Today’s blog post is brought to us by my summer intern Anna. She shares her insights on how both a person in recovery and their family members can soothe ourselves during the many moments of distress. ~ Becky Henry, CPCC

Self Soothing Techniques, by Intern Anna 

Supporting someone going through an eating disorder, or having an eating disorder brings up a lot of emotional distress. Because of this, it is important to have tools to use when you are feeling more anxious, are noticing more disordered eating symptoms, etc. To be able to support the individual successfully and to fight back against the eating disorder, you will need to have enough support for yourself and your wise mind. 

Your wise mind is the compromise between the logical and emotional mind. We have both logical thoughts and emotional thoughts, and the wise mind takes into account both of those sides. It is the place we make level headed decisions from, considering both rewards and consequences. One of the ways to support your wise mind is to use self soothing techniques in crisis moments (Linehan, 2015).

Self soothing takes into account all of our five senses to help us calm down. This is a technique you can use for yourself as a caregiver or help your loved one use. 

Starting with vision, find something in your space that you can visually focus on. That could be a wood burning fire, watching a movie, looking at nature outside, etc. It can be helpful to look for 5 things you can see when you are in crisis because it forces your mind to slow down, while counting and using your eyes. It brings you back to the present moment mindfully.

Using touch next, find 4 things to feel. Pet your cat, put on comfy socks, sit under a weighted blanket, etc. Once again, observe how it feels by carefully examining the texture of it.

Next, listen and observe 3 sounds around you. Use your ears to notice what noises are going on. This may be listening to the television, refrigerator running, water dripping, or purposefully making noise like playing piano to make your mind focus on the sounds.

Then, try to stimulate your nose with smell. See if you can find 2 distinct aromas. Light a candle, cook food, or use aromatherapy. Again, notice the smells without judging and let the thoughts you have be still.

Lastly, use your tastebuds to find 1 thing you can taste. Make yourself a meal, buy your favorite coffee, eat your favorite dessert, etc. Notice the textures of the food/drink and how it tastes. If you want, you can even find a mindful eating exercise online.

While you are going through each sense, be aware of how your body feels and notice that your thoughts may still be exactly the same, but now you are not giving into them or pushing them away. You are allowing yourself to have them, but not perpetuate them.

By stimulating all five senses, notice the relaxing and soothing feeling they each bring. It may take some practice for this to work for you. Try using this technique before you get into a crisis moment, that way you are prepared and know what types of things work.

Another note is that if you find one smell that really grounds you, stick with that one instead of trying to find 2 smells. The point of finding a certain number of each is to help your mind stay focused on this technique, but if you find a certain smell (or touch, sight, sound, taste) that helps you, feel free to stick with that. This tool is yours; you can adapt it and flex it to fit you.

Intern Anna for Becky Henry