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Self-Soothing Techniques: 20 Ways to Calm Distress and Find Balance

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Feeling overwhelmed by emotions is a challenge that many of us face. It is important to know that self-soothing techniques can be an effective tool for managing these feelings. This article will explore simple methods to help you find calm and build emotional resilience in your daily life.

Let’s look at how you can soothe your stress.

Key Takeaways

  • Self-soothing methods help us manage emotions by focusing on our five senses. These techniques, like deep breathing and mindfulness, calm stress.
  • Practising self-soothing can boost emotional resilience. It helps in handling life’s challenges better by reducing anxiety and promoting control.
  • Physical activity and connecting with others are vital for mental health. They reduce feelings of anger or depression and encourage positive thinking.
  • Creating a comforting environment supports emotional well-being. Using calming scents, soft textures, and gentle lighting can relax the mind and body.

Understanding Self-Soothing

Definition of self-soothing

Self-soothing involves coping strategies that focus on the five senses to reduce feelings of distress or overwhelm. These activities empower individuals to calm themselves down through sensory engagement.

It’s a technique often found in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as a way to accept and tolerate difficult emotions. Engaging the senses helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and easing stress.

This method is crucial for building emotional resilience, improving emotional regulation, and enhancing social interactions. By developing self-soothing skills, adults can better manage disruptive emotions, leading to significant benefits for mental health.

Techniques like grounding exercises, mindfulness, and soothing touch are common practices used to achieve this calming effect.

Importance of self-soothing for emotional resilience

Self-soothing fosters mental resilience, enabling individuals to navigate life’s challenges with greater ease. By learning effective self-soothing techniques, people can regulate disruptive emotions.

This regulation benefits their overall mental health and well-being.

In school environments, these skills are especially important. They help children respond more effectively to distressing situations. Techniques such as deep breathing or placing a hand over the heart activate the parasympathetic nervous system.

This action calms anxiety and reduces stress responses. With practice, self-soothing becomes an invaluable tool for creating a sense of calm amidst turmoil.

Techniques commonly used in Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

DBT’s emphasis on self-soothing underlines its importance for emotional resilience. Here are techniques from Dialectical Behaviour Therapy that help manage intense emotions.

  1. Mindfulness – This technique involves being fully present in the moment, focusing your attention on thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. It aids in recognising and accepting your emotional state.
  2. Distress Tolerance Skill – This skill focuses on tolerating pain in difficult situations, not changing it. It includes practices like distraction, self-soothing with the senses, and comparing the pros and cons of not tolerating distress.
  3. Emotion Regulation – Teaches methods to change emotions that you want to change. It involves understanding the function of your emotions, reducing vulnerability to emotion mind, and increasing positive emotional events.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness – This component enhances communication skills. It helps articulate needs and set boundaries while maintaining self-respect and relationships with others.
  5. The STOP Technique – An acronym standing for Stop, Take a step back, Observe, Proceed effectively. It is used to pause before reacting impulsively in stressful situations.
  6. Paced Breathing – Slowing down the breath to calm the nervous system. This practice involves inhaling slowly through your nose and exhaling slowly through your mouth.
  7. Wise Mind – A concept that involves tapping into both rational thought (reasonable mind) and emotions (emotion mind) to reach decisions that feel right at a deep level (wise mind).
  8. Radical Acceptance – Learning to accept reality as it is without trying to change it or protest against it can reduce suffering from resistance.

Benefits of Self-Soothing for Mental Health

Reducing distress and anxiety

Self-soothing techniques play a crucial role in regulating disruptive emotions, offering a pathway to reduce stress and anxiety. These methods focus your attention on calming activities, making it easier to cope with anxiety and decrease symptoms of distress.

Practices such as deep breathing or placing your hand over your heart, activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This action helps slow down the body’s stress response, leading to feelings of calmness and reducing physiological signs of anxiety.

Practices like mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation can also help manage stress better when feeling drained or overwhelmed. They provide tools to help focus on the present moment rather than distressing thoughts or worries about the future.

As you learn to engage more mindfully with your surroundings, these self-soothing activities contribute significantly to an improved outlook on life, essential for those dealing with illness or facing life’s challenges.

Enhancing emotional regulation

Enhancing emotional regulation is crucial for managing everyday stresses and challenges. Skills acquired through self-soothing techniques play a vital role in this process. They help you stay calm and collected, even in tough times.

Research shows that people who practice these methods regularly can better handle their emotions. This leads to fewer negative reactions to stress.

Practising deep breathing, using grounding techniques, or engaging in mindfulness can make a significant difference. These actions activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps reduce anxiety levels.

As you become more adept at regulating your feelings, your social interactions and on-task behaviour improve as well. Next, let’s explore how adopting self-soothing measures can promote a sense of control over one’s life.

Promoting a sense of control

Mastering emotional regulation leads to the next crucial step: promoting a sense of control. This involves using self-soothing techniques as temporary tools during times of stress or negative emotions.

Engaging in activities like mindfulness and deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This action calms anxiety quickly and gives individuals power over their reactions rather than feeling at the mercy of their circumstances.

Embracing self-soothing methods, such as placing your hand on your heart or wrapping your arms around yourself, generates physical comfort that signals safety to the brain. These actions help decrease symptoms of anxiety by fostering an environment where one feels grounded and secure.

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Self-Soothing Techniques

Self-Soothing Techniques For Anxiety and Stress

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing stands out as the most effective technique to reduce stress and anxiety. It controls your nervous system, cutting down on the stress response. You can practice this powerful relaxation method almost anywhere, making it highly accessible.

Deep breathing not only eases your mind but may also aid in managing chronic health conditions.

Diaphragmatic breathing is known to trigger relaxation responses in the body, benefiting mental well-being significantly. Studies confirm that exercises focused on deep inhalation and exhalation can remarkably lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Taking slow, controlled breaths from the diaphragm, engages a natural calming effect, which helps soothe both mind and body amidst tension or unrest.

Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques help individuals manage intense stress and anxiety by keeping them focused on the present moment. These exercises distract from anxious feelings and are considered a fast, effective way to feel calmer.

Therapists often teach grounding techniques to create a connection with the present moment, helping individuals anchor themselves during times of distress.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is an effective stress management technique. It involves tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in the body, focusing on one area at a time. This technique can help lower tension and stress levels, promoting relaxation during anxious moments.

By slowly tensing and releasing muscles, progressive muscle relaxation encourages physical and mental relaxation. This method is beneficial for managing anxiety and reducing overall stress levels.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation cultivate calmness, balance, and peace within. These practices effectively manage stress, enhancing both mental and physical well-being. Additionally, they promote metacognitive awareness while reducing anxiety and fostering emotional regulation skills.

It’s worth noting that mindfulness meditation decreases rumination, allowing individuals to approach challenging situations with clarity, compassion, and intention.

Meditation encourages a sense of tranquillity amidst life’s chaos while providing the tools to cope with adversity. This ancient practice has been widely recognised for its positive impact on mental health as well as its capacity to enhance overall emotional resilience.

Physical Exercise

Regular physical exercise boosts mental health. It helps the brain handle stress better, leading to improved emotional well-being. Exercise improves mood, self-confidence, and relaxation, and reduces symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.

Engaging in regular physical exercise is linked to better mental health and overall emotional well-being. It aids the brain in managing stress effectively, resulting in enhanced mental health.

Additionally, it can enhance mood, increase confidence levels, aid relaxation, and alleviate symptoms of mild depression and anxiety.

Music and Sounds

Transitioning from physical exercise to incorporating soothing sounds and music, it’s important to acknowledge the profound impact these auditory stimuli can have on emotional well-being.

Research supports that calming music can reduce stress and anxiety, creating a serene mental environment. Craft personalised playlists with gentle tunes or classical melodies to alleviate symptoms of distress and promote relaxation.

By engaging in this auditory self-soothing technique, you facilitate stress recovery through positive emotional experiences, ultimately enhancing your overall mental health.


Journaling provides a helpful way to process emotions and reduce mental distress. It can also aid in coping with various mental health conditions. By writing down thoughts and feelings, individuals can create a space from negative emotions and achieve relief from anxiety.

Positive affect journaling has shown positive outcomes for medical populations, making it an effective self-soothing technique that encourages emotional processing and stress reduction.


Visualization is a powerful technique for reducing anxiety and managing stress. It distracts the mind from anxieties and promotes relaxation by creating mental images of peaceful scenes or positive outcomes.

Pairing visualisation with physical relaxation techniques enhances its effectiveness, unwinding the mind, relieving stress, and aiding in falling asleep. This tool promotes relaxation, reduces anxious thoughts, and increases a sense of control while enhancing emotional balance and resilience.

Moving on to “Positive self-talk,” let’s explore how affirming inner dialogue can contribute to emotional well-being.

Positive self-talk

Positive self-talk is an excellent tool for managing anxiety and stress. It helps in regulating disruptive emotions and enhancing mental well-being, fostering resilience during challenging times.

Engaging in positive self-talk enables individuals to develop effective coping strategies, overcoming negative thoughts and promoting overall health.

Embracing positivity through positive self-talk can build resilience, shaping thoughts, emotions, and actions towards a resilient mindset. This form of self-soothing aids in stress management by correcting negative thinking patterns and effectively coping with difficult situations.

Self-Soothing Techniques For Anger


When emotions are heightened, taking a time-out can help regulate disruptive feelings and support mental well-being. This classic anger management tool can be self-imposed to keep emotions in check, applicable not only to anger but also to any other intense emotional state.

By stepping away from the situation briefly, individuals create space for calming down and gaining perspective.

Physical Activity

Engaging in physical activity, such as regular exercise or sports, serves as a powerful tool for managing emotions and promoting resilience. Exercise can help reduce stress hormones and release endorphins, which in turn alleviates feelings of anger and anxiety.

Furthermore, incorporating physical activity into your routine not only enhances emotional regulation but also contributes to increased self-confidence and improved mood. Regular exercise offers an effective way to decompress, lower tension levels, and build emotional resilience against distressing emotions like anger.

Physical activity is also linked to the development of emotional intelligence as it provides opportunities to face challenges, collaborate with others, and foster motivation. This makes engaging in activities that involve movement an essential aspect of building emotional resilience and effectively managing challenging emotions like anger.

Communication Skills

Effective communication skills play a crucial role in promoting emotional resilience and well-being. By honing these skills, individuals can express their emotions, seek support when needed, and cultivate healthy coping strategies.

Through clear and empathetic communication, one can navigate challenging situations, build positive relationships, and foster a sense of understanding in both personal and professional contexts.

Identify Triggers

Identifying triggers is a crucial step in managing anger effectively through self-soothing techniques. Triggers are specific situations, people, or events that can spark an intense emotional reaction, such as anger. These triggers can be deeply ingrained in one’s behaviour and may not always be immediately apparent.

By recognizing what sets off one’s anger, individuals can begin to understand the underlying reasons for their emotional responses and work towards addressing them.

Understanding one’s triggers allows for the development of more productive communication strategies, which can be beneficial in expressing emotions in various situations. It also provides a foundation for healing the source of the triggers, which is essential for improving relationships and overall well-being. When individuals are aware of their triggers, they can manage them more effectively, making it easier to navigate tense situations without unnecessary distress.

Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring focuses on altering negative thought patterns that often lead to anger. By identifying and challenging these thoughts, individuals can reduce the intensity of their anger and respond to situations more calmly.

The technique operates on the premise that our thoughts influence our emotions, which in turn, affect our behaviors. Negative or distorted thoughts can trigger anger and lead to aggressive or hostile behaviours. Through cognitive restructuring, individuals learn to recognize these unhelpful thought patterns and replace them with more rational, balanced ones. 

Self-Soothing Techniques For Depression:


Research shows that individuals who are more self-compassionate experience increased happiness, optimism, and resilience while also showing a decrease in anxiety and depression levels.

Those who practice self-compassion have healthier relationships, engage in adaptive coping strategies, and display greater resilience in the face of adversity. This practice not only fosters overall well-being but also encourages the development of a growth mindset which leads to various scientific benefits including improved mental health and healthier behaviours such as exercise.

Higher levels of self-compassion can lead to increased curiosity, connectedness with others, and overall satisfaction while decreasing stress and promoting a positive attitude towards life.

Engage in Pleasurable Activities

Engage in activities that bring you joy and comfort. These can include hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or enjoying nature. Pleasurable activities help reduce stress and elevate moodpromoting emotional resilience.

Self-care can be practised by engaging in activities that soothe the senses and uplift the spirits. This could involve listening to music, taking a leisurely walk, or indulging in a relaxing bath – all of which can have profound effects on mental well-being.

Connect with Others

Social connections are vital for managing stress and promoting mental well-being. Engaging in positive interactions with friends, family, or support groups can provide a natural way to alleviate daily and chronic stress.

Studies have shown that social connections not only offer emotional support but also contribute to overall resilience against anxiety and depression.

It’s worth noting that maintaining healthy relationships and seeking social support can help build emotional resilience, providing a sense of belonging and stability during challenging times.

Create a Comforting Environment

Arranging your surroundings to soothe and comfort can positively impact emotional well-being. Simplify cluttered spaces to create a calming atmosphere. Fresh scents, soft textures, and gentle lighting help to relax the mind and body.

Incorporating these elements into daily life contributes to reduced stress levels and improved mental health, especially during challenging times.

Surrounding yourself with comforting sights, smells, and textures can significantly support emotional resilience. Inhaling soothing scents or feeling the comforting touch of a favourite sweater helps alleviate distress while reinforcing a sense of peace in stressful situations.

Routine and Structure

Establish a consistent routine by setting regular wake-up and bedtime schedules. This helps regulate your body’s internal clock, promoting better sleep quality and overall well-being.

Additionally, incorporating structured activities into your daily schedule can provide a sense of predictability and stability, reducing feelings of uncertainty and anxiety.

Repetition creates familiarity and comfort, which are essential for building emotional resilience. Engaging in regular exercise routines or dedicating specific times for self-soothing activities can help reinforce the habit of prioritising mental health.

Self-Soothing Behaviors:

Sensory Engagement

Engage your senses in self-soothing by using essential oilscalming music, or soothing sounds like ocean waves. Try focusing on pleasant smells and tactile sensations to ground yourself and promote relaxation.

Create a comforting environment with soft blankets, warming scents, and gentle lighting to encourage sensory engagement for self-soothing. Using these elements consistently can help regulate disruptive emotions and promote a sense of calmness.

Soothing Touch

A soothing touch leverages the human body’s natural response to a gentle, comforting touch to calm the mind and reduce feelings of anger. The effectiveness of soothing touch is rooted in its ability to signal safety to the brain, thereby reducing the fight-or-flight response and promoting a state of relaxation. Research has shown that simple actions like placing a hand on the heart or hugging oneself can significantly lower cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone, and reduce heart rate. 

These actions help shift the body from a state of stress to one of calm, making it easier to manage anger and other intense emotions. 

Creative Expression

Engaging in creative activities like drawing, storytelling, or making music offers a powerful way to self-soothe and build emotional resilience. For kids, creative expression serves as a dual-purpose strategy by allowing them to channel their emotions effectively.

Regardless of the specific form of creative expression, it can contribute significantly to developing emotional resilience and regulating emotions. The psychology of creativity and resilience also suggests that artistic endeavours such as writing, dancing, or creating music play a pivotal role in enhancing emotional well-being.

Creative expression not only supports emotional regulation but also provides an avenue for individuals to process their feelings constructively without starting with “When” or “Additionally”.

Crying as a form of release

Transitioning from creative expression, we delve into the powerful act of crying as a form of release. Crying is an innate mechanism for emotional regulation and can be viewed as a natural self-soothing technique.

Research suggests that shedding tears releases oxytocin and endorphins, which aid in easing emotional pain and improving mood. Additionally, crying may serve as a detoxifying process for the body, contributing to its self-soothing function.

Allowing oneself to cry can be an effective form of self-care, displaying compassion towards one’s own emotions and fostering a sense of connection rather than isolation.

When to Seek Professional Help

If self-soothing is not alleviating distress significantly, seeking professional help from a therapist or counsellor can provide personalised support and guidance to address underlying issues.

For more in-depth information on integrating self-soothing into your daily life, keep reading the full blog.

Knowing your limits

Recognising your limits is crucial for emotional resilience. Understanding when self-soothing techniques are insufficient and seeking professional help is an essential aspect of building resilience.

It involves knowing when to take a break, seek support from others, and ask for professional assistance in managing emotions effectively.

Knowing your limits means being aware that relying solely on self-soothing techniques may not always be enough. It requires recognising the need to reach out to mental health professionals when necessary and not trying to handle everything independently.

Identifying when self-soothing is not enough

When overwhelming fear becomes unmanageable, seeking professional support is crucial for reassurance and guidance. Tolerating and soothing painful feelings with the help of a mental health professional can enhance emotional resilience.

Healthy self-soothing strategies are effective in managing emotions, but recognising when they aren’t sufficient to manage overwhelming fear is essential.

Next Steps for Incorporating Self-Soothing into Daily Life

The importance of seeking therapy

Seeking therapy is essential for strengthening mental health and increasing emotional resilience. It provides valuable tools and guidance for coping with disruptive emotionsenhancing self-compassion, and improving overall psychological well-being.

Mindfulness-based therapy, in particular, is effective in addressing various clinical issues and promoting long-term emotional regulation. Engaging with a therapist can offer tailored support and strategies that empower individuals to navigate challenges and build a solid foundation for mental wellness.

Moving forward into “Next Steps for Incorporating Self-Soothing into Daily Life”, let’s explore how to integrate these techniques seamlessly into your routine.

Next Steps for Incorporating Self-Soothing into Daily Life

Incorporating self-soothing techniques into daily life requires consistency and practice to be effective. Find what works best for you, and gently overcome any resistance to self-soothing practices.

Consistency and practice

Consistent practice of self-soothing techniques is crucial for building emotional resilience. By integrating these methods into your daily routine, you can decrease anxiety levels and enhance emotional balance.

Cultivating self-compassion in everyday life involves integrating self-compassionate practices into your experiences, ultimately aiding in the development and practice of empathy to approach emotional resilience effectively.

Daily incorporation of these activities helps individuals maintain a sense of control over their emotions. Such efforts can calm down or move past emotional blocks, leading to an increased ability to handle challenging situations with composure and stability.

Finding what works for you

Explore various self-soothing techniques to discover what resonates with you, whether it’s deep breathingmindfulnessphysical activity, or creative expression. Experimenting allows you to identify the most effective strategies for reducing anxiety and promoting emotional regulation in your daily life.

By integrating self-soothing behaviours that align with your preferences and comfort level, you can cultivate a personalised approach towards enhancing mental well-being and resilience.

Try different methods such as progressive muscle relaxation or sensory engagement to gauge their impact on reducing distress and increasing a sense of control. Embracing diverse techniques empowers you to build a customised toolkit for managing emotions and navigating challenging situations more effectively by incorporating consistent and tailored self-soothing practices into your routine.

Overcoming resistance to self-soothing

When incorporating self-soothing techniques into daily life, it’s natural to face resistance, but understanding that self-soothing is a temporary tool for managing difficult emotions can help in overcoming this.

Practising with shorter intervals and gradually increasing the duration of these activities can help build comfort and familiarity. It’s worth noting that activating true emotional powers with self-soothing tactics can effectively manage stress and foster improved emotional regulation.

Incorporating self-soothing techniques does not mean avoiding seeking professional help when needed; rather, it complements therapy by providing short-term relief. Identifying one’s limits and recognising when additional support is necessary are crucial steps towards comprehensive mental health care.


Incorporate self-soothing techniques into your daily life for emotional resilience and well-being. Practise deep breathinggrounding exercises, and positive self-talk to calm distressing emotions.

Find what works best for you and prioritise consistency in applying these techniques. Enhance your mental health by engaging in activities that promote a sense of control and comfort.

Remember the power of self-soothing to navigate through life’s challenges with strength and balance.


1. What are self-soothing techniques?

Self-soothing techniques are methods that help you calm and comfort yourself in stressful times. These can include deep breathing, where you inhale and exhale slowly, placing your hand on your heart, or enjoying the beauty of a park or garden.

2. Can self-soothing techniques improve emotional resilience?

Yes, engaging in self-soothing practices like mindful muscle relaxation or experiencing the serene environment of a green space can increase your ability to cope with stress and build emotional resilience.

3. How does physical touch act as a self-soothing method?

Physical sensations such as a warm hug or placing your hand over your chest bring comfort and reduce stress by making you feel more grounded.

4. Are there any exercises for better self-soothing?

Practicing dialectical behavior therapy skills involves exercises that guide you through feelings of distress without resorting to avoidance. Techniques such as focusing on the sensation at the crown of your head can also serve this purpose effectively.

5. How do these techniques assist in health and wellness?

By helping individuals engage positively with their emotions through actions like somatic experiencing or feeling sunlight on their skin, these methods promote overall well-being by mitigating immediate signs of anxiety.

6. Where can one find additional resources on integrating these techniques into daily life?

Comprehensive guides and integrative approaches from systematic reviews in works like “The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook” offer extensive insights into adopting effective measures for stress relief and enhancing social identity through positive engagement.

Self-Soothing Techniques: 20 Ways to Calm Distress and Find Balance
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