Self-soothing techniques are essentially a set of coping skills we learn throughout childhood that help us manage strong feelings. However, many people don’t learn these skills or have yet to master them. This makes dealing with the day-to-day ups and downs feel less like walking up hills and more like trekking through crumbling mountains. Let’s look into a few self-soothing techniques that relieve anxiety to help you manage big emotions and get you back to baseline.
Grounding is any technique that involves putting your mind and body in the present by using your senses, and there are many different practices you can choose from. White noise, soft music, or nature sounds are great for those who love music. Peppermint or sour candy are strong flavors that help center the mind around what you’re tasting. Sometimes, it’s as simple as savoring the physical and mental health benefits of a warm bath with soft candlelight and soothing scents. However, some people need a stronger approach to tackle more intense emotions.
Self-holding and rocking slowly back and forth replicate the same position and motion we experience when in utero. Weighted blankets can serve as a temporary replacement for physical contact. You can also practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). Tense a group of muscles for 10 seconds, let go, and notice how the body feels when relaxed. The goal is not to distract yourself indefinitely but to bring you back to a calmer state so that you can safely feel and attend to the emotions in your body.
Regulated breathing is one of the most helpful self-soothing techniques to relieve anxiety, but many people say it doesn’t work for them. This is most likely because they practice breathing techniques only when they’re anxious. Trying to practice breathing techniques only when you’re anxious, panicked, or depressed is much like trying to get somewhere fast on a bike when you’ve never ridden one before. If you practice only when anxious, you may start to associate breathing techniques with having a panic attack, and the practice itself may trigger more intense feelings.
Instead, practice the 5-5-5 technique when you’re in a good place. Breathe in for five seconds, hold it for five seconds, and let it out for five seconds to calm the heart rate. Alternatively, you can take a few quick breaths in, hold it, and let out a long exhale. This can stimulate the same part of our nervous system that releases natural calming hormones when we cry. However, some people find quick breathing more panic-inducing, so be sure to use techniques that are comfortable for you.
Practicing positivity is a controversial topic for some, as many people often confuse it with toxic positivity. While toxic positivity exists and is harmful, practicing positivity is different. With this technique, you purposefully engage in positive self-talk, smiling in the mirror, or trying to see the good in a bad situation as a way to trick yourself temporarily. While it may seem silly or even delusional at first, over time, you will begin to believe the good things, find it easier to smile, and find light in the darkness.
Dianne Pajo is a Certified Personal Trainer based out of the Chicagoland area with a passion for music, combat sports, and animals. She enjoys competing in amateur boxing and kickboxing, but in her other leisure time, you can find her outdoors and performing music around the city. She is also a dog mom of 2.