To self-soothe – “Comfort oneself when unhappy or distressed.”
So often in life we can become distressed, anxious or even feel completely disconnected with what’s around us and with symptoms of mental health problems, we can become engulfed in intrusive thoughts, quick mood changes and everything else that follows.
Our everyday comforts and methods of relaxation actually count as self-soothing which might seem obvious but using these methods during times of distress can be a real task to master.
The best way to start self-soothing is to work out your own suitable comforts. There’s no right or wrong combination; it’s a personal choice that’s unique to you. What works for you, won’t necessarily work for someone else and that’s okay. So we have put a few ideas together to help you make your own list, whether it’s written down or kept in your thoughts.
Of course, this process, like anything will be trial and error as everything will be variable; different things will work at different times and with different emotions, but you’ll slowly see succession and know what works best for you.
This can be your go-to box or drawer for whenever you need some quick comforts in one place. The last thing you want to do in times of distress is hunt around your home to find where you left your tangle toy or favourite photo. It’s important to try and stimulate all your senses to ground you back to neutral so why not mix up not just the visual but for taste and smell senses too.
You can fill them with all sorts of things:
- Photos of your nearest and dearest
- Favourite quotes.
- Lists of things that make you smile.
- Positive affirmations.
- De-stress aromatherapy oils.
- Mints / chewing gum
- Hot Chocolate
- Nail Varnishes
- Juggling balls / Hacky sacks
- Notebook and pen
Basically anything sensory that sparks a positive reaction in your mind or keeps you distracted long enough to think rationally about a situation!
Making a playlist
Some people respond really well with music. Why not make a playlist that invokes memories of a fun road trip, long summer days, or something sounding quite upbeat or beautiful instead of listening to sad music when you’re feeling down as music can feed into the emotion.
Taking a bath
This one might seem a little cliché, but this actually works for more people that you think so we had to put it in there. Lighting some scented candles and laying in the warm water with your favourite music or an audiobook can sometimes just give us enough time to relax, cleanse and distract from any anxieties or worries that were stirring in our minds.
Organising and Processing
This is often the most difficult as we’re not always sure what is causing how we feel/think or why it is happening, but often it can be a good idea to face these worries head on. There are a few ways to do this.
Grab a pen and paper and write everything down that you’re feeling or thinking. Then look at them one at a time to process slowly and rationally. There won’t always be a clear reason for these things and that’s okay. When there are reasons though, it gives you a chance to look at the cause to see if there is anything you can do to help the matter, or whether it maybe out of your control. Either is fine, but this method is great for problem solving, which is a great way to self-soothe.
For those who are a little creative, why not express what/how you feel with a song/poem or art piece? Anything that can help get it out, either for your own piece of mind, or to share with a friend to see if they can help.
Sometimes, if we really can’t face the messiness inside our minds, it can be very therapeutic to organise externally; from something small like doing the dishes to changing furniture around or having a clear out. Plus you might get some stuff ticked off your to-do list in the mean time!
Distraction may not seem like a useful self-sooth option, but sometimes distracting your mind long enough for the overwhelming feelings to subside is a great way to settle you down before you can assess a situation rationally.
- Puzzle books / Jigsaw puzzles
- Calling a friend
- Colouring books or reading
- Going for a walk and noticing nature
- Planning your week ahead
- Playing or hugging your pet
And sometimes it can be good to break your day down into parts, whether it be hourly or even half an hour to 15 minutes. Be kind to yourself and work out the best way for you. So if someone doesn’t work after 15 minutes, try something different, it’s good to experiment.
So, this has seemed to become a phenomenon with the ‘mindfulness colouring books’, but it’s more that just colouring.
Mindfulness is about being in the present moment, just being and noticing what’s happening in the ‘now’.
It’s a great for self-soothing when your mind is buzzing at 100mph sparking all sorts of emotions. It helps take a step back and notice what you’re really thinking there and then. So many of us can feel overwhelmed with a mix of emotions, thoughts or worries and have no idea what’s actually going on. Mindfulness helps bring back that recognition, order and acceptance that what is going on in the moment is okay.
Here’s a link to look into different mindfulness techniques which often involve breathing exercises or sensory stimulation, bit it can be used anywhere, anytime without anyone even noticing you’re doing it!
Beauty of Nature
It’s great to surround yourself in nature, the quiet, beautiful and untouched. Why not head to the coast or find a nice woodland nearby. Even head into your local park or your back garden if it’s hard to get around. Especially if you’re bare foot, really feeling nature as well as seeing it, that alone is so grounding and self-soothing.