The practices of self soothing make a lot of sense but we don’t always draw on them when we need to. Instead, we may just barrel through whatever we are going through further suppressing our need to care for ourselves. Instinctually, when we hear an infant or a small child cry we want to soothe them. We may use a warm embrace, a soft reassuring word, give them a favorite stuffed animal or even a warm bath. What do you do for yourself in the moment when you are feeling distraught, disconnected from others and in discomfort? And can you take that same impulse that you may feel to comfort someone else into your own self care?
During this month of compassion and love towards others, turn it towards yourself also. Remembering the example from the safety instructions on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to “put your oxygen mask on first,” before helping others. We can’t fully be there for others unless we are here for ourselves.
Here are 5 simple ways to self-soothe. Some of these suggestions are ones that may require some privacy and others, no one will know that you are doing them.
1. Softly Stroking Fingers Along the Inside of Your Palms (Anytime)
This may induce relaxation and reduce the stress response. Try very light strokes for a few minutes. Perhaps, placing the hands on your lap or even standing with hands by your sides. No one will be the wiser that you are soothing your qualms.
2. Voo Breath (Private Time)
This technique created by Peter Levine, PhD., Somatic Experiencing Int’l, works with the vagus nerve to calm the sympathetic nervous system. It takes only a few minutes to do. Breathe in a complete breath and on your exhale with slightly pursed lips, make a “Voo” sound until the end of your exhale. Come back to your natural breath for 2 breaths. Do two more times and notice the effects of this technique.
3. Grounding Through the Feet (Can do in Public)
Mindfully bring your attention to your feet, where they are and what they are touching. Feel the connectedness and the presence that they may have on the surface they are touching. Lighten the toes as your feet ground. Feel your feet spread like roots into our earth.
4. Hands On The Heart (Anytime)
This gesture is a feeling of loving presence through the warmth of your hands on your body. The gaze may turn inward, the chin drops almost as in reverence to yourself. Others may see this gesture and feel the softening and care even extends to them.
5. Soften Somewhere in Your Body (Anytime)
Consciously and on-purpose soften part of your body, slowly and deliberately. The area of your body may be one where you feel tension and contraction or one where no sensation is apparent. Stay with this softening for a few moments.
Try each out and if any of them increase agitation, stop with that practice and maybe come back later on to try it again.