If you're getting ready for or already on school holidays, hopefully you are enjoying a well-earned rest, or you might be feeling exhausted or burned out.
The number of people experiencing burn out has risen in recent times and even taking time off does not alleviate the situation for many.
Some 'soothing' care could sound like exactly what you need. Just the word itself sounds and feels like relief.
Someone to tend to your needs, or take special or tender care of you can sound very inviting, although the special others in our lives might also be experiencing their own stress or be focused on their own challenges so self-soothing might be for you.
So what is self- soothing? And is it healthy?
“Self-soothing” refers to any behaviour an individual uses to regulate their emotional state by themselves at any stage of life.
You might have heard the term self-soothing in relation to childhood behaviors that might end up proving to be problematic over time like thumb sucking and nail biting.
We can take unhelpful self-soothing habits into adulthood, and develop other non-supportive ones like dependance on alcohol, drugs, eating to excess or self harm.
Psychologists agree that we do these things to cope with stress, understand our emotions, or they could be connected to current or previous trauma or attachment issues.
For many of us these potentially unhelpful self soothing habits could feel familiar and reliable when we feel a rising lack of certainty security or safety.
So what are some self-soothing activities or habits that we can consider cultivating that will be helpful and supportive for us?
Try some of these this holiday, or any day or week of the year:
Deep or diaphragmatic breathing - some like to put left hand on heart and right hand on belly to feel extremely grounded and secure
Squeezing a stress ball
Listening to music
Taking a warm bath or shower. In the shower you can imagine that all your stress and worry is washing off your body with the suds and floating right down the drain
Going for a walk outside in the fresh air
Hitting a punching bag
Talking about your feelings
Writing about your feelings
Speaking kindly and compassionately to yourself - in your mind or out loud. Speak to yourself like you would to someone you love
It is very challenging for many of us to self-soothe and to soothe others if we were not soothed with love and secure attachment as children.
Author speaker and self-described 'spirit junkie' Gabby Bernstein interviewed accomplished clinical professor of psychiatry and award winning author, scientist, therapist and father Dr. Dan Siegel on a recent podcast about triggers and healing childhood wounds and how we can move towards 'reparenting' ourselves and self-soothe and achieve a feeling of security, using the four S's, which Siegel covers in his latest parenting book 'The Power of Showing up' . These S's can be applied with children and with ourselves:
First we want to keep our children safe from harm, and we want to avoid being the source of terror for them via our anger or other means.
And the important part here is that if there is a rupture in this safety due to our actions then we want to make a repair, which means that it's so important to apologise especially with kids if we lose our temper.
Siegel says to own it and be present and repair the rupture.
We can also be present with ourselves to forgive ourselves and repair this relationship too.
You know how good it feels when someone really gives you their presence and you feel 'felt' or understood or 'heard' or 'seen'. This is the feeling we give when we are truly present, in the moment, with those we love, and in mindfulness when we are present with ourselves.
We feel soothed when we experience some of the things on the list above and definitely when we receive a long warm genuine hug from someone we love and who we know 'sees' us. And hopefully we were soothed by our parents when we were young so we know how to give and receive soothing.
The 4th 'S' results from achievement of the first 3. We can feel a feeling of 'wholeness' if we feel safe seen and soothed and we know we can reach out when we need connection and support.
When we feel secure we can feel confidence and resilience and we want to give this feeling of security to our kids as well.
Above all, kindness and compassion is key. To yourself and others. You are doing the best you can and deserve to feel soothed.
Apply some of these techniques and consider the 4 S's and if we can apply some of this in our holiday times or really any time then maybe we can maintain our resilience despite the rising and accumulative stressors we seem to experience.
Dr Siegel also talks about how in development attachment research if we are able to make sense of things that have happened to us then we have the opportunity to feel secure despite experiencing very challenging situations in our lives.
If you believe there might be a deeper need for you to heal, it is highly recommended that you seek the professional support of a psychologist or mental health professional you trust.
Until next time,
The PLS team