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Health and Wellbeing

05 Feb 2020

Self-soothing: First Aid for when you’re stressed and burned out

Whenever you’re anxious, sad or overwhelmed or simply need some soothing, it helps to have a collection of comforting and healthy tools to turn to.

Self-soothing refers to behaviours that we use to restore our emotional equilibrium when we’ve experienced stress or anxiety. Whether it is conflict with a partner, having a bad day at work, or general anxiety about the state of the world around us, we can all benefit from having some “self-soothing techniques” that can help bring calm to your mind and body.

The benefits of self-soothing

Although everyone is different, here are some benefits you may experience from soothing yourself:

  • becoming more grounded;
  • deeper connection with your inner-self;
  • enhanced self-love;
  • increased ability to be mindful;
  • ability to pause and see the bigger picture;
  • getting out of your mind and into your body/senses; and
  • less anxiety and stress

Below are some examples of self-soothing you can do today:

Take a shower- mindfully!

Taking a shower after a rough day can help to physically “clean” away the days bad events or thoughts. Try doing it mindfully, by being present and in the moment: pay attention to the sights, scents and sounds surrounding you.

Stretch out

Anxiety tends to hijack the body. While everyone stores anxiety in different spots, common areas are the jaw, hips and shoulders, so stand up and do a full-body stretch. Reach your arms overhead then slowly fold forward and slowly open and close your mouth as you do.

Visualise a peaceful image

Try combining positive visualisation with breath, and repeating the sequence several times. As you inhale and reach your arms out in front of you, hold the image in your mind, then exhale and bring both hands to your heart, all the while thinking of the image.

Listen to soothing music

Create a playlist of soothing songs that help you to slow down or connect with memories or positive experiences. Pairing soothing tunes with deep breathing can help too.

Speak compassionately towards yourself

Being self-compassionate boosts mental health. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come naturally to many of us. Fortunately, you can learn to treat yourself with consideration and care by working with a supportive therapist or coach or learning how to through engaging in personal self-development.

Ground yourself

When stress strikes, some people feel lightheaded or like they’re floating outside their bodies. Making a point to feel your feet against the ground can help, or naming three things that you can hear, smell or touch.

Take some perspective

Look at the situation or stressor from a bird’s eye view. When you’re in the moment, current challenges seem enormous, but placing your situation into the bigger picture of your life may help you realise that you may not need to give it so much emotional energy. Ask yourself: “Will this matter in one year? In five years?”

Give yourself permission to feel bad

Remember that you don’t have to fix your feelings right away. Although it’s important to have a toolbox of healthy strategies to turn, don’t feel guilty for feeling bad or fault yourself if you aren’t able to be positive or engage in any self-soothing immediately •


Rajna Bogdanovic

Clinical Psychologist

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