Self soothing is something you do to make you feel better when you’re stressed and/or anxious. It calms you down if you have trouble relaxing, you have unresolved trauma, or you have a highly charged nervous system. But there are different self soothing techniques. In this post, we discuss 12 easy but healthy self soothing techniques.
What is self soothing?
Self-soothing is a physical, emotional, biological, and psychological skill that we all must learn as we become adults. People who are highly sensitive rarely know how to calm down when things get too much for them. For them, self soothing techniques are essential because (according to the universal law of rhythm,) life is a series of ups and downs. The downtimes are inevitable, so it’s essential that we know self soothing techniques to get us through them.
But not all self soothing techniques are good for you. For example, binge eating, alcohol, tv, shopping, gambling, and drug use does help you unwind and relax, but engaging in activities like these are harmful.
A word of caution!
Please keep in mind that illnesses like PTSD are complex psychological issues that cannot be cured with only self soothing techniques. Self-soothing is helpful, but it won’t address the foundation of your problem. For long-term help, you’d be well advised to seek professional help.
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12 Signs that you should be practicing self soothing
Sometimes we feel stuck. Things are just not going right and we don’t know what is going on, much less how to fix it. Here are 12 easy signs that you need self-soothing.
- You get stuck in repetitive thought cycles.
- You feel overwhelmed.
- You have experienced trauma.
- You feel wholly disconnected from your inner self.
- You experience panic attacks.
- You overthink things.
- You have a hard time slowing down.
- You are anxious almost all day.
- Your life is rushed and frantic.
- You feel unsupported or unloved by others.
- You worry about everything.
- You approach new situations out of fear, instead of curiosity.
The benefits of using self soothing techniques
The following are some advantages of using self soothing techniques. While these benefits are comprehensive, you may experience even more benefits, so pay attention to your own responses.
Below are the most common benefits of using self soothing techniques.
- A greater ability to keep yourself together.
- The ability to slow down and look at the big picture.
- Fewer instances of illnesses and physical ailments.
- Increased self-love and care.
- Being more grounded.
- Having a deeper connection with your true feelings and your perspectives.
- Having feelings of being supported.
- A deeper connection with your inner self.
- A heightened ability to be mindful.
- The ability to get out of your head, and into your body and senses.
- Less stress and anxiety.
12 Healthy self soothing techniques for beginners
Self soothing techniques are not the answer to all problems. In some cases, you will need to refer to a professional. However, practicing self-soothing techniques regularly offers some level of relief, even if it is small.
This is a comprehensive list of self-soothing techniques. Keep in mind that self soothing should come naturally to you, so pick a few that you think will work for you.
1. Use conscious breathing to help you relax.
Take a few deep, steady breaths as soon as you feel stressed. Breathing helps you to release tension.
2. Practice positive self-talk.
Allowing negative, fear-based self-talk is not going to soothe you. In fact, it will exacerbate the situation. Instead, say helpful, kind things to yourself. Treat yourself as a loving mother would. For example, say things like:
- This is temporary.
- This too shall pass.
- I’ll figure out the best course of action.
- I can do hard things.
- Everything will be okay.
- I am strong. I can handle this.
- I rise above my insecurities.
- I am not my fears.
- My strength is greater than any struggle.
3. Pretend you’re a witness to your emotions
There is a difference between witnessing the emotions and internalizing them. Acknowledge your emotions, but remind yourself continually that they are not you. You are stronger than your fears, and anxiety has no power over you. Recognizing that you are bigger than your feelings will help you relax and get perspective.
4. Hold yourself
Self-holding or holding yourself simply means that you are giving yourself a giant bear hug! Self-holding is a technique promoted by Peter Levine (the founder of somatic experiencing) for anchoring and calming the nervous system. Hugs are proven to be beneficial to your health because they release the feel-good hormone oxytocin.
If you’re feeling anxious or you feel you’re about to have a nervous breakdown, go somewhere quiet, take a seat, and give yourself a hug. Concentrate on how it feels to be hugged and allow the sensations to soak in.
5. Remember that you are not responsible for someone else’s consequences
Remind yourself that everyone has the right to walk their own path with dignity. If someone has made some bad choices and is now living the consequences, allow them the dignity to walk their own paths. Thinking this way will prevent you from feeling unnecessarily responsible for the suffering of others.
6. Use the gentle-hand technique
Close your eyes and focus on your body when you’re feeling stressed, triggered, or overwhelmed. Now, try to figure out which part of your body is most affected by the fear you are feeling. Next, place a loving hand on that portion of your body. It should feel like a gentle, warm, mother’s touch. Concentrate on the hand that is softly resting over your fear. After a minute or so, you may notice that your dread and worry are gradually lessening.
The gentle hand technique is a self-parenting approach that complements inner child work.
7. Visualize your anxiety away
Imagine holy white light pouring forth from the crown of your head, and darkness seeping out from the soles of your feet. This technique helps to relieve stress because you are imagining positive energy flowing into your body (through your head), and negative energy flowing out (through your feet).
While you are visualizing it, it’s a good idea to place your hand over your heart—your heart serves as the hub for unconditional love. When you touch it, love is activated. Endorphins and other happy biochemicals are released throughout your body.)
8. Drink Holy Basil / Tulsi Tea
For many people, Holy basil is a reliable go-to when you’re feeling anxious. Holy basil is an adaptogenic herb, which means it aids the body’s ability to adapt to stress. Holy basil is called “holy” because it is known as the “Queen of Herbs” in India. This is because of its spiritual and therapeutic effects. Adrenal exhaustion, depression, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, and migraines can all be treated with holy basil. However, keep in mind that Holy Basil is an over-the-counter herbal remedy. It can therefore supplement medications provided by your doctor, not replace them.
9. Practice self-compassion
When you’re stressed or upset, remember to be compassionate with yourself. Also, remember that your thoughts have an impact, so avoid negative thoughts. Be kind to yourself and avoid berating yourself.
If you made a mistake, it’s not the end of the world—we all make mistakes. Also, keep in mind that the decisions you made in the past were based on the knowledge you had at that time. You know better now and if the situation were to present itself again, you would obviously make a different decision.
10. Get up and move around
When our bodies face anxiety or stress, it spends a large amount of energy as it prepares to fight or flee. Get your body moving to burn off some of that extra energy. Jump up and down, take a long walk outside, or jog around the block.
11. Consider a weighted blanket
This is a great self-soothing technique if you have trouble sleeping because of anxiety. Weighted blankets work by exerting deep touch pressure stimulation (DTPS) equally across your body, causing your brain to generate happy chemicals that promote relaxation.
You can choose the right weighted blanket based on your body weight. In general, the optimum blanket for you is 10% of your body weight.
12. Give yourself a massage
When we are stressed, our muscles contract. Muscle contraction leads to deep-seated muscle tension and knots that must be massaged away. If anxiety and fear are constant companions in your life, you’ll need massaging tools to help your muscles relax, improve your blood circulation and detoxify your body. Massage, like hugs, uses forced touch to activate pleasant neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin in the brain.
Self-massage requires nothing but your hands, but massage tools can also be very helpful. Here are a few you may want to consider:
- Gua Sha – this is a Chinese massager for face massage, but also for kneading out knots in your neck.
- Massage ball – this can be used for deep-muscle massage across your entire body. You can heat the ball and rest against a wall with it.
- Hand-held electric massager – this is to relax your neck and shoulders.
You don’t need all these massage tools. As you do a minimal amount of research, you’ll find there are many more self-massage tools. Choose something that you think may work for you.
When applying these self-soothing techniques, it’s important to remain realistic. They will not remove the fear from your life or wipe the slate clean. Instead, they are meant to assist you in gently and tenderly being present with your fear. By using them, you are supporting yourself through the fear, instead of escaping it.