With the Covid world changes you may be feeling very anxious, angry, sad, scared, depressed and uncertain. You may be rotating through all of them on a daily basis as you listen to the news, worry about your job and finances and how you will manage.
You may be attempting to make yourself feel better with drugs, alcohol, overeating, yelling at people on Facebook or whatever. You may have noticed an increase in anger dealing with your family who may be on your last nerve. You may be having panic attacks or feel that your health is suffering.
You don’t have to feel like this and the answer is not about engaging in destructive habits. It involves a technique we use in psychology called Self Soothing. This involves your ability to manipulate your mood by calming or comforting yourself in the face of negative emotions. Simply put, it means to learn to comfort yourself without drugs, food, alcohol or other destructive distractions.
Self Soothing includes a strategy or set of strategies designed to help you cope with overwhelmingly negative or anxiety provoking emotions. These skills or strategies are often not learned or taught in the home, particularly in dysfunctional families. It doesn’t matter, you are here now. This is a critical skill base geared toward self preservation that actually can make the difference between you feeling “in charge” of your life versus deeply suffering and “stuck”.
Even with Covid out of the picture, there may be periods of time when things may not be quite as you had hoped and you will feel poorly. To be blunt, you may actually feel like absolute crap. You may be thinking about current or past difficulties or dreading some upcoming event. You may be very anxious and fearing the next panic attack or experiencing an upheaval in your personal relationships. You may be fearful that you are being abandoned. These are the times you will be most likely to gravitate back to dysfunctional habits.
You may feel like you absolutely cannot tolerate whatever it is that you are feeling and that thought alone will send you to the medicine chest, the liquor store or the Twinkie bin. You may head out on the town to find a replacement for the loved one, someone to make you feel “special and loved”. You then feel worse than before.
Children from dysfunctional families are rarely taught to self soothe. When you lack these skills, you may react with rage or blame when things are not going your way, often making things worse. You may lash out at others to protect yourself from unpleasant feelings. Sometimes the rage or pain gets directed inward and you may think about hurting yourself.
If you approach a situation in a calm state, you are better able to deal with whatever is happening. You are less likely to make rash decisions or act out in some harmful way. We all tend to make poor decisions when we are in negative emotional states.
The immediate benefit of self soothing is to alleviate some emotional pain. It allows you then to think more clearly and get yourself back on track. It allows you to get your feelings back together without engaging in something that ultimately makes you feel worse. It gives you a tool for life to handle the less than ideal times. I have rounded up 17 that I think are the best and can be utilized by all.
The Best Self Soothing Techniques
- Talk to someone-We are social creatures and find comfort in each other in difficult times (Be careful not to produce burnout in your friends and family. If you feel your needs are excessive or your friends are tiring of your problems, talk to a counselor instead).
- Distract yourself-Do something that completely absorbs and interests you. This works as it forces you to change gears .
- Organizational tasks are good as they allow you to feel some control. This can include cleaning and organizing your house.
- Humor is good, watch a funny show or read a book if you cannot bring yourself to do something active.
- Do something for someone else. Research studies repeatedly produce results that indicate that helping someone else lifts a person’s spirits and that the result is long lasting.
- Engage in your work if it absorbs you, it will shift your mood and it is productive.
- Cook something, this is another creative outlet. Give it away if you don’t want it. It doesn’t have to be a big batch of fattening brownies, it can be a great salad or vegetable dish.
- Engage in your own hobby or start one to utilize for this purpose. Have the necessary items on hand so you can begin the minute you feel like crap. Give it away if you don’t want it yourself.
- Use physical exercise or movement as it exhausts and relaxes you. Sleep is improved and you are paying attention to your body as opposed to agitating thoughts. Mood is immediately improved by release of endorphins.
- Dancing is good as it involves music which also shifts mood. Do stupid moves that make you laugh. It shifts the brain from ruminating.
- Play computer or video games or do a crossword or Sudoku.
- Research something you know nothing about but have had an interest in. Travel, science, potential hobbies, new business ideas. Novelty kicks up Serotonin in your brain.
- Engage in relaxation techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation or getting a massage. (I will add here that I have tried progressive muscle relaxation many times and it drives me crazy to lay there and listen to it. I fall asleep or become annoyed and bored to the point I feel worse than when I started. I add this just to let you know it isn’t for everyone. Others love relaxation techniques and experience great relief).
- Meditate- Many forms of meditation are out there and products are available to help you start. As with the relaxation programs, these can be annoying in the beginning until you get good at it and start to realize some benefit.
- Utilize Biofeedback- Home devices include the Emwave, StressEraser and Unyte Programs for your PC.
- Get in the car and go for a ride.
- If you truly can’t get moving, cuddle up with a pet, favorite blanket, or stuffed animal and treat yourself like you have the flu for a little while. Think of this as basic comforting but do not make this your sole manner of self soothing as it is the least productive.
There is a saying “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. That is definitely true here. Give each of the strategies you choose a little test run so you know the ones that will work. You will not feel better if you choose needlepoint as a distraction then spend all day poking your finger with the needle. By planning ahead you are taking control of how you will now handle the less than ideal times in your life.
You can feel poorly and not have to act on it. We all feel poorly at one time or another. It’s how you handle feeling poorly that matters. These are the behaviors that can begin to move you in a forward direction instead of setting you back. If you are always dealing with the aftermath of something you did in order to “feel better” you will never get around to fixing the core problems.
If you have a self soothing technique not listed above that works for you please share it with us in the comment section.
To help you get started on your way to feeling good, I have a free resource on my website, How to Stop Wasting Your Life Being Depressed, Anxious and Unhappy: The Top 10 Strategies of Emotionally Successful People. The link is below in the bio section.
Feel Good For Life!!
Photo by The Library of Congress