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How to Soothe Yourself

Be there for yourselfHere’s a way to soothe anxiety that doesn’t alienate people, destroy your liver or stunt your emotional growth.

Whenever I’ve had a difficult conversation with someone important to me, or even an unpleasant interaction with a stranger,  I tend to feel a little queasy emotionally.

If I pay attention, I usually find I’m feeling anxious in some way about what happened. Did I say or do the wrong thing? Did I do damage? Should I have done x, y or z instead?

The technique I’m about to describe is what I use to calm myself without stuffing my feelings and creating bigger problems over time.

Try it and tell me if it works for you, too.

Simple Soothing Technique

This works equally well whether you’re anxious about something that already happened, or worried/scared about something that’s coming up in the future.

1. Pay attention to the place in your body where the anxiety seems to be.

For me, it often shows up high in my torso, around my heart. For you, it might be in your belly, your legs or your pinky toes. It could be anywhere.

Once you locate the feeling,

2. Picture your child-self there.

See yourself when you were a child, and imagine that child living inside you where the fear is.

Now imagine enfolding the child within you with an inner hug, and

3. Speak soothing words to the child.

Tell him or her what happened or is going to happen. Explain things as you would to a child, using feeling words.

Example: “You and Margaret had harsh words. Now you feel weird about talking to her at all. You’re scared she won’t want to be your friend anymore.”

If you listen to your heart you’ll know exactly how the child is feeling, so you can’t get it wrong.

With great compassion, you might also say things like this to your child:

  • It’s okay to be scared/lonely/angry/regretful/etc.
  • The danger has passed now.
  • We can’t know what will happen.
  • When you’re ready, we’ll see what we can do about it together.

He or she needs to be held and soothed while you patiently explain things. Let there be no ridicule or disapproval in your speech or thoughts toward your child self.

Here are the kinds of things you might say, in a loving voice:

  • I’m here for you.
  • I love you.
  • I’ll protect you.

If it’s hard to find compassion toward your child self, try to remember that the child isn’t foolish or bad. The child is merely young, innocent and afraid.

What It Can Do For You

This technique of soothing the child self by allowing, validating and soothing internally does several good things:

  1. It helps you pause and take stock of how you feel – a step that’s easy to miss while you’re figuring out what to do about a situation.
  2. It enhances your relationship with yourself, and therefore your ability to trust yourself as well as others.
  3. It makes you feel stronger, because you’re not so alone
  4. It encourages you make sense of troubling feelings (instead of pushing them away), which in itself is healing.

Do you have something you use to soothe yourself when you feel anxious?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About Tina Gilbertson

Tina Gilbertson is a psychotherapist, speaker and author based in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in supporting parents of estranged adult children through therapy, consulting and other resources, and offers assertiveness training and executive coaching for organizations. The author of "Constructive Wallowing: How to Beat Bad Feelings by Letting Yourself Have Them" and the "Guide for Parents of Estranged Adult Children," Tina is often featured in the media as an expert on communication and relationships. Her blog on PsychologyToday.com is called "Constructive Wallowing."
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0 Responses to "How to Soothe Yourself"

  • idebenone
    February 8, 2013 - 4:40 am Reply

    When you’re trying to figure out your feelings, it might help to remember something that happened and think about how it made you feel. Then you can say, “I feel sad when my friend doesn’t play with me” or “I feel angry when my brother always wins at baseball.” This can help you figure out your own feelings. It also gives the person you’re talking with more information about what’s bothering you.

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