4 Self-Soothing Techniques When Feeling Anxious

by - July 02, 2018

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We are all exposed to stressors on a daily basis, triggers that irritate, frustrate, rush or worry us. Even when mild and momentary, they still leave a mark on our nervous system and impact our wellbeing. Wouldn't it be amazing if we could go through life without facing anything that rocks us off our carefully-kept balance, but hey - this is not what life is all about, is it? And while we can't control what shakes us, we can definitely learn to respond to those daily challenges in a more adaptive, flexible, positive and efficient way. With the right selection and use of tools and techniques, it is possible. A calm mind in a busy world is not just a dream. You can turn it into reality.

Our nervous system is designed to respond to all sorts of stimuli. Yet we are the ones who train the way it responds. You can re-wire it to be less reactive, less overwhelmed and less panicked. Feeling anxious is not something you should run away or escape from, it is an emotion and just like every other emotion it has its intensities, highs and lows. Therefore, we can learn to regulate it and bring it down, once it's high we can tune it back to low. You might not believe it, but feeling calm is ultimately our natural state of being, but throughout our lives it often shifts to stressed and anxious. We simply learn a way to respond to stressors and continue to practice it without considering that we can change it, without believing that there is another way.

Once you build your range of resources you can activate your body's self-soothing system anytime you feel anxious, stressed or out of your natural zone of calm. When you learn to self-soothe, you become more grounded in the face of chaos, you start to feel safer, lighter and better able to make decisions amid a challenging day. You can always expand and amend your set of resources, as we change we grow out of certain tools and adapt to new ones. Follow your inner guidance and try what makes you feel better. You are the judge of what is good for you! The following techniques have been specially chosen as they are simple and effective, and can be done regardless of where you are when you feel anxious.

Practice becoming more self-aware of your emotions so you can better regulate them. Simply start by tuning into your body and feelings when stressed or anxious by asking yourself "How am I feeling right now?" and "How is my body feeling?". Our bodies respond to a stressful stimulus often before we are even aware that we are stressed. Tensed shoulders pointing upwards, tightness or dryness in your throat, a knot in your stomach, sweaty palms or cold hands, restless feet and so on are just a few of the universal bodily reactions to stress. Those are your first indicators that you are experiencing a certain level of anxiousness. Once you are aware, you can start applying your set of tools. We can get so much into our heads and turn on our "tunnel vision" when we are in the middle of a stressful trigger that we don't even notice how our bodies react. Trust your body just as much as you trust your mind.

Breathing is one of the simplest techniques you can start practicing to regulate your emotions. There are lots of breathing tools out there, but there are no set rules about which to use. Just choose whatever is easy and what comes natural to you. For example, one way is to breathe in and count to four, hold and count to four and then release again, counting to four. Repeat this cycle three times and observe how you feel. The more you practice breathing for self-soothing, the quicker your body will remember it.

When we are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, our negative thoughts are having a pool party in our heads. Some of them are doubting, some are criticising, and then there are the fearful and panicky ones as well. The more those thoughts flood in, the more you get caught up and believe them. It's difficult to listen to any other thoughts in stressful moments, so instead of letting the negative ones keep you in the circle of anxiousness, try engaging in some soothing self-talk. Gently remind yourself that you are doing the best you can - the best to your abilities in the current situation and the best in regulating your emotions and calming yourself. You are doing great and there's no doubt in you that you can overcome this. Reassuring yourself that you've got this may sound a little bit silly to some of you, but don't underestimate the power words have on your thinking and subsequently on your actions. Thoughts yield feelings. It's all interlinked.

A key to self-soothing is focusing on the present moment, but that doesn't mean the problem itself. Focus on you, the way you feel, focus on your body and breathing and let the whirlpool of everything else dance around you without interfering with you. It doesn't have power or control over your being. Things may happen and you may start feeling anxious, but bring your attention back to the present and allow the storm to pass without resisting. Thoughts can easily spiral in your head, so take one step at a time and don't think about the outcome, but about what you have right now - you. It's not a mystery why when we're overwhelmed all we can think about is the future, the uncertainties, the possible results of the current situation and centre our focus on the problem. Yet when we soothe ourselves and calm our nervous system down, we find so much ease. We are able to see the situation with more clarity and less of the frantic emotional attachment. Then everything seems to fit into place - we can see the possibilities, we have the solutions and we can handle the challenge. Take a moment to just be you and sit with yourself quietly not listening to your fears and worries.

Of course, there's plenty more you can do to self-soothe, provided that you have the time and opportunity. If you can, go outside or crack open a window to let some fresh air in. Put your feet on the ground and let the sun graze your skin. You can take a bath or a shower as water is a great resource for soothing us and calming us down. You can hug your pet, a friend, your significant other or your mum. You can self-express how you feel by writing, dancing, cooking and crafting. You can also go for a run if you feel like it. Do whatever makes you feel more like yourself, whatever brings you back to your natural state of calm and gives you the new and fresh perspective you need. The more tools you have in your shed, the more you can choose from and the more you build your confidence to handle any situation.

Have a day overflowing with love and inner-quiet!

Inner Quiet is all about you. We will tackle the thoughts and fears of living in a world that keeps going even when you feel that you need a break. When a stressful life wraps you in its claws with no-way-out, we will try to show you another possibility, another solution, another way. No matter what you do or what you want to see yourself doing, we want to help you to shine through you. To be a human is hard enough without the constant pressure of being perfect and in this day and age we might feel it's impossible to live free of self-imposed constraints and others' expectations. Let's prove it wrong.

Previously on Inner Quiet - Why We Shouldn't Fear 'Failing'?

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