In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s essential to take a step back and find moments of calm amidst the chaos. Self-soothing techniques, as learned in DBT treatment, offer a powerful way to manage stress, regulate emotions, and cultivate inner peace.
What do you think of when you hear the term ‘soothing?’ Some people think of soothing a crying baby, or maybe soothing a sunburn with aloe. But self-soothing is a Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) distress tolerance skill that helps us reset our internal homeostasis with positive coping skills. This is typically done as a mindfulness exercise that incorporates the five senses to interrupt and distract from uncomfortable feelings, like anxiety, anger or sadness.
You have likely practiced self soothing without even realizing. Some common self soothing practices include counting to 10 before reacting, taking deep, controlled breaths or splashing cold water on your face, or even utilizing fidget toys. Today we will dive deeper into DBT self soothing and offer some new ideas that help you incorporate self soothing into your daily life to help you feel more in control of your mental wellbeing.
If you want to learn more about Dialectical Behavior Therapy and see how DBT treatment programs can help women with borderline personality disorder, clinically significant anxiety or depression find a path to wellbeing.
Finding Comfort Amidst Life’s Triggers
For individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder or those dealing with anxiety or depression, life can be a rollercoaster ride, filled with twists and turns that sometimes leave us feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or emotionally drained. In those moments, when the weight of the world feels heavy on our shoulders, it’s important to have effective strategies to find solace and regain our inner balance. This is where self-soothing, particularly through engaging our senses, becomes a powerful tool. Everyday situations such as a hectic workday, a difficult conversation, or a crowded space can act as triggers (or “cues” as we call them at THIRA Health), signaling the need for self-soothing. In these moments that we’ve all experienced, we can tap into the gentle art of self-soothing, using our senses as guides to navigate the storms of emotions and find moments of respite and calm.
To develop self-soothing skills, let’s explore some techniques rooted in DBT that can help regulate emotions and cultivate mindfulness. The beauty of self-soothing is its flexibility—you can practice it anytime and anywhere. With consistent effort, these activities become second nature, providing comfort and relief in various situations.
- 5-4-3-2-1: This technique involves engaging the senses by identifying five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. It grounds you in the present moment, fosters mindfulness, and, when practiced as intended, it enhances self-awareness without judgment.
- Diaphragmatic breathing: Set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. While in a comfortable, seated position, place your hand gently on your stomach. When you inhale through your nose, aim to engage your diaphragm by breathing to inflate your stomach. When you exhale, your stomach and hand should relax back into a resting position. Focusing on these sensations regulates your breathing, promotes mindfulness, and soothes negative emotions.
- TIPP skill: TIPP stands for Tip the temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, and Paired muscle relaxation. Utilize hot or cold water, engage in intense exercise to release pent-up energy, practice paced breathing (e.g., 4-7-8 breathing), and pair muscle relaxation with tensing and releasing muscles. This combination helps regulate your system and promotes self-soothing.
Going Beyond the Surface: Self-Soothing for Self-Care
Self-soothing is not just a temporary solution; it’s an essential component of self-care and emotional well-being. By learning to control our reactions to negative emotions, we empower ourselves to navigate life’s challenges with grace and resilience.
Personalize Your Self-Soothing Practice
Tailor your self-soothing toolbox to suit your preferences. Experiment with different techniques such as listening to your favorite song, stretching, meditation, or taking a leisurely walk while appreciating the scent of flowers. Find activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
Consistency and Mindful Commitment
Consistency is key in self-soothing. Make it a part of your daily self-care routine, even when you’re not in distress. By nurturing this practice regularly, you reinforce positive coping skills and create a foundation for emotional well-being.
Seeking Professional Support
Consider working with a mental health professional trained in DBT to enhance your self-soothing practice. They can guide you in exploring your emotions, deepening your understanding of self-soothing techniques, and providing personalized strategies for self-care.
Self-Soothing for Self-Care
It is a reality of life that we will face negative emotions. We cannot control outside circumstances that cue these negative emotions, but we can learn to better control our reactions to them. By learning this practice, we are promoting our own happiness, peace and self-care.
Self-soothing, rooted in DBT skills, offers a powerful way to regulate emotions and cultivate inner peace. By incorporating techniques that engage the senses and ensuring daily practice, we can harness the full potential of self-soothing for our mental well-being.
So put on your favorite song, stretch, put on a meditation video, or take a walk and smell the roses. The science supports these activities having positive effects on many facets of your mental health. For more information on how to self-soothe, take care of your mental health and increase your mindfulness, see how we can help you today.