What Is Self-Soothing?
Self-soothing is certainly something you’ve heard of in a parenting book. However, learning to comfort oneself is a vital life skill that every adult should have in their mental health toolbox.
It’s easy to seek consolation from dangerous activities like overeating and smoking when we’re concerned or distressed. Instead, you may empower yourself to deal with daily stressors without making things worse in the long run by practicing good self-soothing strategies.
Self-soothing is a natural feature of the human condition. We use the classic self-soothing technique of sucking our thumb to chill our emotions and calm down even as infants.
Sucking your thumb as an adult does not deliver the same benefits as it did when you were a child. As adults, we need to improve our self-soothing techniques to avoid developing bad, damaging patterns.
Before we get into the practices, it’s important to understand why and how proper self-soothing works.
What is the purpose of self-soothing?
Life is demanding. People are complicated and can be cruel at times. The world is full of tragedy, upheaval, and poverty. For many people, life is difficult.
It’s difficult to deal with the complexity of just trying to get by in life. A relationship may be on the rocks, work may be a chore, or expenses may be piling up with no end in sight.
Oh, and did we say anything about mental illness? Because mental illness adds a whole new level of complexity to life’s issues.
And we must find a way to retain a semblance of peace and contentment in the midst of it all.
That’s where self-soothing comes in.
Self-soothing is the active management of negative emotions in order to deal with them in a healthy way. These methods assist you in calming your thoughts in the midst of chaos and reducing the effects of stress on your body.
Stress has a bad impact on your health, from the long-term presence of the stress hormone cortisol to the exacerbation of mental health problems to sleepless nights worrying at the ceiling.
What are some good self-soothing techniques for adults?
People react differently to different self-soothing approaches, therefore calling anything a “good self-soothing technique” isn’t always accurate.
The most effective self-soothing approach is the one that works for you. Just make sure you give the strategy a few tries before dismissing it as unsuccessful.
Stress and mental health difficulties are rarely simple or immediate to address on one’s own. It’s a skill that you’ll need to hone in order to enjoy the rewards.
The most effective self-soothing techniques entail diverting your mind and attention away from the source of your distress. You may have also heard this referred to as “grounding” yourself, as in “returning to the earth.”
Some suggestions include:
1. A hot bubble bath.
The bubbles, water temperature, and aroma will help you focus on the bath rather than your emotions. The body can be soothed by sitting in hot water. It relaxes your muscles, which has various physiological effects that can aid in relaxation.
2. Suck on an ice cube.
The freezing temperature of the ice cube draws your attention to it. When your mind is forced to focus on the acute coldness in your mouth, it will be difficult to focus on your emotions.
3. Curl up under a weighted blanket.
People suffering from worry and stress may benefit from using a weighted blanket. The weight pressure is soothing and aids in putting your nervous system to sleep. This assists in lowering anxious thoughts, heartbeat, and respiration.
4. Employ box breathing.
What is the definition of box breathing? Repeat the process by inhaling for four seconds, holding for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, holding for four seconds, and inhaling for four seconds, holding for four seconds.
Count down the minutes and seconds. Concentrate on counting and breathing. Breathing exercises are a popular and efficient approach to relax and recover control of one’s emotions.
5. Defuse negative thoughts with positive ones.
Negative emotions will be amplified by negative thoughts. You can’t sit in a mental position where you’re ripping yourself down or telling yourself all the things that could go wrong.
Rewrite the story that’s running thru your thoughts instead. Concentrate on the positive. What are the chances of things going well? What exactly did you do correctly? And if you can’t be positive right now, at least try not to be negative. It is beneficial.
6. Remind yourself that you are not responsible for the actions of others.
You are, after all, occasionally. For example, suppose your child smashes a window. But, because you’re not responsible for the majority of other people’s activities, why waste important energy on them? When you’re upset, frustrated, or unhappy about other people’s actions, remind yourself of this.
7. Employ visual meditation.
Visual meditation differs from what most people imagine when they hear the word “meditation.” It’s not so much about cleaning your mind of thoughts as it is about focusing on one thing to free your mind of everything else.
You can, for example, light a candle and gaze into the flame. Take into account the candle’s flame, wick, wax, smoke, and scent. You can meditate on a religious icon and its significance if you’re spiritually inclined, as it’s likely to be something you’re familiar enough with to think deeply about.
8. Watch something funny.
Spend some time watching a hilarious show or movie that you enjoy to take your mind off your emotions and problems. Not only does the visual stimulation provide something to focus on, but laughter also stimulates the production of feel-good chemicals in your brain, which can assist to brighten its environment.
9. Drink a hot cup of tea.
While drinking a hot cup of tea, you can concentrate on a variety of things. There’s the tea’s scent and flavor. You can also concentrate on the heat of the tea on your tongue, down your throat, and as it settles in your stomach.
10. Play with a pet.
Pets provide stress alleviation and unconditional love in spades. If your thinking is turbulent and demanding, spend some time with a pet. Concentrate your attention on your pet by playing with them, patting them, and thinking about them to help you forget about your daily worries.
Avoid unhealthy self-soothing.
As you can see, there are a variety of healthy techniques to practice self-soothing. The majority of them entail inducing happy sentiments in yourself, diverting your attention away from your source of distress for a short time, or actively focusing your senses on various experiences.
Of course, there are a variety of undesirable self-soothing behaviors that you should avoid. These types of products may bring some short-term relief, but they will cause a great deal of harm in the long run. You’re considering stuff like:
- Drunkenness or drug use
- Long-term problem avoidance
- Promiscuity or risky sex?
- Self-destructive behavior
- Overeating or undereating
- Junk food consumption
- Over or under-sleeping
In moderation, a lot of things can be fine. We aren’t advising you to join a monastery or convent. It’s just that many people employ unhealthy coping methods to try to achieve mental peace or happiness in their lives, unaware that they’re setting themselves up for long-term failure.
Any one of these things, or a combination of them, can provide temporary relief. It becomes an issue when it becomes a habit. It works less and less as you do it more, so you seek more and more.
After a few years, you find yourself having to dig yourself out of a hole of unpleasant, destructive habits that could have been avoided.
Don’t put yourself through it. Healthy self-soothing and emotional regulation can help you deal with life’s challenges without suffering long-term consequences.