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Self Soothing

Calm yourself!

DBT skills

Episode 2 self soothing


Imagine that you walk in the gym at your child’s school for an event or a friend’s home for a get together. Suddenly your senses shift into overdrive; a cacophony of sound, more people than expected and you see no escape from the ones who seem to rush at you with a hug. Clutching your things to your chest tightly you desire to leave, but there is no way out. Your heart is pounding, your breathing is shallow and staggered. You are having an anxiety or panic attack. Now what?


Do you leave? Do you cry? Do you stay frozen in your spot, find a corner to suffer through the event? How about using a skill to calm your anxiety? Take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of five, breathe out through your mouth to the count of seven. Do this several times and you will notice your heart slowing and your breathing will follow the pattern you are giving it.


Try closing your eyes for a moment and naming all the sounds your hear around you. You could also look around the room and name the things you see. If you have a mint or something strong tasting put it in your mouth and very slowly savor it, focusing completely on its taste and texture as long as possible. If you have something in your hands focus on its texture and tell yourself all about the way it feels in your hand. Another thing is to close your eyes and list to yourself every unique smell you notice, even the not so pleasant odors!


Al of these things are methods of helping your body calm itself and return to a state of function. Every time we make a decision to leave where we are feeling anxious because of the anxiety we reinforce the anxiety and continue in it, allowing it to hold us hostage. We miss out on life because we are afraid. We isolate ourselves to avoid any possible situations that cause anxiety. It wears on us and our families.


It’s possible to soothe your self and move through the waves of anxiety to a state where you can accomplish what life gives you to do. There are some very important things to know and remind yourself about anxiety. First of all, no one has ever died from anxiety or a panic attack. It may feel as though you are about to explode, or pass out or die; but it is not fatal.


Anxiety is like the waves of the sea; the waves of anxiety roll in and they roll out. I like to paint or draw waves to remind me of this. Anxiety is not permanent. It will come and go. If you are prepared with skills to meet it you will be able to move through the waves and continue with your day.


The average anxiety wave last a minute and thirty seconds. It seems interminable, that it will never stop. One and a half minutes and if you breathe or use a self soothing skill in that moment the wave will crest and subside sooner. Because your focus will determine the reality of that moment; try focusing on the skills and not on the bodily sensations caused by the anxiety. It’s good to tell yourself this is only going to last a minute and in that minute I can do something helpful to move through to the other side of this anxious moment. There is no reason to allow anxiety to overwhelm and stop you in your tracks! There is EVERY reason to use easy to learn and use skills that will tame the anxiety dragon and allow you to move through to a well lived life! Start today!


Bonus Skill: use the alphabet to distract the anxiety by listing off a different thing for each letter of the alphabet. Hint: Star Wars characters; anakin, boba, chewie; etc., types of fruit, dog breeds and anything else you like!



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