How to Self-Soothe
Self-soothing strategies help us cope with overwhelming and intense emotions. These techniques soothe the mind and body when in a state of distress, which can make them especially helpful for coping with mental health problems or mental illnesses, in particular Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) episodes. Self-soothing techniques are also helpful for anxiety and panic disorders.
Details of how to self-soothe are included in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) — a form of therapy created specifically to treat BPD — under the ‘distress tolerance’ category. I can honestly say from my experience that these have been some of the most helpful strategies I’ve learnt so far. Though only simple actions, these therapeutic techniques allow our nervous system time to slow down and return to business as usual. Once we have regulated our nervous system, utilised some distraction techniques and calmed ourselves down, we can then move forward by calmly processing and/or acting on our emotions if necessary.
When we self-soothe, we use the five senses to calm the nervous system. It might be that just one, all or a combination of the following tips work for you — there really is total freedom to figure out what helps you in your episodes of distress. Here are my top tips on how to self-soothe, I hope you find them helpful!
You can also find a saveable infographic collating all of this information at the bottom of the page.
Related Reading: Childhood Trauma, Spirituality and the Human Condition
Sound Self-Soothing Techniques
- Listen to your favourite music — loud! Top tip: it might not be for everyone, but I know loads of people that have found heavy metal music helpful for mental wellbeing! Check out Heavy Metal Therapy if this sounds like your cup of tea!
- Visit somewhere with natural running water and listen to the sounds
- Use a meditation app/video with soothing sounds
- Talk to someone you love and listen to their voice
- Listen to an audiobook or podcast that grabs your attention
Sight Self-Soothing Techniques
- Create soothing mood lighting with lamps, candles or fairy lights
- Watch your favourite TV show or movie
- Surround yourself with nature as much as you can
- Read something uplifting
- Create a piece of art (or scribble as hard as you can in a notebook!)
Taste Self-Soothing Techniques
- Eat your favourite meal
- Eat something soothing like ice-cream
- Drink something soothing like hot chocolate
- Chew some strong gum
Smell Self-Soothing Techniques
- Burn incense or light scented candles
- Use essential oils for aromatherapy
- Cook or bake something that smells good
- Use your favourite scented body lotions, body sprays and perfumes. (My top tip: spray yourself and your sheets with some Twilight Spray for ultimate calm)
Touch Self-Soothing Techniques
- Take a hot (or cold) bath or shower — tipping your temperature is a great way to slow the nervous system. You can also splash cold water on your face and neck for this.
- Warm your towels (and comfy clothes) in the dryer or on a radiator
- Put your softest, comfiest clothes on
- Wrap up in soft, clean sheets
- Hug someone you love for as long as you need
- Ask someone you love for a massage or neck rub
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