The art of self-soothing is something we should all learn – Hayley Matthews

The more and more I see the world turn upside down, the more I believe it becomes a priority to look after ourselves.

The way babies are comforted can be used to help adults too (Picture: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images)
The way babies are comforted can be used to help adults too (Picture: Rodrigo Buendia/AFP via Getty Images)

Let's face it, things are stressful at the moment for a lot of people. If you have a home to heat and a family to feed, then I'm sure your blood pressure has risen a few notches the last 12 months too.

But it’s not always easy to settle your head as we struggle to summon the effort to do even the simplest tasks. I don't know many people who say they're having an amazing time just now. Life seems so chaotic and overwhelming. Even when we recognise we need to help ourselves out of a downward spiral, it can be hard to find quick positive ways to cope.

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However there is one technique called ‘self-soothing’. It is a coping strategy that I think we should all be taught from an early age, especially in schools and nurseries. We regulate our emotional state all by ourselves but some are a lot better at it than others. Some of us even struggle to know how.

You probably don't remember but when you were a baby and were rocked in the arms of a parent or grandparent whilst being gently patted on the bum, it was because it's a soothing technique. It mimics the heartbeat of your mother in the womb. Even at age four my youngest still likes to be held and patted on the bum (mainly to the tune of the Wheels on the Bus) because the beat is gentle and relaxing.

It's a technique that works not just for babies but for all of us. Now it would look a bit strange if Mr Hayley started tapping me on the bottom, to the rhythm of Agadoo, in the middle of Asda. So instead, when I'm mid panic attack I use similar techniques. I’ve found tapping certain meridian lines on the body or tapping your wrists can have a similar effect.

I also use methods that I was taught by a professional who I was seeing whilst pregnant to help with severe anxiety. Apart from the obvious "breathing", there are a lot of other ways to self-soothe but my favourite is actually a box: a soothing box. It doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant.

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I'm actually in the middle of making one up for my eldest. I've got things like a fidget spinner, lavender oil, little notes and squishy things to squeeze and pull. Whatever makes you feel relaxed and calms you down, get it in your soothing box.

Here are a few suggestions for your box that could help to bring you back to a good place:

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One, choose a photo that always makes you smile. Think about why it makes you smile. Is it the people in the photo or is it the place? What positive memory comes up for you?

Two, add a stress ball, smooth crystal, pebble or stone.

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Three, put in your favourite snacks, maybe some chewing gum.

Four, put in a a scent that you associate with feeling calm and safe.

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Don't knock it until you've tried it. And if you don't have any ideas, then a box of wine also seems to work well. Happy soothing!