In a world where we are often bombarded by so many external stressors, it’s increasingly important for us to cultivate strategies that build up our personal resilience and create more peace around us. One of these strategies is the practice of self-soothing, an important skill that allows us to manage our emotions, our stress levels, and our overall well-being during challenging periods of our lives.
What actually is Self-Soothing?
Self-soothing is a fundamental coping strategy that refers to any repetitive, habitual behaviours that we use to regulate our emotional state by ourselves. Self-soothing techniques are meant to be short-term, temporary tools to allow us to overcome those difficult moments, challenging situations, and negative emotions when they happen.
We often develop self-soothing, comforting behaviours and practices in the early years of our lives, as we begin to learn how to calm ourselves during times of distress, discomfort, fear, anxiety, and sadness. As adults, we continually have to face challenging situations, therefore, the ability to self-soothe can serve as a fundamental coping mechanism throughout our lives.
Focusing on self-soothing activities can help us to temporarily shift our minds away from unwanted thoughts, feelings, or impulses. They can be as simple as taking 3 deep, conscious breaths or as elaborate as engaging in an hour-long yoga session. Some other examples can be grounding techniques, meditation, practicing soothing touch, and body scans, all of which can be practiced alone or with the support of a professional.
Why Should We Practice Self-Soothing?
The world around us is filled with stressors, from personal issues, challenges and conflicts, health worries, work pressures to global uncertainties. While it’s necessary to address these issues, it’s equally important to learn how to manage the emotional and mental toll that these things can have upon us.
Being able to soothe ourselves during such times is so important for our emotional and mental balance. Self-soothing allows us to face and handle the challenges that life often throws at us without being completely overwhelmed by our own emotions and fears. This is where self-awareness is key. Being aware of our feelings and thoughts and knowing what helps us to feel better can have an enormous impact on our overall wellbeing and our relationships.
The Benefits of Self-Soothing
There are so many benefits of self-soothing. By employing self-soothing techniques, we can:
- reduce our levels of stress and anxiety by calming our bodies and minds.
- manage any intense feelings and emotions more effectively.
- reduce the risk of emotional outbursts, negative reactions, or impulsive decisions.
- improve the quality of our sleep and enjoy more restful nights.
- be more aware of our emotions, triggers, and responses.
- enhance our focus and concentration, making it easier for us to complete tasks efficiently.
- cope better in difficult or challenging circumstances.
- build our self-confidence and encourage a more positive self-image.
- become less dependent on others for emotional support and comfort, which can lead to greater autonomy and self-reliance.
Self-soothing can also develop into an avoidance technique
Self-soothing techniques are meant to be short-term, temporary tools to allow us to overcome difficult moments, challenging situations, and negative emotions. However, we also need to be aware that when used in excess, self-soothing can also become an avoidance technique. For example, if we practice self-soothing by lying under our duvet for hours every time we feel an unwanted emotion, then probably we aren’t engaging in life in a healthy or productive way. When I was going through a really challenging period of my life, I just wanted to permanently stay under my duvet! Fortunately, I realised it had to be temporary solution and writing a lot about what I was feeling and thinking during those days actually helped me a lot to understand what was going on inside of me and what I needed to do next.
There are many other self-soothing techniques that can quickly become avoidance techniques and keep us down and stuck in negative, unhealthy situations longer than necessary. Drinking excessive alcohol, emotional eating, binge-watching TV, compulsive gaming, or continuous internet surfing can also lead to many other long-term problems if not checked.
Examples of Self-Soothing Techniques
Self-soothing techniques will obviously vary from person to person, as whatever soothes one person won’t necessarily soothe another. We need to understand what works best for us. Here are just a few examples:
- Deep Breathing: Deep, conscious breathing can significantly help us to reduce all those feelings of stress, overwhelm and anxiety. This is a simple, quick, and effective technique that we can do anywhere and at any time. Have a look at this video https://drchatterjee.com/5-breathing-techniques-help-reduce-stress/ by Dr. Rangan Chatterjee to learn 5 different breathing techniques to help reduce stress.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Often, after upsetting news or a shock, our bodies respond by freezing and energy gets blocked. Gradually tensing and then relaxing each muscle in our body is a great way to physically release any tension that can accompany our emotional distress. A few simple and gentle trunk twists, neck rotations, or bends at the hip to touch our toes can also help to shift our energies.
- Mindfulness Techniques: Mindfulness is all about self-awareness and being in the present moment without any form of judgement. Mindful breathing, mindful eating, mindful movement, body scanning and doing the Loving Kindness meditation are all simple and effective tools that help us to change our energies and stay in the present moment.
- Aromatherapy: Using essential oils, scented candles, or incense can create a soothing environment for us. Lavender, chamomile, bergamot, neroli, geranium, and ylang ylang are just a few of the essential oils that are known to have a calming effect upon us.
- Comforting Sensory experiences: can have deeply profound and calming effects upon our state of mind. These can simply be spending precious time in nature, listening to calming, soothing music (like this for example, on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BiqlZZddZEo&t=2298s ), enoying a warm, aromatic bath, eating our favourite food, watching a film or series that we love, reading an uplifting book.
- Soothing imagery: finding beautiful, comforting things to look at like the flame of a candle, soft lights, flowers and trees, a beautiful view, pictures of loved ones, some of your favourite places, or some uplifting quotes or affirmations.
- Physical Activity: Whether it’s going for a walk, doing some gardening, practicing yoga, or doing a full workout at the gym, physical activity can really help us to reduce our stress levels and experience an overall sense of wellbeing.
- Journaling: Writing about our feelings and experiences can give us a precious emotional outlet and offer us valuable insights into our emotional and mental states.
- Creative Expression: This can involve painting, writing, playing a musical instrument, dancing, knitting, or any other creative hobby or outlet that allows us to express our feelings and talents, instead of keeping things locked up inside of us.
- Mindful Self-Talk: The way we talk to ourselves soooo matters! Instead of criticizing ourselves when we’re feeling stressed or upset, we need to offer ourselves words of comfort and encouragement. We need to talk to ourselves in the same way that we would talk to someone we love or admire. Speak to yourself with love and compassion and give yourself the space to just be as you are for a while.
- Seeking Social Connection: Sometimes, the act of self-soothing can involve reaching out to others for support and comfort. This can be as simple as a chat with a friend or a big hug from a loved one. But it can also be finding a supportive group and connecting with like-minded people, or people that are going through the same things as you.
The process of learning to self-soothe is an essential part of our emotional toolkit on our inner journey to self-awareness, self-discovery, resilience, and adaptability. Take the time to discover what works best for you and your own emotional health, and what supports you in creating inner peace, wellbeing, and resilience in the face of life’s inevitable ups and downs.
You might also like to read this blog post: https://fragranceofbeing.com/how-to-practice-self-love-when-you-are-feeling-overwhelmed-and-stressed/
Self-soothing during challenging times is key for our emotional and mental balance.
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Fiona Elizabeth is a Teacher of Beingness and Self-love leader. She has a Master in Metaphysical Science and is a certified Metaphysical Practitioner, Ordained Minister, Spiritual Counsellor, Shadow Worker, and Journal Therapist.
“My mission is to hold a safe, nurturing space for you to grow and live a life that is grounded in self-love, self-knowledge, self-transformation, and spiritual alignment. Teaching and sharing self-love and spiritual practices that nourish your needs, mind, and heart, and support you in aligning with your highest self and purpose. “