Do you know how to regulate your emotions? This may seem like a dumb question, but it’s important to be able to control your emotions, especially in stressful situations. Self-soothing is the ability to regulate your emotions, and remain relatively calm in situations when you’re hurt, upset, or injured. The ability to self-regulate has a profound effect on immunity and your autonomic nervous system. Here are 7 ways to self-soothe when you’re hurting and life becomes too much.
Babies self-soothe by sucking on a pacifier. Ask yourself: “How do you self-soothe as an adult?” Unfortunately, self-soothing comes in many forms, some very damaging. A perfect example of destructive self-soothing is addiction. When life takes a wrong turn, and your ability to cope comes crashing down, it’s important to have the skills to protect and nurture yourself.
Each of us has our own method of self-soothing, even though you may not call it that. I used the example of babies using pacifiers to calm themselves. What is your pacifier? Pacifiers come in many forms: overeating, drinking alcohol, gambling, shopping, sleeping, smoking, hoarding, sex, and even denial. Denial is a big one. Avoidance is its sidekick. Together they prolong the need to deal with strong emotions.
An inability to deal with emotions is not only an ineffective coping mechanism, but will eventually backfire. In the example of addiction, addicts bury their emotions by obliterating them (at least temporarily) through drug and alcohol abuse, but the long-term consequences are severe. Emotions are powerful and beg to be recognized and dealt with. Doing this sooner, than later, is the best approach.
Stuffing emotions may work temporarily, but at some point, you’ll hit a wall, and have to confront them. Accept what you’re feeling in the moment, and find healthy ways to bring your nervous system and emotions back into balance. This will restore your sense of safety.
Cultivating Emotional Balance
There are a wide range of emotions that can throw you off kilter, causing you to behave in ways you otherwise wouldn’t. Ideally, the goal is to be your own energy source, and have the ability to down-regulate intense emotions like anger, fear, and anxiety, while up-regulating flat ones, such as sadness, depression, despair, and defeat. Fortunately, this is a skill you can cultivate.
Learn to look within when you find yourself being triggered. This is how you become your own safety net and source of strength. You don’t have to look outside yourself for comfort and reprieve. All the tools you need are already inside you.
Ways To Self Soothe That Involve The Senses
Self-soothing techniques indulge the senses. You’ll see examples of this below. Destructive self-calming strategies like over-eating and sex addiction indulge the senses of taste and touch, respectively. There are healthy ways to delight your senses that don’t involve negative consequences as seen below:
1. Take A Bubble Bath
Envelope yourself in a cocoon of safety by taking a hot bath. It’s amazing what a relaxing bubble bath will do to reduce stress, calm frayed nerves, and put your problems into perspective. 30 minutes of peace, stillness, and warmth, is a powerful elixir. While a hot bath may not solve your problems, it will give you the ability to tackle them more easily, and is an awesome way to indulge your sense of touch and smell. Toss in some essential oils – eucalyptus is my favorite – to make the experience even more enjoyable.
Water is a healing substance. You know this is true if you’ve ever relaxed on a sunny beach, listening to the gentle rush of the waves rolling in. No wonder the ocean is called “Nature’s Massage.” Make your bath a sensual experience: light a candle, turn on relaxing music, and bask in some magnesium-rich Epsom salts. Relaxation in itself promotes healing and balance.
Make your bath experience even better by enjoying some delicious cranberry pound cake with orange glaze. Shout out to Jen Miller of Jen Reviews for this amazing recipe.
2. Move Your Body
Movement is grounding, calming, and centering. Go for a leisurely walk in the woods, take you bike out for a spin, do some gentle stretching while listening to soft music, dance to your favorite song, or shake (see below). Connecting with your physical body brings you home to yourself. It can renew your self-confidence and belief in yourself by clearing your mind, allowing you to see things as they really are.
A blanket of confusion can descend on your life, affecting your thought processes, when you’re overtaken by powerful emotions. Rhythmic movement has a profound effect on brainwaves. Get into the groove of what feels good to your body. It will bring you back to a place of peace and contentment.
Did you know that animals recover from trauma by shaking? This is the theory behind Trauma Release Exercises. Shaking is a way to discharge stress chemicals that get stuck in the body. This technique consists of a series of exercises that help the body release engrained patterns of tension, trauma, and stress, thereby, calming and resetting the nervous system.
Benefits include reduced anxiety and worry, increased energy, better sleep, healing of old injuries, and greater emotional resiliency. Watch the video below to see how it works. The Trauma Release Formula by Anne Margolis is a step-by-step program for eliminating the effects of abuse, trauma, and crippling inner stress.
3. Unlock Your Creativity
Being creative feels good. We are creative beings. Many inventions we enjoy today are the result of imagination, which stimulates creativity and innovation. Imagination unlocks the limitations of human potential, spurring solutions to long-standing problems and conflicts. You don’t have to be a prolific painter, gifted writer, or an amazing musician to be considered creative. Each of us has within us the seeds of creativity.
Inside of you, an artist is waiting to be released. It’s your job to nourish that force. And I don’t mean “artist” in the sense of a visual creator. Creativity encompasses many modalities. In our fast-paced world, it’s difficult to make time for this important practice. If you’re struggling with feelings of defeat, despair, or are just plain stuck, use your imagination to create something wonderful. Whatever that looks like to you. It will lift your spirits, and delight your senses.
Expand your horizons by signing up for a class, learn to sew, sing, even if you can’t carry a tune. It doesn’t matter. Cook a delicious meal, plant some flowers in your garden. At the very least, sit at your desk and doodle. I like coloring in adult coloring books. It’s refreshing and rejuvenating. Also, journaling and putting your feelings into words is a creative process. There are a million ways to be creative so don’t limit yourself.
4. Express Your Feelings
Feelings are very real vibrations. Expressing them diffuses the power they hold over you. I know when I experience strong emotions, sharing them with someone I trust, puts what I’m feeling into perspective. Emotions can be overwhelming, and even more so, when they’re bottled up inside. Release the tension by sharing them. This is the best way to release the pressure uncomfortable emotions cause. Not acknowledging them doesn’t make them go away.
Talk to a trusted friend who will validate your feelings. Downloading your negative emotions makes more room for positive ones to enter your heart. Buried emotions never die, and have the potential to create physical disturbances when they become trapped in the body. Give expression to disheartening emotions. They won’t seem so scary.
A fantastic resource to learn about trapped emotions, and their effects, is Dr. Bradley Nelson’s inspiration book, The Emotion Code. Trapped emotions are a serious issue, and shouldn’t be taken lightly. They can affect, not only your physical health, but your ability to love, to reach your highest potential, and to succeed in your business endeavors. Check out the book HERE or the audiobook HERE.
5. Laugh Out Loud
The old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine,” couldn’t be more true, and this doesn’t apply just to physical healing, but emotional restoration as well. Norman Cousins, a journalist who treated his connective tissue disease with laughter, referred to laughter as “inner jogging.” This is because laughter gives the whole body a workout, and working out feels good.
Laughter is good medicine for people with chronic illness because it releases the overwhelming feelings the person has about the illness itself. It also activates the immune system, which stimulates healing. Depression is characterized by the suppression of neuro-chemicals in the brain responsible for pleasure. Laughter triggers the release of chemicals that make you feel good, like dopamine and endorphins, while decreasing stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
These feel-good chemicals are the same ones addicts crave. You can activate these pleasure pathways in the brain by laughing out loud. A heart-felt belly laugh is not just funny, it’s healing. If you’re dealing with negative emotions, make laughter a part of your daily routine. Watch a funny movie or listen to your favorite standup comedian.
Start a Pinterest board of funny meme. Get a pet. Dogs are hilarious. Joke around with your friends. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Lighten your load with laughter, or at least, a smile. Your family will love the new you!
6. Listen To Soothing Music
Music soothes the soul. It’s so powerful, music therapy is now a common practice. Music evokes emotional responses in the brain that can be both relaxing and stimulating. It is a means of expression that can induce peaceful emotions and feelings of contentment. Listening to music releases dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain that is essential for a healthy mood and sufficient motivation. It’s also critical for an optimal functioning nervous system.
The right music can do wonders for overwhelming emotions, such as anger, sadness, and depression. It lowers heart rate, and has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system. This is one reason music is so therapeutic for anxiety. It can also induce crying, which may be just what the doctor ordered. Receive pleasure through your sense of hearing by tapping into the healing powers of music.
ASMR is a great way to remain centered when your nervous system has been hijacked. ASMR stands for Autonomous sensory meridian response, and is a technique used to induce relaxation and low-grade euphoria. It uses a combination of auditory and visual stimuli to create tingling sensations and pleasurable feelings.
Whispering, scratching, and tapping are just some of the sounds used in ASMR. It’s pretty fascinating and a feast for the senses. See how it’s done by watching the video below. Check out this ASMR album.
7. Meditation and Gratitude
Meditation is an incredible way to calm the nervous system, clear your head, and a little dab will do you. It only takes a few minutes a day to reap the benefits. Sit quietly and concentrate on your breath. This is a good time to say positive affirmations if you like doing that. There’s no right or wrong way to do it so don’t get caught up in the details. The point is to be still. Listen to sounds you normally don’t pay attention to, but are always there, like birds singing or falling rain.
Meditation, specifically biblical mediation, helps bring into focus what’s really important in life. It’s easy to get caught up in all the shoulds, that taking time for stillness gets relegated to the back burner. An an added bonus, meditation is purported to make you look younger, which is a great mood booster in itself. Gratitude will never go out of style. You don’t have to learn the art of gratitude. Just be grateful. Practicing gratitude promotes feelings of connection, and improves emotional equilibrium.
It also boosts confidence, increases creativity, and will raise your happiness set point. Pay attention to the little details in life that often get lost in the shuffle. Practice being present. Watch the sun set. Say thank you more often. Help someone less fortunate. Gratitude raises dopamine in the brain, giving you a natural high. It just makes sense to count your blessings!
We all need to self-soothe at times. It’s an indispensable skill because pain will always be a part of life. Choose the strategies that resonate with you, and practice them next time life doesn’t go your way, and strong emotions destroy your peace. Take a relaxing bath, listen to your favorite music, move your body, or just laugh out loud. You are the master of your emotions.
What are your favorite self-soothing techniques? Let me know in the comments:)
12 thoughts on “7 Ways To Self Soothe When You’re Hurting”
Hi, Holly. Fantastic advice! I am a firm believer in the power of the mind to self-heal. All your seven steps have a positive effect on the brain, which ultimately, improves wellbeing. I think you should expand on the Meditation and Gratitude to include positive affirmation or even an eighth step. Paul
Great idea Paul. Positive affirmations are so important. I’m also a firm believer in the power of the mind to heal! Thanks for taking the time to comment!
As I was reading through your post, exercise was one of the first things I thought of and funny enough, it was one of your points. I have always found exercise to be great for the mind, whether its a gym workout or a run, once I have had a workout, the rest of the day seems to go much better. I trust this is the same for a lot of other people, even if it’s not exercise, just whatever their chosen feel-good activity is.
I totally agree with you Vaughn. Exercise has been an integral part of my self-care routine. It’s indispensable in keeping my mind and body healthy.
I really enjoyed your article…and benefited from it. Thanks so much.
Reading the article also gave me a sense of soothing, so you are achieving your noble purpose!
One of my daughters has seizures, which the specialists believe are both epileptic and anxiety driven.
Do you have any ideas we could consider that would help her, at a minimum, and, at best, eliminate the seizures?
Thank you David,
I’m sorry to hear about your daughter. Blood sugar swings can trigger seizures. Eating balanced meals regularly can help. Look into the Ketogenic diet, which has had a lot of success in treating seizures. I would get your daughter on a magnesium supplement. Magnesium counteracts calcium, which can excite the brain, initiating a seizure. Much luck to you!
I have used these self soothing techniques many times unconsciously before. When I read your article I realised that some simple ways like taking a warm bath and basking in the hot sun, listening to music, etc, has a lot of good health implications.
Personally, when I am stressed, I like dancing a lot because once I am done, I get a moment of relief and satisfaction. It’s interesting to learn that even animals shake their bodies as a way of releasing stress from their bodies. I didn’t know that this was true with animals too.
Just a point of concern, are there diets that we should avoid that trigger stress and hard feelings in our bodies?
I think many of us unconsciously self-soothe, which is good. Sitting in the sun is one of my favorite self-soothing techniques.
Yes, animals shake away there stress. We should be more like them.
Inflammatory foods like gluten, sugar, and pasteurized dairy can trigger stress.
Having suffered a nervous breakdown 5 years ago, that cost me both my physical and mental health, I use many of these techniques to cope and reduce some of the effects of my Bi-polar, which was brought to light by the breakdown.
Like you, I am a professional blogger, but I also have blogs on various interests and hobbies, such as collecting man cave items, a biker lifestyle blog, and a blog to vent on politics. I love a good debate, it releases stress and anger, while educating the brain and expanding understanding of others’ perspectives.
I also use meditation, and go to therapy, and use tools like walks to relieve stress, but by far blogging or journaling is my best release. What works best for your out of the 7 steps?
Journaling and writing is definitely one of my favorite techniques for releasing powerful emotions. It helps me sort them out, and make sense of what I’m feeling. I’m sorry to hear about what you’ve gone through. I’m happy blogging is a release for you. Keep doing more of it.
Thanks for posting this, I think too many people don’t yet have good or healthy strategies for self-soothing as you call it.
I had big problems myself, many years ago. I even took the recommendation to visit a psychologist for several years. I think that was my best spent money ever.
What have I learned? I learned to turn negative energy into positive energy.
I still mess up sometimes, but I’m trying harder these days. Now before reacting or getting angry, I start a discussion.
What could be more important than turning negative energy into positive energy? I agree 100%. Thank you for reading!