Most people think self-soothing is something babies do, but it is also a powerful tool for people with mental health problems. It can help calm anxiety and stress and if done often it can even help people break out of waking flashbacks! No amount of self-soothing will cure your mental health problems, but it might help you go down the path of recovery…
When I first learned this method I was surprised how much the simple act of breathing could affect every single aspect of our lives. The moment you start to feel a flashback or panic attack coming on you should try and take a few deep breaths to pull you back into the present. Be more aware of the “out” breaths as they are more important than the “in” ones, especially when experiencing a panic attack.
Positive Self Talk
If you feel like you are slipping into deep depression you could try giving yourself a little brain boost by simply talking positively to yourself. This effective strategy is like having an optimistic voice in your head that finds the silver lining in any brain rain cloud. Please note you don’t have to say these things out loud. You could always say them in your head or whisper them quietly under your voice.
This is very much like “Positive Self Talk” as learned about above, but this time you should try not to beat yourself up. Instead of talking to yourself positively you should try being understanding. Observe that you are going through a bad flashback, notice that you are having a bad day and try to be understanding about it. Ask yourself, how would you talk to a friend or loved one if they were going through the same thing? Then you just need to turn that compassion inwards.
This method is far easier than you might think. When you feel your brain slipping away from you try to think of the funniest thing you can Maybe it is a joke someone told you, maybe it is a funny film you have watched a hundred times. You could even keep a joke book with you at all times, or just watch some funny cat videos on YouTube. Whatever it is a simple smile or chuckle to yourself can reduce body tension and force your brain into thinking of positive thoughts and memories instead of the bad ones.
If you find you can’t use your brain while being triggered you could always rely on other senses to help snap you out of it. You can use anything from a car air freshener still in the wrapper to a piece of tissue sprayed with something you like. Just keep in on you and in times of trouble just stick it under your nose and breath it in as deeply as you can. Just remember to not pick a smell that is too overpowering as it could consume you.
Once again this is a self-soothing method that is perfect for those who can’t control their own minds in dark times. This method requires you to carry around something tactile. Maybe this is something smooth like a ball or something metal. Or it could be something soft and squishy like a stress toy or silly putty. Whatever it is you should have it with you at all times and simply reach for it whenever you need to feel a little more grounded.
Do you get anxiety attacks when out shopping or just at work? You should try to keep walking! Whenever you feel yourself starting to breathe heavier than usual try walking as quickly as you can (but not quite running or power walking). While walking around in nature is the best method you sometimes can’t get outside so concentrating on walking around the office or supermarket is just as good. Just try to stay as present as you can, noticing the smells, sounds and things that are all around you.
You don’t have to make a work of art using this self-soothing technique, just simple doodles will do. Maybe circles or try to draw your thoughts. Anything to concentrate is good, but I personally find adult colouring books to be the perfect way to use this method.
Use Your Self-Soothing Kit
This is something most therapists might suggest you make (depending on the type of mental health problems you are experiencing). Place somethings inside of it that make you happy, maybe a small bottle of essential oil, some small fidget toys or just some paper and pens. Then, whenever you need to distract your mind open the box and use the things inside to self-sooth and bring yourself back to reality.
Tapping is still considered something quite controversial in the field of mental health and wellness, but it is something worth considering. What you do is use the very end of your fingertips to tap 5-7 times on each of the 12 meridian points of your body. For most people, the wrists, around the eyes or the collar bone are the main points to tap. Just keeping doing this over and over until you start to feel a little more grounded.
Do you know of any other ways to self-sooth? Or do you use one of the methods above? Either way, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.