Self-Soothing Strategies For When You Feel Overwhelmed


Self-soothing strategies can make all the difference during the days when we may feel overwhelmed.

When we feel overwhelmed with life and the responsibilities we have, it can be tempting to bury our heads in the sand. When we are feeling stressed, triggered or overwhelmed, we may have a glass of wine, binge eat, excessively game or spend hours scrolling through the Tiktok black hole – that never ends unless you decide to switch off! These tactics may bring us short-term relief but could lead to more problems in the long run, like complete emotional avoidance or procrastination.

Self soothing behaviours are typically developed during our childhood to regulate our emotional state, but not everyone has the opportunity to develop these skills during their early years. As adults it can be difficult to regulate overwhelming emotions, especially in public spaces. Having healthy self-soothing strategies in our emotional toolbox makes us feel like we are better equipped with life when challenges are thrown our way.

Developing and equipping yourself with healthy self-soothing strategies does not have to be hard or complicated. Self-Soothing strategies can look like some of the following.

Creating a ‘happy place’ that you can visualise 

When I’m feeling overwhelmed and highly triggered, I picture my happy place. I take note of the location that I am in, the sun, the trees, the birds and the noises that they are making and the river flowing against the rocks. Your ‘happy place’ will look drastically different from mine, as it needs to be based on somewhere you feel safe and calm. For me, it’s nature.

Practising self-compassion

Developing and practising self-compassion can be a little tricky if you have a critical inner voice. But it is possible to develop self-compassion. A great way to practice self-compassion is to think about what you would say to a loved one or a friend if they were feeling overwhelmed.

Creating a gratitude list  

When we feel stressed or overwhelmed our minds tend to lean over to the negative side and we can become quite cynical or experience all or nothing thinking. A gratitude list is a simple way to manage negative thoughts.

Practising deep breathing

A classic self-soothing strategy but it’s a good one. Deep breathing also known as diaphragmatic breathing gives a signal to your nervous to calm down.

Taking a warm or cold shower

After a long overwhelming day at work, you may be tempted to crash onto the couch or crawl into bed. Take a shower of your preferred temperature and enjoy the water raining down on your skin as it supports your body to relax and relieve tension. Showering with the light off, but with a light on outside of the bathroom can be a wonderful sensation too.

Change your environment and scenery

I begin to feel restless if I stay in my living room all day, so during my break time, I often take a walk around the block to give my eyes and body a change of scenery. You can also change your scenery by taking a walk or changing rooms in whatever workspace you are currently in. Co-working spaces are also an excellent option to consider or a local coffee shop.

Give yourself a butterfly hug

The butterfly hug is a self-soothing strategy that can be used at any time wherever you are. It was originally developed for EMDR Therapy. It’s a form of bilateral stimulation, which helps you to calm down and remain in the present moment. Checkout the video here on how it is designed to protect your mind.

Try mindfulness or meditation

Mindfulness and meditation is not for everyone. However, it can be a good self-soothing strategy to have in your self-soothing tool-box. There are various apps such as Headspace, Calm and MoodCare that all have different types of guided meditations. YouTube is a great alternative if you do not want to have a membership or you are simply running on a tight budget. There are also free version options with apps.

These are just some examples that you may want to consider, but also take the time to discover and implement self-soothing strategies that work best for you.

What strategies and hacks do you use when you’re feeling overwhelmed with life and all the responsibilities it brings? 

Photo via Canva

Freda Nomo

Freda Nomo

Arts Psychotherapist/RDMP

Freda is a Creative Psychotherapist, Content Creator and Lifestyle & Mental Health Blogger. You can connect with Freda via social media or her website.

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