We may not remember as babies our parents wrapping us up in blankets and singing little songs to us in an effort to calm us down and soothe us. They’re timeless techniques for soothing babies or small children when they are in distress, but did you know that adults also have a need to soothe themselves at times in ways that are very similar?
We all need something that we can turn to when our distress tolerance is out of control and the skill of self-soothing is helpful when we are unable or unwilling to solve the problem.
Self-soothing is a distress tolerance skill. When you self-soothe you treat yourself with compassion, kindness and care just as you would as a parent treating a distressed child. Self-soothing has been shown to help build resilience when distress is overwhelming helping you to recover more quickly from difficult times.
We learn to self-soothe through each of our senses. Sight, sound, smell, touch, taste and kinaesthetically . Here are some examples of how the senses help:-
Go for a walk and look at the wonderful views. Look at photographs of stunning scenery or go to an art gallery and wonder at the pictures. Do some mindful colouring and watch the colours create a beautiful picture.
Listen to some calming music. The waves rushing to the shore or a waterfall gently spilling down a mountain. Sing or hum along to a soothing song (just like when we were sung too as a child). Listen to the rhythmic sound of a cat purring and the birds chirping outside. Beat a drum softly and rhythmically.
Light a scented candle that fills the whole house with its aroma. Put some perfume on and smell its fragrance. Bake a cake and relish the smell as it drifts upstairs. Cook a fragrant meal that smells delicious.
Take a heavenly long bath or shower. Wear soft comfortable clothes that allow you to move easily with no restriction. Pet your dog or cat in slow, soft strokes while you snuggle in a cuddly blanket. Use a hotter bottle to snuggle up with across your back. go outside and feel the cool breeze on your face.
Sip something warm and comforting like a hot chocolate. Savour a piece of chocolate mindfully enjoying every mouthful slowly and with relish.Enjoy a favourite meal eating it with slow intention.
Rock yourself in a rocking chair or hammock. Go for a very gentle stroll. Dance or sway to calming music. Do some slow stretches. Bounce a ball.
These are just some ideas and you will find what works for you. Every self-soothing action that is warm, dark, quiet, mellow, sweet, soft, rhythmic and cuddly will work, it’s just a case of finding which one works for you.
You have to be open to using this technique for it to work for you and could be an obstacle and barrier if you don’t. Just like anything else in life it has to be learn’t.
When you are more open to using self-soothing try experiencing a few of the senses together like having a long bath with lovely smelly candles listening to calming music.
It is always best to practise self-soothing when you are not in crisis . That way the skills will be more ingrained to apply when you really need to call upon them.
Make a self-soothing pack that you can easily call upon and they are easily found and are to hand.
When you self-soothe breathe and be aware of the present moment and the effect each sensation is having on you.
Self-soothing and mindfulness are powerful tools. So light a lovely smelly candle, put on some calming music make yourself a delicious cup of tea and start now.