Self-soothing is a skill that can be learned and developed over time and is an essential tool in helping you deal with strong feelings of distress. Self-soothing is about calming yourself in helpful ways and practicing those techniques when you’re feeling calm so that they are easier to use when you’re upset. Self-soothing does not always come naturally and requires thought and effort.
You may already have some self-soothing techniques that work for you. Many people gain a feeling of peace after physical experiences such as exercise, bathing, or slow and focussed breathing.Whatever approach you use, remember that self-soothing is about comforting and caring for yourself.
An easy way to make a list of self-soothing activities for yourself is to think of one for each of your five senses:
Look around the room and name the objects you see. Pretend to be an alien visitor and see the world as though you’ve never seen it before. Take a close-up look at things you ordinarily walk past like walls or flowers, visit a gallery and look at beautiful art, or appreciate the nature that is around you like the beach, trees or the grass etc.
Close your eyes and let your hearing dart from one sound to the next, hearing the traffic, birds, people, and wind without judgement. Listen to music that you like or recordings of nature sounds. Listen to an animal, or to running water. When you are listening, be mindful, letting the sounds come and go.
Smell things you find in your kitchen like herbs or spices, walk around the neighbourhood and smell some flowers, smell a scented candle burning, or notice the smell of the ocean or grass after rain.
Eat a familiar food very slowly and notice how it feels in your mouth. Enjoy a special treat, and eat it slowly, savouring each bite. Try foods with different textures and notice the different sensations as you eat. Drink something warm like hot chocolate or a cup of tea. Eat mindfully and notice the taste and sensations of each bite.
Pat a cat or dog, cuddle a soft toy, stroke fabric with different textures, go for a swim and feel what it’s like to float, have a bath, massage your hands or feet with moisturiser, or sit outside for a moment and notice the cool of the breeze or heat of the sun.