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
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.