5 Self-soothing techniques for when you're overwhelmed
There has been a lot of movement in my life lately.
My husband is in the middle of a job search, I'm continuing to build and expand my coaching services, and I've had to address some ongoing health concerns.
It's stressful and draining. I do my best to call on patience, gratitude, and curiosity in these moments; those mantras have served me well over the past year and a half. But I've noticed a phenomenon in myself that asks for a different kind of response:
My stress is physical.
And guess what? So is all of ours.
When we are stressed out or rushed or worried, our bodies enter fight or flight mode. Our nervous system becomes hyperactivated and this manifests in real, physical symptoms, like shakiness and a faster heartbeat.
That's what makes these moments so exhausting! They are physically taxing.
So while emotional and mental reasoning is important to be able to de-stress and let go, a physical response can be more immediately effective.
I've been focusing on a few self-soothing techniques in my own life that help me physically respond to fight-or-flight. It's powerful stuff!
Here are a few of my favorites:
Our bodies have a natural connection to water, given that we're made out of it! When I take a hot shower or bath or drink a cup of hot tea, I immediately feel the calming effects on my body. Drinking tea requires me to sip slowly (slowly being the important word here). And the physical sensation of water hitting my skin takes me out of my head long enough to bring down my heart rate and calm my mind.
I'm not a huge essential oils pusher, but aromatherapy can be super powerful! I have a diffuser in my bedroom and after a long day, I put some drops of clary sage or lavender or bergamot (or some combination) and let the aroma convince my body that everything is okay. I actually got a set of 16 different oils and I have way too much fun experimenting with different combinations. (Rosemary and grapefruit together are another favorite, but I find it to be a bit more energizing than calming.)
I have been singing all my life. I love it. Some of that affection is because people seem to like when I sing and that makes me happy. But part of it is simply the physical sensation of singing. It vibrates in my chest and in my throat and in the air around me. I can't think of anything that grounds me as quickly as singing does. You don't have to be good at it - just place your hand gently on your throat, start to hum, and let the vibrations comfort you.
Come on. I don't know if this one even needs explanation, but basically just put on music and let your body move. You can put on slow music and just stretch or roll on the floor, or you can put on something upbeat and shake it out. Whatever will help your body come back to center.
This is one of the most simple tactics and one of my favorites. Pile a bunch of blankets on top of you. Get a deep hug from someone you love. Wrap your arms around your body and squeeze them. Try out different forms of pressure and touch to help soothe your body.
You've probably noticed that these tactics fall much more stereotypically into "self-care" than what I usually encourage.
The self-care I work on with clients includes the nourishing activities that make you feel most comfortable and most yourself. Honestly, even typing the words "essential oils" made me feel a little too life coach-y for comfort!
But if your body is in an over-reactive state, the first thing you need to do, before any kind of fulfilling activity, is to help it come down. In fact, you may find that if you don't pay attention to your body's physical needs first, that your "fulfilling" activities don't feel so good because your body is still in fight-or-flight mode.
So tend to your body first, in whatever way is soothing to you.
Give yourself some time to come down from the overwhelm, and then move toward an activity that makes you feel really nourished.
Give it a try and let me know in the comments - what's your favorite way to self-sooth?
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