Learning to Self Soothe
The sight of a mother or father putting their infant on their shoulder and patting him/her to calm him/her down is always fascinating.
It’s such a relaxing, peaceful sight. The crying, bawling infant calms down and goes off into a slumber in sometime. The mother or father know when and how to calm their little one down and it works wonders.
And isn’t that what we all learn to do as we grow up? We run to our parents and our loved ones whenever we find ourselves troubled, distressed, lost or confused. It feels like their hug or that gentle pat on the head or the back will make all our troubles go away. We find ourselves calming down when someone does these things. That’s the power of a warm emotional hug or touch.
We continue to lead our lives expecting all our relationships to fulfil this need or desire to soothe us.
Many a times, we find ourselves running towards our loved ones or searching for people who can have this soothing, calming effect on us even if we don’t really want a solution to our issues.
Just a simple act of hugging someone, sitting close to them, holding their hand, hearing their voice is good enough for us.
And all this is great till the time we don’t find ourselves desperate for this kind of love, attention or soothing. While the desire to be in fulfilling relationships is great and it’s even better to be in such associations; the problem arises when we think that the only thing a relationship needs to do is to calm us down, manage us, satisfy every need. When we start holding the people close to us accountable for our own dysfunctions and dysregulations, it’s a problem.
Healthy relationships require two or more mentally and emotionally healthy individuals who come together in a symbiotic manner, who understand their own and the other person’s boundaries and emotional health is developed and maintained. We are born with a mind and a body and how we nurture it, is up to us.
Therefore, we are all responsible for how we think, feel or act in a situation.
We all know that when things get out of hand, we must seek help. But that’s not the only way to become emotionally healthy and even after taking help, what we do after that is also up to us.
Here are some things that we can and should do to enable us to understand and regulate our emotions better-
1. Self-reflection: Write a diary, make notes on your phone, meditate, go for a walk, and spend 15 minutes with yourself daily to understand how you think, feel and react to your environment. If you find yourself reacting in the same manner more than thrice to the same or similar situation and it’s not been working well for you, then it may be time for a change.
2. Engage your senses: write, listen to music, cook, and exercise, and take a nap, pray.
3. Reaching out in distress is good. But what if your partner, friend or family member is unable to support you at that time for some reason? Would blaming those help you or finding other ways to calm down till you can talk to them be better?
4. Use positive reinforcement – when we find ourselves in difficult situations, we automatically become self-critical. Statements like –‘I can’t do this’,’ I can’t handle it’,’ I’m good for nothing’ have never helped anyone to cope or handle a situation.
Having some coping statements like ‘I can handle this’, ‘I’ll give it my best’, ‘Let me see what’s the best I can do’, ‘I know it’s difficult but I’ll find a way’ etc and using them regularly will gradually increase the mind’s ability to regulate itself during stressful times.
5. Time out- When in the middle of a heated situation, sometimes buying time helps.
6. Whatever you do, be regular. When an infant cries, all adults know how to soothe the child down. Pick him/her up, put him/her over our shoulder, pat, hum a tune and wait for the child to calm down. Over time, the time that the child takes to calm down continues to decrease. It’s not a one-time affair. Gradually, parents also begin to leave the child on his/her own so that the child can learn to soothe himself/herself. After a few minutes or half an hour, the child moves on to something else.
Similarly, we need to identify what works for us on a regular basis so that we can get our minds to calm down and relax faster.
Once we are calm and stable, we can begin to solve our problems or think differently.
What we do in a situation is symptomatic treatment. What we engage in on a regular basis, leads to overall mental and emotional health.
And if something persists, then reaching out always helps.