Self-soothing is a skill used to manage overwhelming emotion. It’s the skill of committing to treating ourselves with kindness and compassion when we are in the midst of struggle. It is choosing behaviours that will help to soothe the body and mind as our distress washes over.
Importantly, self-soothing is not behaviours that block out the emotion. So drugs, alcohol, and suppression are not on the menu. Instead, we want to look after ourselves while the emotion passes naturally. To do this, we can use all the senses:
This may be photographs of loved ones or a favourite holiday. Alternatively it could be a movie or piece of artwork that makes you feel uplifted. Walking in nature and observing your surroundings can work too.
Music, singing, the sound of water. Sound is a powerful tool for changing how you feel. Make your own self-soothing playlist with all your best picks for feeling calm and soothed.
This can be comforting textures like a super soft blanket, a favourite pillow or cuddly toy. It could also be a warm cuddle with a loved one. Human touch is a personal one but very powerful if it works for you.
Slowly and mindfully savouring a favourite treat can help us to feel soothed (if eating is not part a safety behaviour for you). Strong mints can provide an anchor when we want to be mindful and stay present.
Sense of smell is actually the quickest way to calm the body. So if you like lavender or have a scent that you associate with comfort and safeness, keep some with you. Breathing in that scent is going to help you feel safe and calm very quickly.
Some of these you may use already, others might take some time to feel effective. So pick one or two and put in some practice. It is the intention of committing to take care of yourself that is key. Once you find the ones that work best for you, make sure you can access them when you might need it.
You can do this by setting up a self-soothing box. Take a shoe box and fill it with lots of things that you find soothing. Include a note reminding you to call a trusted friend, photographs, a tea bag, the scent of your choice, a reminder to switch on your self-soothing playlist. You can get create with this. What will you put in your self-soothing box? Let me know!