Coping with Difficult Emotions and Self-Soothing: A Guide

January 13, 2021

Learning how to cope with difficult emotions and being able to self-soothe are two very useful skills that can help us improve our own mental wellbeing. Never more than right now have these techniques been important as they allow us to take stock and ‘check-in’ with ourselves. 

So how do you go about managing difficult emotions and self-soothing? 
It starts by recognising when you are feeling a bit ‘out of sorts’ or ‘off-balance’, and then doing something that potentially helps you to feel better. Here we provide some ideas of techniques that can help you to manage any difficult emotions and self-soothe: 

Relaxation 

Deep Breathing 
Inhale for 4 seconds through your nose. Hold for 4 seconds, and exhale through your mouth for 6 seconds. Try this for between 2 and 5 minutes, but you can repeat as often as you need too. 

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) 
This involves tensing each of our muscles and then releasing them (We will have a guide to PMR that we will be sharing soon).

Grounding 
This is about paying attention and noticing what is happening around us. You can try making up different rules like: 

  • Naming 3 things you can see
  • Name 3 things you can hear
  • Moving 3 parts of your body

Self-soothing 
This is trying to engage each one of our senses with something positive.  

  • Touch: Try wrapping yourself up in a soft blanket
  • Hearing: Play your favourite music
  • Seeing: Go for a walk and really take notice of what’s around you
  • Smell: Spray your favourite perfume or aftershave
  • Taste: Treat yourself and eat your favourite snack

Thoughts 

Acceptance 
Sometimes things happen that we don’t like. Recognise what has happened and accept the emotions that come with it – reflect on what you’ve learnt and what you could do differently next time. 

Challenge Negative Thoughts 
Ask yourself: 

  • What is the evidence for my thought?  
  • Is there evidence against it?  
  • Do I need more information?  
  • What would a friend think?  
  • Will this matter in 5 hours, weeks, or months from now?
  • Can I do something about it now?

Set Goals and Boundaries 
It’s okay to say no if you need too. Do you need to take a step back and focus on something else? It’s perfectly okay to do so! Know what makes you feel good and set a goal to engage in that more.  

Focus on the Positives 
Try writing down positive things that have happened to you or things that you have accomplished during the day before you go to bed. 

Physical needs 

Think About Your Basic Needs 
Have you eaten something or had a drink? Are you sleeping well? Have you undertaken some exercise? 

Use Social Support – Stay Connected Virtually 
Who can you talk to, and how would you get in touch?  

Plan Your Week 
Make sure you make time for your hobbies, friends, and any other things you need to get done. 

Don’t forget – it’s normal to feel difficult emotions from time-to-time, as well as different emotions day-to-day, especially right now! The next time you experience an emotion or feeling that you feel is difficult, try doing one thing from each of the categories above and see how you feel afterwards. Figure out what works to make you feel better and don’t compare yourself to others; we all have different ways of coping that are tailor fit by us to suit us and our individual needs.   

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