Self-soothing, quite simply, is learning ways to
relax and gently calm yourself. Self-soothing reduces and alleviates emotional
discomfort and distress by calming the mind, promoting a stronger foundation
for mental health. When young, we had our parents to soothe us. As adults, it is
essential we learn how to soothe ourselves in order to be more present,
centered, and calm. While this may be a seemingly simple concept, it is one
that takes practice to effectively implement.
Self-soothing is beneficial for both stress
management and relaxation. When stress becomes intense, we all can benefit from
refocusing and taking breaks to relax and regain mental clarity. Studies show
that when stress and emotions are very intense, it becomes more difficult to
make logical, rational choices and problem solve.
This is particularly true as related to trauma. The emotional part of your brain — the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system — takes over, while the rational problem solving part of your brain — the prefrontal cortex — goes out the window. The emotional part of the brain needs time to cool down so that the logical rational part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) can come into play.
Learning how to use your five senses is essential
to effectively relax and calm the mind. Your five senses include smell, taste,
touch, hearing, and vision, and they can all promote relaxation and improved
For example, in using your sense of smell, you may associate a certain perfume, candle, aroma from food, or smell from outside as soothing. Some examples of taste may involve a certain food or tea you may find as calming. Touch may involve wearing clothes, sitting in a chair, or using a cozy blanket. A few more touch examples may involve being mindful while showering or even petting an animal. You may enjoy hearing relaxing music, sounds from nature, or singing your favorite song. Vision may involve looking at nature, a pleasant picture, or artwork.
The best way to learn what calms you is to experiment with different things, as we are all calmed and soothed by different senses and in various ways. It is helpful to create a tool box of different self-soothing strategies, as when stress is intense, we may need to self-soothe in multiple ways. For example, sitting in your favorite chair, listening to music, sipping green tea, and petting your dog all at once. Also, some self-soothing strategies may work in some environments, while others would not be as helpful. For example, you may be able to use a cozy blanket at home, but not at work. Do not be afraid to experiment and try as many different strategies as possible.
Using your five senses to relax is a skill taught in dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), specifically in the distress tolerance module. The focus in the distress tolerance module is learning to tolerate and cope with distress. Do you think you could benefit from dialectical behavioral therapy? Interested in seeing how self-soothing could work for you? Please feel free and call Dr. Tina Watson of Tina A. Watson & Associates in Atlanta at. Our boutique style psychologist uses personalized effective treatments and sessions to put you and your mind at ease while also focusing on your recovery.
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