How to Calm Yourself Down: A Guide to Self-Soothing

Life can often feel like a raging storm – waves of stress and emotion crashing over us, winds of change and uncertainty buffeting us from all sides. And just like during a storm out at sea, it’s all too easy to feel tossed about with no safe harbor in sight when life gets turbulent. Learning to self-soothe – to actively calm your body and mind – is an essential skill for weathering life’s storms. With some practice at relaxation techniques, mindfulness, and shifting negative thought patterns, you can find an inner calm and steadiness to carry you through.

Start by finding a quiet space without too much external stimulation. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and take some slow, deep belly breaths. Inhale fully and deeply, letting your abdomen expand. Exhale slowly and fully. Focus on the sensation of breathing – the air moving in and out, the gentle rise and fall of your chest and stomach. Do this breath focus for one to two minutes until you start to feel grounded and centered inward.

Next, systematically relax each part of your body one muscle group at a time. Start with your feet and toes – tense them tightly for a few seconds, then release all tension. Notice how they feel heavier and more relaxed. Move upward through your ankles, calves, thighs, hips, etc, tensing and releasing as you go. By the time you reach your head and neck, your whole body should feel loose, heavy, and calm.

Continue with a quick full-body scan, observing any areas still holding tension without judging them. Imagine each tense area beginning to relax and soften. Picture stressful thoughts like dark storm clouds beginning to drift away. Use a calming mental image like a gentle stream or swaying hammock to further cultivate an inner sense of peace.

Now bring your attention to your breathing again. Count each inhalation and exhalation up to five, then start over. This keeps your mind anchored in the present, focused only on your breath as it flows in and out. If distracting thoughts enter, gently note them and return to counting breaths. Even 30-60 seconds of this mindfulness practice can dramatically reduce racing, anxious thoughts.

Finally, counter any negative self-talk with positive affirmations. Say them aloud or silently to yourself. For example, replace “I’m overwhelmed and can’t cope with this” with “I am capable of dealing with whatever comes my way.” Or combat “I’ll never make it through this” with “I have the inner resources to handle challenges.” Speak encouraging truths about your inherent abilities.

With frequent repetition, these and similar relaxation techniques build the muscle memory for resilience – just like regular exercise builds physical muscles and cardiovascular fitness. Over time, your capacity for managing stress and regulating emotions will grow. You’ll find you can summon a sense of inner calm and clarity more quickly when you most need them. Storms will still come, but you’ll have learned to steady your ship’s sails until peaceful waters come again.

The key is commitment to daily self-care practices, even when you don’t feel like you “need” them in the moment. Do quick check-ins several times a day – a few deep breaths or a body scan while waiting in line. Or set aside 20 minutes in the morning and evening for quality mindfulness or meditation. By proactively cultivating inner stillness, you’ll have the foundation to weather life’s storms with greater resilience. Soon you’ll navigate turbulent times with more ease, centered in the present rather than tossed about by the winds of constant change. Your new harbor of calm lies within.

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