With the days getting shorter and the evenings drawing in, the winter months can certainly leave us feeling a little ‘bah humbug’ from time to time. So, in honour of World Mental Health Day today, we thought we’d share some ways to self-soothe to truly take care of yourself if you’re feeling a little off colour, overwhelmed or anxious.
What is self-soothing?
Self-soothing is an all-encompassing word for those little tips and tricks we can learn to help ourselves feel calmer, particularly when things can feel like they are getting a bit too much. In moments of sadness, anxiety, stress or overwhelm, self-soothing techniques can help to ground us, focus our attention into something more positive or productive, and make us feel happier and calmer. Read on for twelve ways to self-soothe this winter…
Ways to self-soothe
1. Get close to a soothing smell
First on our list of ways to self-soothe is using the power of calming scents. Whether it’s your favourite candle, a calming pillow spray for your bed or even a beautifully scented hand lotion, being around a smell that is calming and comforting to you, breathing it in deeply and allowing yourself to focus on it can help to calm you down. There are even some scents which are proven to reduce anxiety, like lavender or chamomile, although of course scent is a very personal preference, so choose one which you like the most! We love The Botanical Candle Co’s range – they also have wax melts and reed diffusers, if candles aren’t your thing!
2. Exhale more slowly than you inhale
Focussing on breathing can be helpful in situations where you may feel stressed, or like breathing feels more difficult due to anxiety. There are lots of different techniques for this, such as square breathing or 7-11 breathing, where you are really focussing on how you inhale and exhale and taking the time to exhale for longer. Focussing on slowing down your breathing can help you to disengage from any anxious thoughts and bring more airflow into your body, which in turn helps you feel more relaxed too!
3. Listen to something that stops brain chatter
Having background noise to quiet any intrusive thoughts can be a great technique for those busy brain days. For some people, that means a friendly podcast where it feels like you’re listening to a group of friends chatter away next to you. For others, it is some calming, classical music, or maybe it’s an 80s throwback playlist! If you’re stuck for inspiration, check out our favourite Spotify playlist – all stationery themed, of course!
4. Let yourself cry if you need to
The most important thing to remember? It is ok not to feel ok and bottling everything inside never helped anyone. Let yourself cry; it is actually good for you! Crying releases the happiness chemical oxytocin (ironic, right?), so it is almost like it was designed to help you feel better when you’re sad. It’s one of nature’s built-in ways to self-soothe! So put The Notebook on, grab some chocolate and a box of tissues and let yourself have a good sob!
5. Go for a mindful walk
Next on our list of ways to self-soothe is going on a mindful walk, one of our favourite things to do! It is a universal truth that we feel better when we go outside, even if sometimes we don’t want to admit it! Some days, it can feel like the hardest thing in the world to get off the sofa, or even get out of bed if it is the last thing you want to do. Getting out for a 15-minute walk, ideally somewhere close to nature like a nice park or green space, gets your body moving, releases endorphins and engages those all-important five senses to boost your mood.
6. Eat a comforting meal
Something warm and nostalgic for the winter months is one of the best ways to self soothe. A home cooked meal is literal brain food! Seriously – eating something you enjoy will not only make you feel good because it tastes delicious (hopefully!), but food, especially any that is high in protein, will give you more energy and increase your dopamine levels.
7. Stretch for five minutes
If leaving the house and going for a walk just feels like a little bit too much (or the days are just getting a bit too cold, which we totally understand too!) then moving your body without going further than your front door is still a brilliant way to boost your mood. Extending your muscles from your neck to your fingertips, back and all the way down to your toes gets your body moving, maybe shows you where you’re holding all of your tension and helps you to release it.
8. Have a favourite hot drink
Whether you’re a tea or coffee or hot chocolate person, having a comforting warm drink in your favourite mug can help to relax you from the inside out. Just like a warm bath or shower, using warmth to engage the senses gives you something else to focus on, and tastes pretty good too.
9. Take a warm shower or bath
A lot of ways to self-soothe involve engaging the senses, to take focus away from your brain and any big feelings which may be feeling overwhelming. A warm shower is perfect for this, which you can combine with your favourite calming products like some bath salts or a nice candle, then bundle yourself up in a soft towel afterwards.
10. Try giving yourself a butterfly hug
Whether you’re at home, in the office or on the bus, a butterfly hug is one of the easiest ways to self-soothe and take a couple of minutes to yourself to focus and breathe. Place each hand on the opposite shoulder and lightly tap each hand in turn, focusing on calming thoughts and slowing down your breathing. You can pair it with one of the breathing techniques we mentioned earlier too, to make it even more effective.
11. Write your thoughts down on paper
We are big believers in the power of writing things down, there’s nothing more powerful than putting a beautiful pen to paper! Letting all your worries flow out onto a page can be one of the most cathartic ways to self-soothe, helping you see things more clearly by focussing your thoughts to help ease any stress or anxiety.
12. Positive self-talk
Finally, and perhaps one of the most important ways to self-soothe, have a conversation with yourself and make it kind. List your favourite things about yourself, repeat a mantra you love to remind yourself of your worth. Stick a note on your mirror with some positive affirmations and repeat them to yourself in moments when you need some self-soothing.
We hope that these ways to self soothe have helped and have given you some ideas to come back to in the future if you need to! Whilst these are great techniques for managing big feelings yourself, it is always ok to reach out and ask to help from others. There are lots of resources available, including charities such as CALM who you can call on 0800 585858 or Samaritans on 116 123.
If you have any resources or other ways to self-soothe you think we should know about, please share them in the comments below!
P.S. Here’s a summary to save if you want to look back at it or share with anyone who might find it helpful.