How to self-soothe: Calm anxiety and stress
The first time it happened, I didn’t know what was going on. I had trouble falling and staying asleep. I woke up exhausted and with tightness in my jaw because I had been clenching my teeth the whole night. I’d wake up having soaked my pyjamas because of night sweats. During the day I was restless, had trouble concentrating and was constantly tired. I’d ruminate on the happenings in my life, trying to work out a different outcome for things that didn’t go right. Little did I know that this was an exacerbating factor.
This happened so frequently that I became concerned and mentioned it to my therapist. I was suffering from anxiety. I’m an overthinker and this diagnosis only served to make me even more anxious.
I developed various coping mechanisms, some of which weren’t the healthiest. It wasn’t until I became intentional about finding ways to self-soothe that I started to feel truly calm. And whenever I felt triggered, these self-soothing techniques kept me calm.
Below are five ways you can self-soothe when you suffer from anxiety
This is my favourite way to calm a raging mind. I’ve found that writing down what is happening and how I’m feeling helps me process everything. Often, it has helped me put things in perspective, remind myself of what I truly want and find alternative ways to sort out problems.
A good friend taught me the importance of having a gratitude jar and it has really helped to soothe me. Every time something good happens or I achieve a certain goal, I simply write it down on a piece of paper and place it in a jar. And when I feel anxious or stressed, I read through these little notes and I’m reminded of all the good and all that I have accomplished. This helps shift my focus from what is going wrong and instead I focus on gratitude.
Training your mind to practice gratitude will change your attitude, making life’s ups and downs more bearable.
During a recent session, my therapist reminded me the importance of seeing my positive traits. I’d become so wrapped up in pointing out what I felt was wrong with me that I had forgotten how awesome I am.
So every morning, after I finished writing in my journal, I wrote down one affirmation that I’d repeat to myself throughout the day. This has not only helped to calm me during stressful times but has greatly improved my confidence.
Go out in nature
A recent incident reminded me of how much getting out in nature can help soothe an anxious mind. After a rather difficult conversation with a former friend, I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Add to that that I knew then that I needed to end the friendship and I had tears in my eyes and a high heart rate.
When I couldn’t take it anymore, I put on my sneakers and went for a walk. 10 minutes in and I couldn’t remember what had triggered me or the negative feelings I had. It was so refreshing to see the trees, feel the sun on my skin and breathe in the fresh air. When I got back to the house, I felt happier, more relaxed and with more focus.
If you can’t go out for a walk, stand outside, on your balcony or at your door and just savour the fresh air.
Breathing exercises were the first soothing techniques that I ever learned. One thing that I remember my therapist telling me is that it’s impossible to concentrate on your breathing when you’re thinking about something else. And boy is it true!
A few minutes of breathing in and out, paying attention to your body’s movements as the air goes in and out will give you a few moments of calmness, leaving you more rejuvenated to go about your day.
Like affirmations, positive self-talk is key to reducing stress and anxiety. When things are going wrong, it’s very easy to beat yourself up, calling out all the mistakes you made and trying to see how you things would have been different if you had acted differently.
But this is not the time to do it. When you’re stressed and anxious your mind is already in a negative place and talking negatively to yourself will only make things worse. However, reminding yourself of your greatness, showing yourself some compassion, will ease the tension. If you’re struggling to find positive things to say about yourself, refer to your daily affirmations and gratitude journal for a reminder.
With these techniques I’ve managed to manage stress and anxiety in a healthy way and at the same time, develop some good habits.
What other ways do you self-soothe when you’re anxious or stressed?
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