy designed to manage what’s known as Distress Tolerance. It can also help anyone who experiences negative feelings and struggling to sit with those feelings. It can be hard to sit with feelings when they’re uncomfortable. Being human means we come with a wide range of emotions. That means sometimes when life happens, we might feel these not so good feelings. When that happens and it’s hard to shift them, put some of these strategies in place as a way to help you shift those feelings, while finding a way to accept them being there.
For those who experience these negative feelings, it helps to recognise and accept that sometimes you will feel some negative and not so good feelings. It’s normal to experience uncomfortable feelings sometimes, and reassure yourself that it’s okay. Accept that there will be times when you feel uncomfortable, and can’t change the situation. To help you work through these times, practice using these self soothing techniques.
Use of Senses
When applying self soothing techniques, you use your senses to help you focus on something else. This has a nurturing effect on your soul.
Have a look around you and notice things in your space. In particular, look for things that appeal to you.
Print out a picture that helps you feel comfortable and calm.
Reading a positive quote can also work, here’s a highly regarded program to get you started.
Other ideas include:
- Think about your favorite colour. Even if you can’t see it, think about how it looks and picture it in your mind.
- What is your favorite flower? Visualise how this might look to you. Notice what color they are, it’s shape, which environment does it look it’s best etc.
- Look at favorite artwork or photo.
- Find a mandala to focus on that you enjoy.
- Read poetry or a feel good story
Think about something you enjoy hearing the sounds of. It’s about things that make you feel happy and calm. Do a search, or have already saved on your device your favorite sounds.
Examples of use of sound for self soothing
- Sounds of nature such as waves at the beach
- sounds of the rainforest
- A baby laughing
- Music – favourite songs,
- Play an instrument or listen to classical music
- Listen to birds
- The sound of bubbles in a fish tank
- Movement of water in a stream
- The sound of rain on the roof
Give someone a hug. This helps your brain release oxytocin which is higher in women. It is also released simply being near someone. When oxytocin is released, it helps reduce blood pressure, and the stress hormone norepinephrine. Which in turn will help you shift how you feel through this shift in hormones released. You can even give yourself a hug. The body simply senses the touch, not who’s doing it, so hugging yourself is okay too and can have a calming effect.
Other ideas include:
- Get a massage as this is also shown to help boost happy hormones. Read more about this here.
- Hug or hold your pet. Pets have a very effective way of helping us ground ourselves. Notice how they feel, their texture, temperature, movements etc. I’ve also written a post about how having a pet can help us manage our emotions here.
- Put on moisturiser or body oil and notice how it feels as you apply it.
- Find a soft fluffy blanket to snuggle with and wrap around you for comfort.
- Sink your feet into the sand at the beach or the grass and connect with nature.
- Sit in a spa or pool and feel the water movement around you.
What is your favorite smell? See if you can have it on hand for times when you need to self soothe and manage how you feel using this technique. Having some essential oils can be really handy to help you have ready for times when you need to practice some self soothing techniques.
Smells you might like to have access to are
- roses and flowers
- essential oils such as lavender, vanilla, geranium which are all calming and relaxing oils used to calm the mind.
- smell of the beach, perhaps go for a drive or trip to the beach if it’s nearby to give you the chance to smell the sea air.
- rainforests also have a fresh, calming smell of their own
- the fresh smell of cut grass (for those not allergic to grass anyway)
- the smell of baking a cake is also calming
- the smell of chocolate
Our taste buds can also be helpful in shifting our focus on the emotional aspects of our current experience, Here you might want to consider tasting something you enjoy. Be mindful not to over indulge especially in sugary or processed foods. If you are prone to comfort eating, avoid this strategy and try one of the ones above or focus on the healthy options such as tea or coffee.
- a hot cup of tea, coffee or chocolate
- the taste of something that’s vanilla as vanilla has a calming effect. My personal favorite is keto vanilla custard
- chocolate is also a popular taste. Just don’t over indulge as you might feel worse for it.
- a nice herbal tea and notice the tastes of the herbs used in it. This might include berries, chamomile, citrus flavors.
- Green tea has also been shown to lower anxiety and have a calming effect due to its antioxidants, and polyphenols that are contained in the leaves of the tea. So enjoy the taste and get some relaxation in the process.
- Enjoy your favorite meal or try some new tastes and focus on it.
Support with Self Soothing
To have some brightly coloured reminders for your phone or to print out for yourself, click on the link below.
I hope this can help manage feelings when they become overwhelming and you find yourself struggling to keep calm from so many emotions.
When we use our senses it can trick our brains so we focus on something else. It also allows our brains to use other parts that don’t require thinking by using the senses instead. Keep this in mind for if you are prone to stressful situations, or have been having a hard time. We can’t always control how we respond emotionally to a situation, but we can self soothe to give us comfort to help us get through the challenges life might throw at us.
27 Replies to “Self Soothing Techniques – shift uncomfortable feelings”
I wished I have read this article earlier, Yes, I think I have this habit of worrying excessively and the toughest part is I can’t seemed to stop dwelling on all the worries and anxiety. I think shifting our attention to our senses is a great way. While reading through this post, I tried to imagine myself sitting near a river with water flowing slowly as well as imagining the sound of the water at the same time. I was very amazed that I feel much calm after doing this! I think I will try this exercise every night when my anxiety sets in. I look forward to more tips in this area!
Hi, thanks for this great post! I used to go to the beach and listen to the sound of the waves when I was living in my home country. Right now, the beaches are hours away. That was one of the perks of living in a small island. Beaches where everywhere. What I’m currently doing is just listening to calm music or eating chocolate. Chocolate ice cream has been my go to lately. I will try some other ideas you mentioned. Thank you!
This is such a beautiful post, I really enjoyed reading it. For me, when i feel anger or in a sober mood, I always try to wrote a story, it’s very funny but it works for me. I just write out anything that comes to my head and end it on a happy note. As opposed to classical music that you wrote on this blog, I love listening to loud hiphop when I’m sober. And sometimes I just go to a restaurant to have good food. LOL These techniques you’ve written are very good and I’ll be sure to try out a new one. Thanks for this post
This post is spot on for me. I always get tensed by very little situations or circumstances. Most times, whenever things are not going my way at work, I get very distracted and nervous. The only thing I engage in is to take a walk away from office to have a look at the beautiful hibiscus flower setting in the company’s yard. That always restore my calm. I’m glad I can get to know of various other ways through this post. Thanks
From my own experience, listening to a favorite song, has a good calming effect on me,helping to keep negative thoughts at bay,focusing on the meaning of the words, gets me into a different frame of mind,and at peace.
Also as I am a musician, playing a more difficult piece, makes me concentrate the music,and forget the problem, or situation for a time,and gets me in a better frame of mind.
The sound of the sea, always has a calming and soporific effect,and just relaxing at the beach, is a wonderful therapy for me, I can drift off to sleep, very easily and awake calm and refreshed, the combination of the sound and the smell of the sea is so special.
Enjoying a good meal with friends and loved ones, is very beneficial, the endorphins released when eating, and the love and friendship, around the table,have a wonderful and calming effect, especially if there is fun and laughter shared together.
I am so glad that I found your article about self soothing techniques to shift “uncomfortable” feelings. Stressful feelings. As you said, it is part of life to encounter stress and unhappiness. However, lately I’ve had numerous stressful situations almost non stop. Granted, I have has some great things happen in life also. So, I am not forgetting about my blessings. Yet, I also know that I needed to find some ways to relax so that I don’t end up getting sick from the extreme pressure and unhappy feelings.
Your list of ideas was WAY better than I expected to find. As soon as I finish writing this, I will try to follow a few of your suggestions. I will try to pick out at least one thing from each of the different types of senses. It never occurred to me how nice smells are so relaxing. Music, looking at things that make up happy… I think your ideas will help me relax and be les stressed. In turn, that should help me shift some of my uncomfortable feelings.
Hi Sondra, I am so glad you found these to be more than you expected. Like you say, feelings are normal but when there are multiple events that have an emotional charge to them, this can build up and make it even harder to deal with due to the accumulation effects this has on one’s emotions. I would be keen to hear more about how you find the activities help you through this stressful time. Blessings ~kat
This is interesting to me because I suffered, for several years, with anxiety attacks and feeling of overwhelm that would seem to come up for no obvious reason. I have worked through all the therapies I could get my hands on and this idea of awareness and distraction(as the action) is what eventually did it for me. Thank you for setting out the summary so beautifully because your article encompasses the thoughts, the symptoms, the feelings, the action and how to cope.
Hi JJ, thanks for sharing your experience with anxiety attacks and strong feelings. It can be such a hard journey when feelings are so overwhelming, so having tools to work through them can make it easier and manageable. All the best ~kat
Honestly, I am so downed that I can’t think properly over things. My mind is cloudy, I have so many problems especially with money that creditors and money collectors are hounding me like I’m a criminal running for my life. That situation got me here in your website looking for answers.
No matter how big my problem is, I’m thankful that I’m still intact, my mental health is still intact. Perhaps, my faith in God has helped me achieve this fighter spirit that you should not easily give up.
In this article of yours, you suggested using the senses so you free up that part of your brain that’s doing heavy lifting as far as thinking is concern. Shift to the senses from the thinking mode, am I right with this comprehension?
I need guidance as I cannot think properly now. Thankfully, I did not resort to drinking alcoholic drinks.
Hi Gomer, thanks for sharing the struggles you’ve been having recently. Having financial concerns are very real and very anxiety provoking. It’s important to self care during these times. You’re on the right track by thinking about things you are grateful for and can see that you have many things to be thankful for. This is very important when dealing with high stress. You are right in your understanding of giving your thinking brain a break by using your physical senses. I encourage you to find at least one in the list here that you can do that you enjoy to use your different senses. I recommend this program to work through the anxiety. Of if you would like to chat with myself, I am happy to work with you. Simply fill out the contact form in the top menu and I am happy to connect with you Gomer. ~kat
Beautiful website! It is for me a very interesting topic since I have a lot of anxiety. Your post of the 4 pillars of wellbeing were very useful. I also stop in your post of Self Soothing techniques and I liked it very much. I never thought of taste as a calming effect. Then I remembered that chocolate is scientifically proven to enhance the endorphins levels. And I love chocolate. Coffee is may favorite (I am a coffee junkie) and as with green tea it can awake you in a restful way.
Very good looking website and I like how organize it is. The only suggestion is to bring a link that leads you to the description of the word “mandala” since not everyone is related to this jargon. Overall is very peaceful to just visit your website, very well done!
Hi Michelle, it’s lovely to have you visit. I’m also glad you found us as it sounds like your experience of anxiety is a tough one and there is a growing number of posts here to help with anxiety. Yes, chocolate is a very delectable taste, which has the added bonus of enhancing endorphins, so I hope you can find one that delights your senses while being able to help you feel a sense of calm when you need it. Thanks for your feedback, i will endeavour to add more detail to the meaning of what a mandala. All the best and look forward to hearing of your experiences of overcoming anxiety. ~kat
A very beautiful and also very practical article. I first heard about Dialectal Behavior Therapy about 10 years ago in a book about using DBT to treat eating disorders. It really appealed to me. I was in CBT at the time and it was really helping me. At the same time I was also reading books by Thích Nhất Hạnh. When I saw DBT it seemed to be combining the two. That really excited me. Cognitive positive reframing and mindful meditation.
You give some great suggestions. Some I’m already doing. Some that are new that I will have to try.
Meanwhile, I have my nag champa Incense, my Chopin nocturnes and my Yin Hao tea.
I love your calming incense, music and tea that are soothing your senses lol! Well done for knowing how to apply these techniques as well has putting them into practice to help manage our everyday stresses and sharing just how easy it is to do this consciously. I too love cognitive positive reframing and mindful meditation as strategies to help one work from within. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. ~kat
This is very nicely written, thanks for sharing it. I really like the tips and info that you’ve posted on self-soothing. I’m going to have to share this with my daughter.
When I’m stressed or out of sorts, I put on either relaxation/meditation music or the music of a band called PaleoWolf. I also like to listen to either white or brown noise, both are very calming.
A good walk through the woods is also very de-stressing, just listening to the sounds of nature and enjoying the scenery. I also like to walk along the beach at night, mainly bc no one else is around & I can focus on the sound of the waves and coolness of the air. It might sound silly, but it helps.
Hi Lokhi, there’s nothing silly about focusing on the sounds of nature where ever you are. Being in one’s own space can be so peaceful and walking alone in the woods or on the beach can be very effective in helping manage our senses. Music is so helpful, I often encourage my own children to play a song they love to help them shift a not so good mood, especially if they’re cranky with each other lol! I hope your daughter can also find these helpful for her too. Regards, ~kat
Thanks for this information!
I had some problems with anxiety and that’s why I decided to try meditating. It helped me, but I still wanted to find complementary ways of calming yourself, and then I found your website. Thank you very much 🙂
Hi Jim, thanks for sharing your experience with anxiety. It’s good that you’ve found meditating helpful and hopefully these ideas shared here will also help with managing it when it happens. ~kat
I loved reading this post and the ideas you give for self soothing. I am prone to feeling stressed, being a worrier by nature. I already follow many of your suggestions. Mindfulness is great as it makes you focus on the present. Taste can be really comforting, and being a chocolate lover I find a few squares helps. Plus, coffee calms me down as well, even though it’s a stimulant!
Hi Kathy, it’s great that you already engage in actively doing so many of these ideas! I can understand why chocolate can help lol! Even though coffee is a stimulant, it can be comforting to drink it, so enjoy 🙂 ~kat
I really enjoyed this article. As someone who is very prone to bouts of anxiety this was a great read. I particularly liked the section on smell, as I think this one sense is often forgotten about and is probably one of the most calming. I love scented candles, it’s amazing how much calmer an environment feels to me when I have one lit. I agree that correcting our focus is one of the best tools we have to hand and you’ve executed this and the suggestions beautifully.
You’re so right about us being able to trick our brains. It can feel hard at the time and takes discipline but it’s so worth the benefits. Thanks for sharing this information. I really enjoyed the layout as well. Lots of easy to follow suggestions in a way that is easy to digest visually. All the best.
Hi Natalie, welcome. Thanks for the feedback on the site as well as your own experience of what helps you calm down. I love using the sense of smell too, as it’s so effective and fast at helping us relax and refocus. Cheers ~kat
I enjoyed reading your post and it’s exactly what I needed right now as I’m currently going through the selling/buying a house process which can be very stressful!
I haven’t thought before about using the 5 senses as a means to calm down and distract myself, so I will be using some of your techniques over the next few days.
Hi Helen, wow, selling and buying can be quite stressful. Getting in touch with your senses will be an added tool to your coping strategies during the stress that’s involved in this process. Sounds like a great plan. Enjoy the new house when it’s all finalized 🙂 ~kat
Thank you so much for your valuable post. I’ve been looking for some article to help with this issue. I’m going through a restless stage at this moment, and can definitely use your advice from above.
You’re right, though, I most certainly need to watch out regarding the chocolate part. I’m a hopeless chocoholic, and dark chocolate, in particular, makes me forget everything else at times. I’ve got serious work to do, concerning chocolate cravings and how to control them.
Perhaps you could write a helpful article with tips on how to manage this for me? I’m assuming, however, that I’m not the only one having an “issue” with this, or at least I hope so. Lol!
Anyway, many thanks for sharing these valuable insights with us. Unlike certain other articles I read about this topic, one can feel with yours that you’re really connected and care, and I highly appreciate it.
I’m sending you many blessings and happiness,
Chocolate is many people’s weakness lol! I do have a theory of this, so keep a look out for how I address cravings for chocolate in a future post :). It’s great that youve found this site to help you manage that restlessness. You can apply these techniques for those times for sure. Blessings to you too Alexandra ~kat