Self-Soothing, A Technique for Coping During Times of Stress and Anxiety

As I struggle to balance taking care of myself and letting a friend know during their troubled time that I care for them deeply, I contemplate balance, differentiation, and self-soothing.  These terms enter my mind as I want to ensure I love and care for others while taking care of my own needs.  I differentiate and free my friend to solve their own problems.  I liberate from guilt and resentment.  And we both learn to self-soothe.

The word balance came to mind as I want to remain independent, accomplish tasks that give me empowerment, a sense of achievement, and purpose as I take responsibility of my life. As I weigh the consequences of my actions, I contemplate the thoughts, “Am I being too independent?”, “Am I not being a good friend?”, “Am I being selfish?”, and “Am I doing the right thing?”

Pondering these questions, I notice my first reaction is that, “I am not selfish”, “I have shown my friend that I care by calling several times during the day to check-in”,and “I am creating healthy detachment so that both of us can take responsibility of our life and self soothe.”

So what is self-soothing?  Self-soothing is the act of taking responsibility for your own needs.  Self-soothing is a set of techniques that provide personal comfort, have calming affects, and brings inner peace during times of turmoil.  They provide self-supportive methods that help alleviate stress and anxiety.  There is no one size fits all mechanism for self-soothing.  As each person is unique, every individual has their own distinctive set of cognitions and behaviors that help alleviate pain.

Here is a list of several self-comforting techniques.  This is certainly not a complete list but a comprehensive list that may trigger more personable practices that help you when feeling down.

  • Meditation

Find a comfortable position.  It can be sitting with your feet flat on the floor or lying down on your back.  Place your hands either comfortably across your lap or palms down on your thighs.  Relax your facial muscles; it doesn’t matter if your eyes are closed or open.  Do what feels right for you.

Now concentrate on the tip of your nose, feel the breath going in and out. Notice where the breath is going.  Is it focused in the chest or are you breathing deeply into your stomach? Notice how you are feeling in this relaxed state of mind and focusing on the breath, and placement in the body.  At every out-breath say out loud or silently a feeling that you want to rid of; i.e. anxiety.  And then on the in-breath say out loud or silently a feeling that you want to bring in; i.e. peace or harmony.

Continue breathing, noticing where the breath falls, and saying the words that you want to bring inward and exhale outward.  Maintain this exercise for a minimum of ten breathes. When you come at 10, notice how you are feeling.

Carry on the breathing mediation starting at 1 again. Focus attention on the tip of the nose, the lungs, stomach, and inner feelings. Maintain for 5 minutes.  Release the attention on the breath, the concentration on the tip of the nose, and notice how you are feeling now.

Here is a list of more self-soothing techniques.  Please feel free to add your own healthy coping skills.

  • Enjoy an aromatherapy bath with calming essential oils such as lavender or rose oil.
  • Take a walk in nature or a safe, secluded path.
  • Schedule a massage.
  • Engage in gardening.
  • Call a friend.
  • Exercise; i.e. ride a bike, go for a jog, weight lift; something that is more in tune with your body and not your mind.

Practicing these techniques can bring a sense of well-being and a peaceful state of mind during times of anxiety and stress.  They can bring a sense of connectedness to your inner being, spending quality time with yourself as you reflect your thoughts and feelings, noticing, accepting, and in the accepting, letting it go, and finally, to transform it.  These techniques can not only bring more inner peace, but they can help build better relationships where we are free from fusion and enmeshment and living more holistically and in balance.

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