As a followup to our earlier post on sleep, let’s talk about what it means to soothe oneself, whether as a relaxation technique or as a sleep inducer.
Self-soothing is by definition providing comfort and nurturing to yourself.
Many of us have heard about teaching infants to quiet themselves into sleep. As adults, we can learn how to do this for ourselves as well. Your emotional state becomes regulated by knowing what provides nurturing comfort for you, so that in times of stress or upset, you can quickly return to a peaceful state. Rather than a negative focus on stressful situations, (such as avoiding or fighting an unpleasant sensation), you can focus on a positive experience with something that nurtures you.
Keep in mind that the use of substances to avoid a stressful situation is quite different from the positive self-soothing we are discussing. The use of such substances as food or medication can become addictive when they are depended on to calm you down, and although they may feel comforting in the moment, they do not serve to nurture.
Think of all of your body’s senses and what would nurture each. To calm yourself you might enjoy listening to peaceful music or nature sounds. You might enjoy the scent of incense or flowers. You might savor the sensation of soft, comfortable clothing. Or perhaps a warm shower or bubble bath. Each of these triggers a response in the body, mind and spirit, and over time that response becomes automatic – a gentle form of conditioning.
These suggestions offer solutions that are external, but learning solutions that come from within can be as effective, if not more so. Use your imagination to bring yourself into a peaceful, grounded state. Remember a time when you were relaxed and happy. Imagine what it would be like to be sitting on the beach watching the waves. Think of how it felt to wake this morning (if it felt pleasant), remembering what the bed linens felt like, or perhaps what sounds you first heard. The body will soon follow the mind and will calm.
Pay attention to how your emotional state regulates using some of these techniques. If you find that they are not as effective as you like, or that your stress is not reducing, it may be time to contact us for help. We are always available with a solution.