Soothing Ourselves
When The Road Gets Rough

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No matter how skilled we are at managing life, there will be times when we experience unexpected events that make the road so rough, we lose our balance. During these times of sudden change or loss the skill of soothing ourself is essential to our mental health. Anything that produces a strong emotional reaction can be countered by comforting ourself. This lowers our stress so our mind stops racing, we breath more deeply and think with clarity.

I discovered I was better at soothing others than I was at comforting myself, so I expanded my skills and realized that this is not difficult to learn. It’s a process of self-discovery that allows each of us to find what works. We gain a better understanding of ourself as we work on our emotions of loss, fear, sadness or anger. 

Let’s keep our self-soothing healthy and avoid binge eating, too much alcohol, an overdose of retail therapy or anything in excess. They are ways of avoiding the feelings involved which keep them powerful, until they’re processed. Knowing how to sooth ourself helps us to process what’s happening, so we can clarify our thoughts and manage our emotions in a way that reduces their power to unbalance us.

With that in mind let’s explore some healthy options for comforting ourself. When I’m angry or upset, going for a walk – actually it’s more of a stomp – helps me release my fear and negativity. Then I’m able to clarify what’s most important to deal with first. Journaling is another way of working out strong emotions. We can give the paper a full description of how we are at this moment and it will be a release that won’t hurt anybody else while it makes us feel better. 

We can cook a favorite meal, walk the beach, watch the wind in the trees or the clouds changing shapes. There’s snuggling with our pets or children, playing a musical instrument or listening to calming music. And, there’s always the comfort of having a good cry which lowers our stress hormones and calms our heart rate.

Psychologist Dr. Julia Kogan supports breathing deeply. Her research shows it produces a calming response by decreasing heart rate and blood pressure, reducing muscle tension and clearing our mind. We can enjoy the slow movement of a hammock or rocking chair, or curling up for a nap with a soft blanket and a mug of our favorite hot beverage. Then there’s a long soak in a warm bath with a lit scented candle. That could be followed by a favorite lotion and a foot massage. 

I think eating our favorite flavor chocolate belongs on the comfort list. I also enjoy the comforting quality of sitting by a window and listening to bird songs outside. We can phone someone we love and have a chat or meet them somewhere for coffee. Spending time with supportive people can be a powerful soother. Inspirational quotes can be comforting as well as spiritual literature. There’s prayer, guided meditation, yoga or tai chi.  We can talk to ourself compassionately with kind and loving words that offer balance and perspective. The possibilities are endless and each of our comforting activities is shaped by our own needs.

No one escapes the strong feelings of unexpected events. Jonice Webb Ph.D. writes “Being able to tolerate and sooth a painful feeling makes you more resilient.” Learning to sooth ourself is essential. Let’s discover what comforts us so we can manage a rough road with confidence, resilience and clarity.

Until Next Time,

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