self-soothing and self-care habit change
author image Rachel Chang, Psy.D.
author image Rachel Chang, Psy.D.
Dr. Chang is a psychologist specializing in the treatment of depression, insomnia, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, intrusive thoughts, health anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She regularly integrates Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and mindfulness-based interventions into her work.

We all need the ability to soothe and care for ourselves. But how can we best do these things? Here we offer some tips to help you master these important skills.

Updated: June 26, 2022

We Need All the Help We Can Get

21st-century living can be very demanding. People are often consumed by their day-to-day responsibilities such as work, household chores, or taking care of loved ones. Often there is little choice but to focus on the next task on the to-do list. As a result, we neglect to take the time to care for ourselves, which can leave us feeling stressed and burned out.

Engaging in self-soothing and self-care can improve your mood and increase your ability to cope with stress and negative emotions, such as anxiety, sadness and anger. Engaging in self-soothing and self-care is like refilling the gas in your tank. They help you perform better and for a longer time. Even if you face an emergency situation, you will be more equipped to cope because you’ve got a full tank!

Self-Soothing

Self-soothing is doing things that feel pleasant and comforting. It can provide relief from stress and help you feel a sense of calmness.

How to self-soothe

Self-soothing is a skill that gets easier with practice. The ideas below are most helpful if you try them repeatedly — fine tune them over time, and get them to work for you.

One of the best ways to self-soothe is to anchor your efforts to the five senses. Focus on the specific experience of your senses and avoid distractions. Check out the list below, try different suggestions, and find some that work for you!

  • Vision– soothe yourself by watching or looking at something that’s pleasant to you. This could be watching a sunrise or sunset, taking a walk in a park and watching the leaves fall, looking at the stars at night, watching your pet, or looking at pictures of your loved ones
  • Hearing– soothe yourself by listening to something calming. This could be music, rainfall, waves, leaves rustling, or even the sound of city traffic.  
  • Smell– soothe yourself by using scented soap, lotion, a scented candle, coffee, lavender, baked goods, or flowers.  
  • Taste– you can also soothe yourself by tasting your favorite foods! We often eat so fast that we don’t actually take the time to savor the foods we are eating. Taste your foods fully and enjoy the flavor and texture. Remember for the sake of this exercise you’re just allowing yourself a taste — not eating a whole meal.
  • Touch– you can also self-soothe by focusing on touch. This could be taking a hot bath, getting a massage, brushing your hair, wrapping yourself up in a blanket, petting your dog or cat, or even giving yourself a hug.

Self-Care – An Important Regular Habit

woman who's good at self-care

Self-care is doing things deliberately to maintain your emotional and physical health, knowing they will help you.

The emotional benefits of taking care of yourself

Self-care can make you less vulnerable to stress and negative emotions and can increase positive emotions. It can also help your self-image: when you take care of yourself, you increasingly think of yourself as worth taking care of. This is an emotionally important thing!

Ideas for your self-care checklist

Self-care activities need to be planned and scheduled. They require time and effort. it’s helpful to anticipate resistance to engaging in self-care when you are not in the mood. The trick is to get yourself to do it even when you don’t feel like it — it’ll be worth it!

Self-Care: The Physical Part

How you feel physically has a direct impact on your mental health. Therefore, it is important to develop a healthy lifestyle to improve your physical and mental well-being.

  • Scheduling and attending your medical, and dentist appointments as well as routine check-ups.
  • Following a nutritious and balanced diet  
  • Get a sufficient quantity and quality of sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to a variety of mental and physical issues, including concentration difficulties, memory impairment, and increased risk of serious cardiovascular problems and weight gain. Try to get an adequate amount of sleep, usually between 7 to 9 hours. (See also our suggested sleep hacks to help you sleep better.)
  • Being physically active. Exercise is beneficial for both physical and mental health. For many people, exercise can enhance mood and reduce anxiety and stress. Exercise also lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, and developing type 2 diabetes.

Self-Care: The Mental and Emotional Part

Taking a break from your busy schedule and engaging in pleasant activities can improve your mood and reduce anxiety and stress. Therefore, it is important to carve out time to engage in activities that you find meaningful and fun.

  • It is important to do at least one pleasant thing a day to increase positive experiences and emotions. The activities you engage in can be anything that prompts joy, enjoyment, or calmness. Some examples of pleasant activities include spending time and talking with friends/family, watching a movie, engaging in a hobby, laughing, playing with your pets, or reading a book.
  • Focus your attention on pleasant events as they are happening. The pleasant activity will not work if you are distracted by something else and don’t fully attend to the experience.
  • Keep in mind that engaging in one or two pleasant activities is unlikely to make a drastic difference in how you feel, but over time they will add up to a noticeable difference!
  • Everyone’s self-care routine is going to be different. It is important for you to try different things and find the one that works for you.

Valuing yourself helps you be who you want to be

Self-care is not self-indulgence or selfish, it’s an act of valuing and nurturing of oneself. It shows that you are important and worthy. By taking care of yourself, you can function better, be more present for your loved ones, and feel your best. 

self-soothing and self-care habit change

Now that you know how to be awesome at self-soothing and self-care, don’t just file the information away. Make a plan to integrate these tips into your life starting today! Habits take repetitions to get established — delaying won’t help. Good luck!

author avatar
Rachel Chang, Psy.D.
Dr. Chang is a psychologist specializing in the treatment of depression, insomnia, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, intrusive thoughts, health anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She regularly integrates Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and mindfulness-based interventions into her work.

Related Posts

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment