It’s going to happen – sooner rather than later. A trigger is going to nail you right between the eyes, generating life-consuming emotional and mental distress. For many, it can be a staggering blow. What will you do? Will you be prepared? How ’bout we talk about the stabilizing power of self-soothing…

Our friend above has the right idea. She’s been having a rough go with her boss lately and today was the worst episode yet. She was mega-upset when she got home and knew she had to self-soothe. She was so glad to see, hug, and pet her loyal pal.

My decades long mood and anxiety disorder journey has taught me the value of self-soothing. I’ve also learned it doesn’t come easy for me. Because of traumatic life events, going back to childhood, that’s how it goes for many of us.

Our challenge, then, is to continually pursue effective self-soothing activities. And it’s up to us to practice them so we can put them to work at a moment’s notice. We know all too well that a staggering trigger can hit anytime.

What is self-soothing?

Before we go any further, it’s really important to understand that self-soothing is a skill. And like any skill, becoming good at it requires selecting techniques that are right for us – and practice.

how to self soothe

“Man, I needed this. Works every time.”

Okay, self-soothing is used to manage major – overwhelming – emotional or mental distress in the moment. At its foundation is a strong commitment to treating ourselves kindly, gently, and compassionately. I know that may be challenging, but we need to get it through our thick skulls that we deserve it.

Then it’s on to choosing activities that will help soothe our mind amid waves of stormy seas. Keep in mind, it’s not about hiding or stuffing inner conflict, rather soothing in an effort to peacefully coexist with it in the moment.

Word of warning: we have to be careful not to get into the habit of choosing negative behaviors for purposes of self-soothing. You know what I’m talking about: substances, impulsive spending, unhealthy relationships, and many more.

Self-Soothing: 15 ways to stabilize

Instead of presenting self-soothing activities that may be a fit for me, I decided to turn to the DBT: Dialectical Behavior Therapy website. For those of you who don’t know, DBT is a wonderful therapy that helps folks increase emotional and thought regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states. DBT also assess coping skills in an effort to find the best ones for avoiding undesired reactions.

DBTs core skills are mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness. Self-soothing is one of the distress tolerance skills.

For self-soothing, DBT recommends calling upon one or more of our senses to reach a calm and relaxed state. Our list consists of three DBT suggested activities for each sense in the following order: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch. If you’d like to pursue more activities and additional information, there’s a link at the end of the article to the DBT website.

Here we go…

  1. Get with nature and absorb the wonder of the sky and surroundings
  2. Watch a movie that’s known for its beautiful cinematography
  3. Start a collection of pictures that you find pleasurable and calming
  4. Listen to music you know or believe will soothe you
  5. Talk with someone you like who has a voice that makes you feel good
  6. Listen to an audio book, podcast, or radio program that you enjoy
  7. Wear or surround yourself with a perfume, body spray, or aroma that makes you feel nice
  8. Light up a scented candle
  9. Cook a meal that smells good to you
  10. Go to your favorite place to eat and order your favorite meal
  11. Chew gum or eat some sweets
  12. Make yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa
  13. Grab your favorite blanket or comforter and wrap yourself up in it
  14. Hold and pet your dog, cat, or other critter
  15. Get a massage or self-massage

Again, there are more activities on the DBT site. And, of course, if you have activities you already know soothe you, or activities you believe will, go with them.

(Okay, for whatever it’s worth, I frequently use #’s 2, 4, 6, 7, 11, 13, 14 – and others)

Be prepared

Would you agree that it’s only a matter of time before a trigger generates significant emotional and mental distress? If so, what will you do to absorb the blow and continue forward motion?

The best way I know to do exactly that is to tap into the stabilizing power of self-soothing.

Be prepared.

A big thanks to DBT: Dialectical Behavior Therapy for the superb info. For many reasons, the site merits a visit. Tap that link.

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