“Self-Soothing – 10 effective coping Skills.”

Dr. Dana Phenix, LMFT.
Dr. Dana Phenix, LMFT.

Effective coping skills increase our resilience because they help people learn how to properly handle anxiety, depression, negative emotions, COVID-19, and other challenging situations. When we effectively deal with our negative emotions or a bad situation, we also “move on” and “let go” of the negative feelings or thoughts that are associated with that experience. Additionally, our self-esteem improves because we are proving to ourselves that we can handle what life throws at us.

Self-Soothing for emotional regulation can be quickly accomplished using our 5 senses. Grounding techniques using our senses is simple and an easy way to cope with anxiety, depression, or stress, When we get hurt physically or mentally, feel anxious, or depressed, we all want to feel better. We use a variety of strategies to cope with life’s stressors to feel better. Self-soothing is a a process of recognizing that something is wrong, creating space to work through the stressors, and helping ourselves to move forward, past any negativity or pain. Self-soothing is a useful part of our mental health toolkit that will help us feel better and cope with the challenges that are making us feel upset or anxious. 

In a nutshell… it is you giving yourself attention to feel better.  It’s taking care of yourself like you would take care of someone you loved who was hurting, scared, or in pain.  Giving yourself that kind of love, regard, and attention when you need it, rather than relying on someone or something else to take away the pain.

Noticeable Self Soothing Methods

There are many different ways that people learn how to soothe themselves. Of course, self-soothing variances depending on age, setting, and individual preferences. There are some types of self-soothing that are visible to the public eye which are not necessarily bad nor good; but are obvious to the onlooker that the person may be suffering from an anxiety in that moment. Commonly visible ways of self-soothing might include:

  • Thumb sucking
  • Nail biting
  • Foot tapping
  • Leg shaking

Good Self Soothing Techniques

Learning how to develop ways to relieve stress and anxiety throughout life is an important skill to have; especially learning how to create positive-seeking and healthy self-care habits. Good techniques for coping with stress are ones that appeal to the five senses:

  1. Touch
    1. Taking a warm bubble bath filled with Epsom salt to help relax any muscular tension
    2. Getting a massage
  2. Taste
    1. Drinking a cup of hot herbal tea to help relax
    2. Chewing gum or sucking on a piece of hard candy 
  3. Smell
    1. Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils
    2. Lighting candles
  4. Sight
    1. Distracting yourself with your favorite comedy movie or television show
    2. Laying in a field and watching the clouds pass by
  5. Sound
    1. Listening to your favorite music
    2. Using a sound machine during periods of rest and sleep

By seeking methods that can alter your senses, you can begin to calm your nervous system. Furthermore, this can begin to change your mindset and bring you peace by harmonizing your thoughts and emotions.

Bad Self Soothing Techniques

As mentioned above, learning how to seek relief from stressful situations is crucial to diminishing anxieties. However, when unaware and uninformed about building healthy and appropriate self-soothing methods, bad habits and techniques can form. When poor habits are created to be used as a form of self-soothing, they can be especially hard to break. Unhealthy and negative forms of coping might include:

How to Build Healthy Self Soothing Habits

Knowing how to cope with stress and anxiety is critical to one’s mental health. It is important to know how to build a skill set for yourself to deal with both daily and situational anxieties. Try some of these ways to help increase your awareness and self-esteem, along with building your techniques to relieve your stress:

  • Acknowledge your fears
  • Be open to the idea of creating self-healing techniques
  • Experiment with different approaches and ways to calm yourself
  • Step outside of your comfort zone, you never know what might work for you
  • Track your progress





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