Some of The Best Self-Soothing Tactics out There!
Let’s face it: We all have moments when we feel we can’t take it anymore. Learning how to self-soothe can be the biggest skill during times of deep stress. If you’re going through a rough time right now, it could feel like there’s truly nothing you can do but know there’s hope.
There are plenty of things you could do to help yourself feel better. That’s exactly where the self-soothing practice comes in handy. Self-soothing behaviors oftentimes consist of activities that could help you feel safe in your body, regulate your emotions, and even cope with unhelpful thoughts or feelings.
Essentially, self-soothing behaviors imply various activities that can help you feel safe again in your body, regulate your emotions, and cope with unhelpful thoughts or feelings. Self-soothing is knowing how to comfort yourself. A wide variety of healthy self-soothing methods are now available. It takes a bit of time, but try to explore which method best supports your own needs.
If you can, try closing your eyes for a period of time and start practicing deep breathing. According to Dr. Julia Kogan, a well-known psychologist from Miami, Florida, this will activate the calming response in the body. How?
It decreases your heart rate and blood pressure, reduces muscle tension, and also clears your mind. We highly recommend practicing deep breathing for 5 minutes every single day at the same time of the day.
Inhale slowly through your nose for a slow count of 2. You will notice that as you inhale, your stomach will inflate just like a balloon. Then, exhale even more slowly through your mouth, until 3. Deflate the stomach by gently squeezing your abs.
You could find it extremely empowering and powerful to write down your feelings in a stream of consciousness. Also, you could try writing prompts to help you process more difficult emotions.
Have a good cry.
Having a good cry is so underrated! There’s one 2020 study that shows how crying is a form of stress relief and emotional release. It also lowers the stress hormone cortisol and efficiently regulates your heart rate.
Listen to music.
You might also find it useful to create a playlist of your favorite songs that generally make you feel better. Whether you’re driving in the car to your favorite playlist or simply dancing around the house, music can be an extremely powerful tool for self-soothing. Another small 2019 study discovered that listening to classical music every day for 60 days had a wonderfully therapeutic effect on students living with traits of anxiety.
Try these grounding techniques.
Activating your senses could help you feel more “rooted.” It brings you into the present moment and helps you realize that you’re not in danger.
Some of the best grounding exercises include curling up with your favorite book or movie, diffusing lavender essential oil (you can get it from here), emotional freedom technique tapping, holding a warm cup of tea, cuddling with your furry friend, progressive music relaxation, sleeping under a weighted blanket, splashing cold water on your face, and swaying.
You’d be surprised to know how many benefits there are to listening to some good old pep talk. Gentle and neutral self-talk is another efficient self-soothing tool. What we want is to learn how to talk to ourselves in a calm, grounded manner.
The way our caretakers could have spoken to us when we needed to be taken care of. An example of this could sometimes sound like “I notice that I’m overwhelmed. My heart rate has increased. I also notice a fluttering sensation in my stomach.
I feel calm and grounded on my feet.” This could really help! This way, we’re not trying to force ourselves out of any uncomfortable situation, but we are actively practicing being present with what’s happening at the moment.
If the source of your stress is having difficult thoughts, a proper journaling exercise could definitely help. On the left-hand side of a piece of paper, try to write out some of your worst thoughts. On the right side, jot down three positive replacement thoughts. Here’s an effective example of what this could look like:
On the left side
I will get fired for handing in this report so late.
On the right side
I am a human being, and I can make mistakes. My manager will understand. I scored well on the last performance review; there’s nothing to be concerned about.
A 2021 study proved that physical contact can easily reduce the stress hormone cortisol. You don’t need someone else to help, but we agree that this would definitely fix it. You can try placing your hand over your heart and tightly wrapping your arms around your shoulders in a self-hug.
Another 2019 research review discovered that activities grounded in mindfulness theories can easily activate our parasympathetic nervous system (we previously mentioned the rest-and-digest state) and reduce your heart rate. If you have the option, try to do yoga or even trauma-informed yoga, meditate, or even practice tai chi.
The benefits of self-soothing
Self-soothing is an extremely useful skill that will help you feel more in control of your emotions and alleviate mental and physical symptoms like stress, anxiety, and, of course, trauma. This particular psychological “red zone” usually happens when we are experiencing high levels of distress.
You could consider distress as existing on a continuum that starts from zero to 10. Of course, 10 is the most distressed you’ve ever been. The red zone usually happens when we are at a 7 out of 10, or even higher.
Trust me, when we are there, we don’t have the capacity to think or act rationally. The goal is to get out of that red zone and stay out of it for as long as possible. Self-soothing activities can also help you do that.
A look at self-soothing in DBT
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is one of the third-wave behavioral therapies that are deeply rooted in the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy tradition but also mindfulness-based interventions. At its origins, DBT was meant to help people who feel extremely intense emotions, especially those who are diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (previously known as Borderline Personality Disorder).
Moreover, DBT is an intervention meant to treat the emotional dysregulation that could appear in a wide range of mental health issues, including depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and substance abuse problems. However, it also applies to life crises like stress, burnout, grief, and trauma.
Generally, a DBT therapist equips clients with the needed skills to embrace radical acceptance, distress tolerance, and other self-soothing techniques. The point is to educate people about the functionality of their old ways of coping with emotional dysregulation, like substance abuse, binge eating, and social withdrawal.
Ultimately, the client is encouraged to accept that, for the moment, their old coping methods were the best way to help them regulate extremely distressing emotions. Learning distress tolerance also implies learning self-soothing techniques that can effectively regulate emotions without using self-defeating behaviors that could be damaging.
If you found this article interesting, I’m happy to let you know that we have many other interesting tools and theories on how to live the life you wish for. Next, we recommend you read this interesting piece: Subtle Signs of Dementia: 6 Important Things You Need to Know