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Self-Soothing When Stress Strikes

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When you’re stressed or upset, self-soothing can help. It’s a compassionate way of helping yourself through a hard time.

Self-soothing involves intentionally seeking out comforting experiences and mindfully paying attention to them, according to Ruth Baer, Ph.D, in her book The Practicing Happiness Workbook: How Mindfulness Can Free You From 4 Psychological Traps that Keep You Stressed.

Baer explains:

Self-soothing isn’t a form of avoidance or suppression; you’re not denying that you’re in a difficult situation and feeling upset, nor are you avoiding constructive behavior that might solve the problem. Self-soothing is a way to be self-compassionate when you have a stressful problem that can’t be solved right away. It helps you be aware of the present moment without ruminating, obsessing, or behaving rashly. It puts you in a better frame of mind for taking wise action when you can.

In the book Baer lists a variety of ways we can self-soothe (inspired by Marsha Linehan’s book Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder and Kristin Neff’s book Self-Compassion).

For instance, she suggests the following:

  • As you’re preparing a meal, listen to the sounds — the chopping, sizzling and bubbling.
  • As you’re eating, notice the temperature, texture and weight of your food along with the feel of a fork or glass.
  • When you’re outside, breathe in the air.
  • Listen to birds, people or passing cars.
  • Feel the sun against your skin.
  • When you’re listening to music, focus on the images that come to mind.
  • At home, wear comfortable clothes, and focus on the feel of the fabric.
  • Take a bath or shower, feeling the water against your skin, and breathing in your body wash or shampoo.

Here are other suggestions for soothing yourself when you feel upset:

  • Listen to classical music.
  • Listen to the birds chirping.
  • Light a candle that has your favorite scent.
  • Watch the rain fall.
  • Watch the sun set.
  • Take a few moments throughout the day to notice the colors of the sky.
  • Breathe in the aroma of your morning tea or coffee.
  • Look at art that soothes you.
  • Wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
  • Move your hands together to create warmth, put them to your heart, and say aloud these words (also from Kristin Neff’s book): “This is a moment of suffering. Suffering is part of life. May I be kind to myself in this moment. May I give myself the compassion I need.”
  • Give yourself a hug, or ask a loved one for a hug. Feel your arms — or theirs — surrounding you.

What helps you self-soothe?

Self-Soothing When Stress Strikes

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS


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APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2014). Self-Soothing When Stress Strikes. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2014/04/self-soothing-when-stress-strikes/

 

Last updated: 24 Apr 2014
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 24 Apr 2014
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.