“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When feeling heightened levels of stress and anxiety, it can be especially difficult to draw upon our inner resources to practice self-soothing. During difficult situations that tend to increase our levels of distress, it is especially important to have a self-care toolkit already prepared so that we can meet the present moment more skillfully. Consider how you generally practice self-care and maintain a sense of equilibrium. Pay attention to what is already working for you, while also noticing areas for growth.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) offers a wealth of skills to practice mindfulness, regulate emotions, increase interpersonal effectiveness, and tolerate distress more effectively. Self-soothing skills enable you to calm yourself during times of intense distress and bring yourself back to a more centered and grounded place. By integrating mindfulness and emotion regulation skills with your five senses, you can effectively calm yourself during difficult moments.

Vision

  • Sit outside and look at nature with an attentive, mindful eye
  • Take a walk in a nearby park or go for a leisurely hike
  • Go outdoors at nighttime and look up at the stars in the sky

Hearing

  • Listen to soothing or invigorating music, depending on your mood
  • Play or learn to play an instrument
  • Close your eyes and become mindful of the sounds around you

Smell

  • Place essential oils on the inside of your wrists and breathe deeply
  • Burn incense or light a scented candle
  • Open the windows and breathe in the fresh air

Taste

  • Eat one thing mindfully, really savoring the tastes and textures
  • Treat yourself to a favorite dessert and slow down to enjoy it
  • Taste something tart, like a lemon or orange, and pay attention

Touch

  • Snuggle up under an especially soft, cozy blanket
  • Drink a warm cup of tea or coffee and warm your hands on the mug
  • Take a long hot bath or shower and savor the experience

How do you intend to use your five senses to practice self-soothing? Observe whether or not there are things you are already doing to practice self-care that you can continue to do. Consider how bringing an open, curious, and nonjudgmental attitude of mindfulness to stressful situations can increase your ability to effectively cope with distress. The more you practice self-soothing skills in the present, the better equipped you will be to engage in effective self-soothing in the future.

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Linehan, M.M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Featured image: Mädchen sitzt auf Schaukel by Marco Verch / CC BY 2.0

About Laura K. Schenck, Ph.D., LPC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) with a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Northern Colorado. Some of my academic interests include: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, mindfulness, stress reduction, work/life balance, mood disorders, identity development, supervision & training, and self-care.

1 Comment

  1. Mary Schenck-Ross on April 14, 2020 at 7:30 pm

    So helpful. Thank you!

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