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Learn How to Self-Soothe.

Updated: Mar 24, 2023

Self-soothing skills enable us to be our own source of well-being during times of turmoil and stress. This is one of the most vital tools a person can have in their psychological toolbelt.

Statue of Buddha, looking calm and peaceful.
The Buddha was the ultimate psychologist.

When shit hits the fan, our habit is to seek comfort, healing, and peace in the arms of another. It is in our collective nature to turn to others for emotional support and validation. Leaning on others in times of need is valid, helpful, and often necessary. I think we'd all agree that having a reliable support system is important. However, there are also times when we are better served to call upon ourselves to be our own best friend. So, what the hell does being your own best friend mean exactly? #beyourownbestfriend

Taking Responsibility, Taking action.

A benefit of self-soothing is not depending on someone else to help us feel better. Being self reliant in this way creates a sense of accomplishment, independence, and confidence that we might not otherwise feel if our habit it to seek assurance elsewhere. We learn that we can take practical steps which allow us to shift how we see, respond, and feel in difficult times. #selfsoothe #responsibility #takeaction

Getting Triggered.

When do we self-soothe? Call to mind the last time you got emotionally triggered by external circumstances (traffic, your partner hurt you, parents not understanding, not connecting with peers). Remember the feelings of hurt, anger, disappointment. Really bring these feelings to forefront of your attention. How did you react? At that moment, our nervous system was probably in fight/flight mode. When we are in fight/flight, we are more likely to react with impulsivity and recklessness, as opposed to respond with skill and wisdom. We want to learn how to respond, instead of react. #triggered #react #respond #fightorflight

A painting of a man with an uncomfortable grimace on his face. He looks conflicted. He doesn't know how to self-soothe.
A conflicted man.

Step One: Name It To Tame It.

Neuroscientists now know that when we label a feel (frustrated, angry, sad), it reduced the subcortical firing in our brain that is activated when we are upset. Cortisol is the stress hormone that is released when we are in fight/flight. When we mentally note/label the feeling, we have learned that this reduces the activated levels of cortisol. Simple, but not easy in the heat of the moment. Who wants to stop their reaction to label their emotional state. I know it's not what we are conditioned to do, but it's an important part of self-soothing. Pause, identify what is being felt, and label. it. #pause #neuroscience #fightflight #cortisol #nameittotameit

Step Two: Deep Inhale, Waayyyy Deeper Exhale.

When we exaggerate our exhales (imagine breathing in to four counts, breathing out to six, seven or eight counts), we are telling our nervous system that everything is ok. I mean, who breathes like that if everything is NOT ok? So long, extended, exaggerated exhales tell your amygdala (the almond in your brain that initiates fight/flight) that there is no need for alarm, you've got this. #breathe #exhale #amygdala

Step Three: Talk to Yourself. Yes, Self-Talk.

I think the most odd, yet important element to self-soothing, is learning how to recognize and validate that part of yourself that is hurting, angry, or upset. I tend to think that we have different parts to our self (the confident me, the vulnerable me, the happy me, the fearful me), and when we can address the part of our self that needs validation and support, this is what it really means to befriend ourselves and self soothe. Examples of this might be: I know you're hurting right now, but remember it's only temporary. I know this sucks, but keep going. I've been through this before, I know I can get through this again. Or, one of my favorites: I love you, keep going. Really, it's all about whatever self-talk resonates with you and your situation. It might sound silly, but compassionate self-talk is an important tool that we can learn to utilize more often. #selftalk #selfcompassion #iloveyoukeepgoing

Lastly, I hope some of this landed with you in a helpful way. If you'd like more tips or tools on how to self soothe, a licensed psychotherapist (similar to a psychologist) in Vietnam (like myself) may be able to help.


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