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Techniques for Soothing Yourself

Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

Use self-soothing techniques to calm yourself down when upset. Self-soothing techniques are methods for calming and relaxing the body and the mind and soothing jangled nerves:

Venting and Journaling. People are social creatures. Most find comfort in talking about problems with others when they become upset. First, because the experience of being listened to and hopefully understood helps people to feel less alone in their pain. Second, because talking about a problem, taking the time to put it into words, helps people to get a grip on that problem and to see possibilities that weren't obvious before. There is a certain internal pressure that some emotions create inside people that requires expression. Talking about that pressured emotion, or the issues creating it helps to diffuse or vent the pressure and let off steam that might otherwise result in destructive behavior.

Venting generally requires an audience. You may be able to vent to trusted confidants (e.g., trusted friends, family, mentors, therapists, or clergy), but when you do this, keep in mind that your confidant is giving a gift to you of their time and attention each time they listen to you rant. If you continually vent to others without finding ways to give them back "gifts" of similar value (for instance, your taking time to listen to them vent and rant), you will likely burn out your friendship.

Journaling can provide a good outlet for times when you need to vent but don't have anyone to vent to. Journaling couldn't be simpler. You simply write about your experience and emotion. Whatever you might say to a confidant, you can simply write down in a journal entry. In effect, the journal itself becomes your confidant.

Though not offering the comforts of a human listener, journaling has some advantages of its own. Journaling can occur any time of day or night, and can go on for a long as you have pen and paper to spare. Unlike spoken venting which is lost forever once it leaves your mouth, you can look at your journal as a sort of self-monitoring tool. A review of your old journal entries reveals what problems you have succeeded in solving and what problems remain to work on.

The availability of online internet communities makes possible a different journaling format. You can join an online community, and vent your emotions to the small audience of members. You can do this any time of day or night, and, although other people get to read what you write, they are also able to comment on what you have written and provide valuable support or criticism.