Stress levels are higher than ever due to a barrage of external sources, primarily ones not in our control. And that means that more and more people are looking for effective self-soothing techniques to take the edge off.
Many Americans are still in survival mode from the pandemic.
On top of that, they are dealing with significant financial concerns due to unprecedented inflation and worries due to worldwide violence.
With a nationwide shortage of psychiatrists, getting mental health services has been difficult for many. And this has led to an increase in people looking for ways of dealing with their mental health outside of traditional means, with self-soothing techniques being one of those methods.
What Is Self-Soothing?
Self-soothing is a way to deal with stress by comforting oneself.
This is a strategy of emotional regulation used after an upsetting event. It helps the body reset itself after trauma, shock, or upset.
Soothing is required for the body to go back to homeostasis.
Often we will count on others to soothe us after an event.
However, when no one is around, there are things we can do to help ourselves.
Many people will self-soothe without realizing it.
Unfortunately, we often turn to things to soothe ourselves that aren’t the healthiest!
Many people will turn to comfort foods (often high in fats or sugars) or alcohol to feel better.
Stress can make it challenging to choose positive soothing approaches, while unhealthy ones feel more accessible and more immediate.
This is why practicing self-soothing is so important.
Is Self-Soothing Effective?
Self-soothing techniques have been shown to be effective during stress by reducing cortisol levels.
10 Effective Self-Soothing Techniques
1. Listen to Relaxing Music
Numerous studies over the years have shown how helpful music can be in stressful situations, such as waiting in a surgical waiting area.
This technique is used by many without even realizing it is a self-soothing method.
This can include any music you find to be relaxing, or you can explore music tracks found online made especially for relaxation.
If music isn’t for you, you can also find ambient noise or medication tracks or videos you may find more helpful.
2. Take Slow, Deep Breaths
Slow, focused breathing can help you release some of that tension you are holding in your body during stress.
Taking a few slow deep breaths can help to slow things down and quiet your mind.
One specific technique you can try is 3-4-5 breathing.
Inhale for a count of 3, hold your breath for a count of 4, and exhale for a count of 5.
3. Think Of Happy Memories
Remembering a time in your life that you were truly happy can help you calm stress and dissipate that feeling which can so often overtake us: That things are always bad.
It’s a good idea to have a happy memory ready, as it can be hard to think of one when our minds are in a dark place.
Focus on the memory, the people, and the feelings you had during that moment.
4. Try ‘The Butterfly Hug’
This is a grounding technique; a method that can bring you back to the present moment.
Cross your hands over your chest so your fingertips are resting on the opposite shoulders.
Tap your shoulders while focusing on your breathing, and repeat words of affirmation.
Try statements like “I am safe.” or “I am loved.“
5. Soothe Yourself With Pleasant Activities
It can be difficult to want to do anything we enjoy when we are stressed.
However, this is exactly what we need.
Think of an activity that you usually find relaxing.
Avoid things people think are relaxing but are actually high-stress, like social media or competitive video games.
Have activities ready that you can jump into as soon as the stress starts to build.
This can be a puzzle set out to work on, knitting needles and yarn by your favorite chair, or even just shoes by the door for a walk.
6. Self-Soothe With a Cold Shower/Swimming
You may have heard of a trend of ice water plunges for dealing with stress.
While this is pretty extreme, cold water can help to settle anxiety by releasing certain stress hormones.
Similarly, putting your face in cold water triggers the nervous system and tells the body to relax after a stressful event.
Therefore, a cold shower, swimming, or even splashing your face with cold water can give you a release of stress.
Walking combines exercise and fresh air, which is great for stress, but walking mindfully can also help to ground you.
While walking, take in your surroundings.
If you have access to any nature walks, even better- but even just walking around your neighborhood can work too.
You’ll be surprised by all the things you’ve never noticed.
Try to take in the sights, sounds, smells, and the feel of the air.
8. List Positive Things
Listing all the positive things in your life can help when you feel like everything has gone wrong.
We take too many things in life for granted because they are constants, and it’s good to remind ourselves of what we have.
9. Sit with Your Pet
Pets are fantastic companions and living bundles of stress relief. They often can sense when we are stressed and will come to us.
Sitting with our pets, having a cuddle, or petting them can all help us to feel a bit better about things.
10. Practice Meditation
A simple 10 minutes of meditation can help to regulate our emotions.
Practicing mindfulness can rewire our brains to be less reactive when events occur that trigger our stress.
You can look into meditation classes, pick up a book, or follow a video to get started.
Tips To Practice Self Soothing
It can be challenging to start a new self-soothing technique when you most desperately need to use one.
This is why it’s essential to build these habits in times of lower stress when you may not feel you need them, in order to have them ready in darker moments!
When stress starts to build up, self-soothing can help keep it under control before it gets out of hand.
These techniques may not be as helpful when anxiety or stress feels completely overwhelming.
Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
It can take time to build these skills and find out which will work for you.
Give yourself time, and patience.
The Bottom Line
We can all use some help when dealing with the stresses of modern life- now more so than ever.
Having techniques to help us out when things get difficult can help us regulate our emotions.
Often our brains will go into overdrive, and not always appropriately.
This is because it senses danger and goes into fight or flight mode.
This is an evolutionary adaptation, but in today’s world, our brains often confuse these external stressors for immediate danger.
The techniques listed above are all ways to convince the brain to reduce the release of these stress hormones by telling it we are ok and not in any danger.
However, if stress, anxiety, and worry are taking over your life, getting outside help is ideal.
A good first step is talking to your doctor, who can medically evaluate you and refer you to a therapist if needed.
Thanks for reading!
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