Just Say "NO" to Christmas Presents and Obligatory Gifting
Dealing with Addiction During the Holidays

Self Soothing Techniques

Whether you are struggling with trauma, abuse, substance abuse or the everyday stressors of modern life developing good self soothing techniques can be crucial for maintaining your mental health and restoring your peace of mind.

Self soothing techniques have two obvious components:  Self and Soothing

Self

Self soothing techniques are things you do for yourself to make yourself feel better.  They are completely self contained and do not rely upon the input or contributions of others.  This makes them very empowering.  If you rely on others to make you feel better this gives them an enormous amount of power over you.  They have the option of withholding your comfort if you do not do what they want.  By developing your own methods for soothing yourself you empower yourself to provide your own needs. 

Soothing

Self soothing techniques are, by definition, soothing.  Though many people use crack cocaine to feel better it could hardly be called soothing.  Though many people use alcohol to calm their nerves, it is sedating, not soothing.  Techniques used for self soothing are healthy and contribute to your overall well being without compromising you in any way.

Below you will find a list of things which some people have found to be self soothing.  Remember, this is about you soothing yourself.  What works for other people is merely a suggestion.  Trust your own instincts and your own experiences and make your own choices and decisions about what soothes you.  For instance, water can be a very soothing substance for many people.  It can have very restorative powers.  But if you were molested as a child while bathing or you almost drowned once, water may be a serious trigger for you.  It may induce panic attacks or flashbacks.  That is hardly soothing!  Trust yourself.  Think for yourself.  Pick and choose.  Read and research.  Then develop your own list.

You may also want to consider whether you are an introvert or an extrovert.  An introvert may find being alone more calming.  An extrovert may find being with others to be more calming.  Personalize your self soothing techniques to fit you.

Possible Techniques

This is just a list of possible techniques.  Notice how I've grouped them by the five senses.  The more of your five senses that you can engage in soothing yourself, the more powerful the technique will be.  This doesn't have to complicated or expensive.

Example:

Eating an orange.  This little bright orange orb fills your sight with color and warmth.  You have to peel it so your sense of touch is engaged.  (The fact that you have to peel it as you eat it slows down the eating and sensing process too which makes it more ritualistic and calming.)  The smell when you break open the skin is divine and it's taste is heavenly.  The sound it makes when you pull it apart is also engaging.  And an orange is good for your body so it doesn't compromise most people's diets or physical well being. 

Here are some more ideas of things other people have found soothing.

Sight

  • Lower the lights, bright fluorescents are harsh and not soothing. 
  • Light candles
  • Go to the park, lake or beach to view the beauty of nature
  • Clean house or organize a messy area.  Restoring a sense of order can be calming.
  • Create art (paint, draw, color a mandala) If you are intimidated by art, try a coloring book.  Many of my clients find that simple coloring is very, very calming.
  • Sit at an outdoor cafe or the hotel of a beautiful old hotel and watch people 
  • Go to an art gallery
  • Watch a favorite movie or television series that always makes you laugh
  • Watch a favorite comedian that always makes you laugh
  • Go for a car ride in the country or some other beautiful scenery
  • Polish your furniture.  The sight of it gleaming combined with the lemony smell of the polish can be very pleasing. 

Sound

  • Play nature sounds (ocean waves, whale songs, rain forests)
  • Play soothing music
  • Sing
  • Meditate
  • Call a friend or family member.  The sound of another voice can often be calming.
  • Go someplace quiet, like a library or a bookstore
  • Get quiet and read a really good book that totally ingrosses you.  Keep such a book handy for times when you need to calm yourself. 
  • Buy yourself flowers

Smell

  • Light a scented candle
  • Work in your herb garden.  Take time to smell the thyme, and the rosemary.
  • Lavishly bathe yourself in scented bath oil, perfume and scented lotions
  • Buy yourself flowers which fill the room with their aroma (roses or stargazer lillies for instance)
  • Bake bread or cook some food that fills the house with a wonderful aroma
  • Boil cinnamon or other spices to fill the house with scent

Taste

  • Eat an orange.  You have to peel it (touch), the scent is heavenly (smell), and the taste is divine.  Oranges are also good for you!
  • Bake cookies, cake or bread.  The more elaborate the process the better.
  • Put whipped cream on your coffee
  • Make hot tea or hot chocolate
  • Make sushi or other foods which are very complex, ritualistic or require a lot of assembly
  • Eat foods which are very spicy or rich.  
  • You may want to avoid using foods as a soothing agent if you have issues with an eating disorder, if such foods would compromise a healthy diet or if such foods would exacerbate a medical problem like diabetes or gastric reflux.  Soothing techniques should not compromise your overall physical or mental health.

Touch

  • Get a massage
  • Do yoga.  It will strengthen and stretch taut muscles and slow your breathing.  It may also work out your body so you will be physically tired and can sleep better.
  • Soak in a warm bath.  If it is very hot outside (it can be 110 degrees here) take a cool bath!
  • Take a bubble bath
  • Take a nap
  • Go for a walk
  • Go for a run
  • Stand in the rain or under a waterfall
  • Go swimming in the ocean or a lake
  • Change the sheets on your bed
  • Put on clothing that is very soft, silky or cuddly
  • Walk your dog
  • Play with your children
  • Work in the garden
  • Brush your hair for a long time
  • Pet your cat or dog
  • Sit in a very comfortable chair
  • Wrap yourself in a very comfortable blanket
  • Soak your feet or give yourself a pedicure
  • Apply lotion that feels really good on your skin
  • Apply heat or cold.  If you are tense, a hot compress at the back of your neck may help you relax.  A cool compress on your head may help you cool off.
  • Have a good cry
  • Breathe.  Concentrate on slowing and calming your breath.
  • Sit in the sun and let it warm you
  • Lay in the snow and let it cool you
  • Write in your journal.  Something about slowing down your thoughts in order to write them with your hand, then having to organize them into sentences can be very calming.  You get the emotions out and possibly learn something about yourself.  The feel of the paper and the pen in your hand can also be very calming.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Cheryl Miller

Thanks for this post. What a great skill to have. Everything in life goes smoother when we know how to self-soothe.

As a wellness practitioner, I know that people have a more successful outcome when improving their health habits if they know how to self-soothe.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)