In episode #89 Dr. Bob talks about self-care and shares some methods on how to soothe yourself to help manage your anxiety and stress. After a period of high stress or anxiety, we need to soothe ourselves to restore ourselves.
Credit image to: Yoann Boyer on Unsplash.com
Transcript of the Podcast:
Soothing Yourself is a high-quality emotional intelligence skill.
In some families, they teach it well. And so as kids, as we grow up, we learn how to soothe ourselves so we can use it when we need it. It’s quick and effective.
But in some families, we grow up never learning how to soothe ourselves, mostly either because our parents didn’t value it or didn’t know how to do it.
But what is soothing yourself? What does it mean?
Essentially it is calming ourselves after we’ve become stressed or anxious or overwhelmed.
You see if you become hyper-aroused and tense it’s as if your whole self, your mind, body and spirit all become on edge. Like when you fell down on the street when you were riding your bike and your skinned your knee. It was raw and it needed some soothing. Often our mum would apply some cream, or cold or do something to calm the knee down so it wasn’t so sore. And so we could get out playing again.
So, in the emotional world that plays true as well. If we skin our mind, so to speak, then what do we do to calm down.
But before I talk about the ways to soothe yourself, let’s think about the kinds of situations you get into where you might need to calm yourself down in.
You see, there are a few types or ways people cope with stress that leave them raw. One way is to bottle it up inside and then release it after the stressful event is over. A classic example of this is the post-stress headache. Or the post-stress fatigue.
In this case, the person holds the stress in and then when the event is over, they release it but often in a physical way, experienced by the body. A classic example is a student writing an exam. They study hard for hours and then write the exam. And when the exam is over they get a bad headache. Or feel completely exhausted. And then they need to go to bed to recover.
Another way of coping is to experience a lot of emotional upset before the stressful event. If I use my example of the student writing an exam, this person might be freaking out while studying. Crying a lot, calling their friends and family for reassurance but when the exam starts they focus and get down to business and do okay. Nothing much happens after because they’ve blown up their stress before.
But you can see how each of these ways of coping leads the person to feel raw, exhausted and fatigued. And they need to recover.
Now a little warning for all of you out there who won’t allow yourself to recover. You are those types of people who just keep on working. Keep on pushing despite the fact that you are exhausted.
Well actually you need some time to recover. The recovery from stress is very important.
I had a staff member go off on leave because her parent was very ill. And she told me later she had realized how stressed she had become as it took her weeks to recover.
So, we all have our own pace but I think it’s true that the longer you keep your stress high and you just manage to suffer through it, the longer it will take to recover.
If you can experience stress and then recover quickly, you and your body and your mind will recover more quickly. And soothing yourself is one way to do that. There are other ways, of course, but soothing yourself is one.
Now soothing yourself will take some time. You can’t speed it up. Looking for a hack to speed yourself through soothing just isn’t going to work. You’ll need to spend some time at it. And the longer you’ve been stressed, the longer the recovery period. They don’t have to match hour for hour, but it’s good general rule.
For example, being a caregiver of a senior who has dementia is typically stressful. Not always, but usually. And the person with dementia can take months and years to go through until the ultimate end. And so the caregiver, the wife of the husband with dementia or the daughter with a mother with Alzheimer’s may feel stress for a long time. So, soothing themselves regularly gives themselves a chance to recover so they have the strength to go back in.
So let’s think about soothing yourself. Here are ten strategies that may work for you. The reason I’m putting in 10 strategies is that not all will work for everybody. For example, a very good friend of mine loves a bath. She finds it very soothing and it decompresses her completely. She puts lots of bubble bath in, lights some candles and listening to some music she loves. Yet another friend of mine simply hates a bath.
So it’s really up to you. But I’d suggest that you have a few things in your soothing toolkit because one might not be available for you at a specific moment when you need it. My friend who likes the bath is simply not going to be able to have a bath at work after a very stressful meeting!!
So here are a few.
- Get a massage. I must say this is one of my favourites. If you can afford it, it’s wonderful. And there are many types. Swedish massage, deep massage, trigger point massage, hot stone massage, shiatsu massage…I won’t go on. There are lots.
- But if you can’t get one because it’s inconvenient, you don’t have a massage therapist nearby or you might not want to spend the money then you can use self—massage. Years ago I learned an easy hand massage that you can do on yourself.
- Aside from a hand massage, you can roll a ball under your foot for a foot massage.
- You can get a foam roller and roll your body on it to work on the kinks.
- I’ve put up a couple of images on the website that explains some ways you can massage yourself to help soothe yourself.
- Some deep breathing is a wonderful technique. But it’s something that you’ll need to practice when you are not stressed so that when you need to do the soothing, it will come naturally. Don’t just try it when you are stressed.
- Going for a walk can be a great way to soothe yourself. But, like everything else it needs to be convenient. It was just about -40 degrees outside at my house the other day so I wouldn’t be going for any walks that day regardless of how much soothing I needed.
- A bath is a classic. Pour yourself a bath at that perfect temp and make it your own. For example, some simply love having candles all around the bath. Now that wouldn’t work for me but a simple bath does work.
- And if you want to add in some other bits that can work, try using some essential oils in the bath. Here is one concoction that Dr. Axe recommends. I’m actually going to do a podcast on essential oils as there appears to be some good research on the benefits of essential oils.
- Anyway, if you have some, put 3 drops of each lavender, bergamot, frankincense and myrrh together and add to one cup of Epsom salts and add that to your bath.
- And, if you can only get to one of those things, try lavender essential oil in the bath. It’s considered a nervous system restorative which is exactly what you need.
- Get some exercise. Even though it may seem like the opposite of what you need, getting some vigorous exercise can be just the ticket. You don’t have to do anything fancy or expensive. Take a soccer ball to the park with your child can be fun and full of exercise.
- And, speaking of exercise, sex can be a wonderfully soothing experience. It’s one of those combo strategies that add together touching, massage, and exercise. And a climax has lots of physical and emotional benefits.
- Meditation is great but it you should be a regular practice. Actually, meditation practiced regularly, can prevent the need for soothing. But that’s a whole other podcast.
- Engaging in your hobby. A hobby is something we love to do, that’s why we picked it as a hobby. I used to own a couple of horses and going out into the field, feeding the horse, grooming it, and even simply walking the horse was a fantastic stress reliever.
- Disconnect and take a nap. Shut your phone off, pull the plug on the computer, and tell others in your house that you are going to have a nap and to please not disturb you.
- Finally get some laughs. Laughter has been proven to be a great stress reducer and energy enhancer. A cheap way to do that if find reruns of old comedy tv shows that you love watching and almost assuredly will cause you to laugh. Finally get some laughs. Laughter has been proven to be a great stress reducer and energy enhancer. A cheap way to do that if find reruns of old comedy tv show that you love watching and almost assuredly will cause you to laugh.
So there are 10 strategies. But remember two important things.
- Don’t forget that you deserve to soothe yourself and
- You may likely need to apply a few of these to restore yourself. Just once may not be enough.