Self soothing means soothing or calming yourself when faced with a scary or difficult or even just mildly uncomfortable situation and is a great skill to have in your tool kit. Times you need to draw on these skills is when you notice perhaps beginning to feel a little anxious; a tightening in your chest or stomach; breathing quickens; heart rate goes up/pulse races; you may feel hot or flushed; start to fidget; lose your temper – the symptoms vary but essentially your brain has received a message that you are in an unsafe situation and it is starting to react.
This reaction occurs faster than the logical part of your brain can determine the level of risk and whether or not the danger is even real. Before you know it you are flooded with adrenalin and cortisol deciding whether to flee, fight or, freeze. The brain also sometimes gets its chronology and signals wrong and you might even be reacting in the present to something that just reminds your brain of a dangerous situation that was long ago.
Once you have reacted it takes at least 20 minutes for the adrenalin to leave your bloodstream but you can feel better considerably faster if you use a self soothing technique. I have some examples below for you to draw from – what works for one person may not work for others so you need to develop your own list. If you are living through a stressful situation it is helpful to build these techniques into your day each and every day.
Relaxation techniques - there are many mp3’s or apps available to guide you through meditation and relaxation exercises that can assist the process. Some useful ones you can try yourself include.
- deep breathing right from the diaphragm
- working through each limb and muscle in your body and consciously relaxing it;
- visualising your safe place or somewhere that brings you joy.
Sensory self-soothing techniques – go through each sense and find techniques that appeal to you. As everyone is different what works for one may not work for another so it is important to put together your own list you can draw on. Here are some ideas:
- bubble bath with scented oil;
- hot or cool shower feel the water falling on your skin;
- pat an animal;
- wear comfort clothes;
- carry a soft piece of cloth or worry beads or smooth stones etc to feel and touch when you need to.
- soothing music;
- audio book;
- white noise or tv in the background;
- the sounds of nature – birds, ocean etc
- water fountain
- make a collage;
- watching a flickering candle;
- flick through a picture/coffee table book or magazine;
- sitting in front of and watching an open fire;
- carry soothing pictures with you and pull out when needed;
- go to your favourite place and just enjoy;
- looking at the beauty in your garden or in a local park;
- art on your walls;
- picture books/coffee table books.
- burn scented candles or incense;
- wear cologne, perfume or scented oil that makes you feel good;
- visit places that have your favourite aroma eg bakery; coffee shop; florist;
- wander in a garden of scented plants;
- enjoy your favourite food;
- treat yourself to a favourite sweet treat;
- drink your favourite beverage;
- suck on an ice cube;
- eat a juicy piece of fruit.