When dealing with mental health, it can be hard to know what to do on the more difficult days. After years of struggling with mental illness myself- I have found it important to put together a ‘care kit’ for those days. You may use self-soothing techniques when experiencing distressing emotions or situations. Being such a personal thing, this practice looks different for everyone. Although self-soothing can come naturally to us, it’s easy to fall into negative (and possibly harmful) habits when dealing with these intense feelings.
How can you practice self-soothing?
Practice grounding techniques.
To keep it simple, grounding utilizes your senses and the world around you to anchor you within yourself. You can read more about grounding: here. Ultimately, grounding will allow you to better identify and process emotions. Noticing your emotions in this way will help you implement other useful techniques and learn more about what you find helpful. Grounding is also great for bringing you back to calmness when you’re in times of heightened emotion.
When we’re in a heightened state of stress or anxiety our body will go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Breathwork can help us through this by increasing oxygen to the brain and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. I also find that by directing focus to the breath we become less focused on the anxious thoughts which, in turn, allows them to settle themselves.
I personally love the Breathwrk app to help guide me through short breathing exercises when I’m feeling particularly anxious. The app also has a feature that allows you to learn about the foundations of breathwork and how it can help you.
Get your favourite blankets, a hot choc and get cosy. Sometimes when you’re experiencing anxiety-related symptoms, the best thing you can do for yourself is provide comfort. You can use anything that brings you a little bit of peace. Personally, I opt for my trusty cow blanket, a hot water bottle, and a good cuppa.
Colouring, knitting, etc.
Slow activities that keep your hands busy and mind focused are incredibly popular self-soothing techniques. The repetitive action can be therapeutic to some, however, this isn’t going to before everyone. I think the key point is finding an activity that allows your mind to find calm.
Give yourself a hug! Hugs help with the release of oxytocin which is a feel-good hormone. So, if there’s no one else around to give you a squeeze, allow yourself that tiny act of self-love. Alternatively, you could go and hug your animal friend.