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How to self soothe in 5 minutes

Have you ever encountered a stressful or challenging moment and you have difficultly thinking straight? That usually happens when an intense emotion takes over the mind, like a fight, flight or freeze moment. It helps to have some techniques in hand to ground yourself, invite peace and calm into your mind, and find some relief in your distress. If you notice, children tend to hold on to their comfy blanket as it reminds them of comfort, a sense of safety in familiarity. Some of us tend to tap our palms on our chest when we have a fright, it is a self soothing mechanism to "calm the heart". You probably may not be aware that you may have some self soothing mechanism that your body does when you are feeling stressed, angry, sad or frightened (even happy - we tend to clap our hands or raise them up).

What can you do to calm and soothe yourself when you are in a state of distressed:

  • Notice what your body does, your hands and feet. The goal is the be aware of your self-soothing mechanism and to change if the soothing mechanism is not healthy (eg, chewing on your fingernails, grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw),

  • Press the pause button.

  • BREATHE. Take long slow deep breaths and release them through your mouth. This action helps to calm the racing heart, slows the process, and being mindful to the breath practice keeps you grounded to the here and now. You may want to put your hand to your heart as you take these breaths.

  • Play some music that you enjoy, or find something until you feel soothed listening to it. Sometimes I find classical helps, some days jazz, and sometimes hard rock. Whatever works best for you.

  • Meditate. There are plenty of 2 minutes - 5 minutes guided meditations that are helpful. You may find them on YouTube or an app - InsightTimer, Calm, etc. Book mark them so it is easy for you to find them. I found the 1 minute CALM breath bubble useful for a quick break: It invigorates the sight and sound while helping you to focus on your breath and leaving everything else aside for a short while.

  • Take a shower. A bath or shower can temporarily take your mind off the things you might be worried or fearful of. The minutes you spend focused on how the cold water feels on your body may act as a mindfulness practice, keeping you in the moment compared to thinking of future events. It has also been researched that cold water may decrease cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone.

  • Have some essential oils in hand to breathe in the calming oils - lavender, frankincense or the be refreshed - peppermint, lemon, orange.

  • Have a hot drink - herbal tea would be preferable. Caffeine may raise the anxiety. Unless you love coffee, make them and smell them (only-no need to consume them).

  • If you have more time, you may want to go for a walk at the park or at a garden. Take this time to notice the nature around you; if it is a looped park this is great if you are feeling upset or angry. Walking round the loops while working out the anger is much safer than walking by the roadside when you may not be aware of the traffic around you.

  • Talk to someone, a trusted friend, family or a therapist. It helps to unburden those thoughts and feelings.

The idea behind taking these short breaks is to be fully immersed without other distracting activities, such as mobile phones or computers. Also, you need not wait to be stressed before practicing self-soothing activities. Doing activities like the ones listed above can help to reduce your overall daily stress before it reaches higher levels.


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