There’s a good chance you have felt agitated in the last week. Stress, anxiety – maybe even annoyance at a family member who just keeps getting under your feet! Isolation has amplified our emotions, and it’s hard to cope with the highs and lows.
We all try and cope with these emotions in our own way. When you were a child, you might have hugged a teddy bear. As an adult, you might go for a run to get out your stress. These techniques are called ‘Self Soothing’ strategies. And once we have a handle on them, we can cope with nearly any situation without lashing out, or breaking down.
Here are ten ways you can self soothe next time you feel overwhelmed or agitated.
By taking a deep breath in for four seconds, and then exhaling for four seconds, you will calm your heart rate and send oxygen to the brain. This is an excellent strategy if you are having an anxiety attack – and you can get creative with it! Use a paper bag and watch it inflate, use balloons, bubbles (a favourite with kids) or sit a teddy bear on your stomach and watch it rise and fall with your breath.
Colour in mandalas
Colouring is a great way to calm yourself full stop, but mandalas (circular, patterned shapes) add an extra element of mindfulness. Based on the historical, cultural and spiritual practices from multiple traditions, colouring in circles (mandalas) is calming, and can reflect nature, our inner state and emotions.
Name the five senses
Whether you are overwhelmed in public or private, identifying the five senses is an inconspicuous way of grounding yourself. Name what you can see, hear, smell, feel and taste – the simple exercise will remind you to stay present.
Do creative play
When was the last time you did something just for fun? Creative play happens when you create without purpose – drawing, painting, colouring, sorting, writing a fun story, making a game…the options are endless. You will often see children make up their own version of creative play as they grow and develop.
This is a fancy way of saying that you can ground yourself. When you feel overwhelmed or dissociative, pause, and turn your head to the side. Count to five, and repeat this exercise again. Continue to do this, and identify five things you can see and hear. You may even observe all five senses. Continue to do this – or ask a loved one to guide you through this – until you feel present and at home in your body.
Rather than numbing yourself with a substance, distract yourself by watching or listening to something that builds you up. A show on Netflix, music that makes you happy, or instrumental music – sometimes even having these on in the background will help us to settle.
Is there a scent that makes you feel happy and comforted? It could be a perfume, the smell of roses, or ground coffee first thing in the morning. Find the scent that calms you, and place it around your house strategically. Candles or scents can be placed anywhere. Or you may wear jewellery or carry a handkerchief carrying that scent. If you can’t identify a certain smell, then coach yourself to calm with one. Choose something like lavender, and when you are happy, make a point to smell it. It will remind your brain to calm and re centre when you are stressed.
Get it out
When we name what we are feeling and why we feel this way, we take away its power. This is why journaling, or writing letters (that may never get sent!) is so cathartic. Some people dot point their worries and burn them, others make a list and ‘let go,’ knowing their concerns are safe somewhere. Some people even say their concerns out loud and ‘put’ them on a worry doll – this is a metaphorical way of releasing your own stress.
Take a moment to stretch and feel your body reenergise. Practicing slow exercises like yoga or Pilates are great because they regulate your breathing. Even standing up and rolling your shoulders back a few times makes a huge difference.
Make a sensory box
We all have objects or textures that help us to calm, or get out our agitation. Get a box or jar, and put objects inside that calm you – a pen and paper. A sequined cloth. A blanket. A soft toy. A tactile squishy toy. A stress ball. Goo. A fidget spinner….anything that you can hold in your hand. And it’s not just for kids – adults need sensory boxes too!
Do you feel overwhelmed or agitated? Watersedge offers remote video counselling so you can receive support and guidance from home. To book an appointment, contact Colleen on 0434 337 245, Duncan on 0434 331 243 or Rachel on 0442 177 193 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you, or press book now.