Let’s say you have a rough interaction with someone, a disappointing outcome, or you get bad news–what do you do to help yourself feel better?

Do you have a couple of drinks? Maybe smoke a little weed? Or eat a tub of ice cream? No judgment here, but I want to invite you to think about it because many of us confuse self-numbing with self-soothing. 

In this video, you’ll learn my favorite self-soothing tips, healthy ways to support your nervous system and emotional wellbeing, plus how to create your own self-soothing and stress relief toolkit. 

Learning how to effectively self-soothe can be life-changing! 

Prefer the audio? Listen here

Self-soothing is a strategy to regulate our emotions when they have been disrupted. It can be an action or a few simple actions we take to regain homeostasis and get ourselves back into equilibrium after emotional disruptions. 

I think most of us are pretty darn good at helping to soothe the ones we love, but when it comes to ourselves, it can be hard to put into words what we’re feeling and what we need…especially in an activated or heated moment. 

That’s why getting proactive and thinking through steps you can take to self-soothe ahead of time is such a powerful way to care for yourself. Especially if you tend to reach for the Ben and Jerry’s or the Pinot Noir when you’re upset, having a tool kit to self-soothe ready to go can help to curb self-numbing behaviors. 

I realized the power of self-soothing when I started my private psychotherapy practice (wow, 25 years ago! 👀). From the beginning, I always created a soothing sensory experience in my treatment room – beautiful smelling candles, twinkle lights, and a quiet, tranquil space. I would usually end with an on-the-spot guided meditation associated with the content of what we were talking about in that session. 

I also worked with calming essential oils, so during our sessions, I would have my clients breathe in lavender or bergamot and then give them some to take home and keep with them, asking them to use the oils to calm themselves if they were feeling anxious or in a distressing situation. 

Repeatedly, the feedback I received from my clients was that this simple technique, of using the olfactory memory to tap back into the physical calm they experienced in my office, worked amazingly well. Clients were able to de-escalate and soothe themselves using a few drops of essential oil on their hands and some deep breathing for 20 seconds. 

What we know, dating all the way back to Pavlov’s discovery of classical conditioning from his experiments with dogs at the turn of the century, is that the body remembers. With some mindful training, our 5 senses can help us bring back positive experiences and emotions in difficult moments and restore us to our center.

This is the power of self-soothing, and even if this is all new to you- it is possible to learn to support yourself and take action to help regulate your emotions and nervous system, no matter what life throws at you.

Here are some of my favorite ways to self-soothe:

  • Change up Your Surroundings- In a stressful situation when something dramatic or traumatic happens, you might feel frozen. Just leaving the room to take a break or get outside, even for just a few minutes to walk around the block or get out in nature for even 5 minutes to take some deep breaths, can be soothing and help to reset your nervous system. 
  • Moving Your Body + Energy Work – If you are able, moving your body in any way can help move negative energy and emotions out. Can you put on a song and dance it out? 

One of my very favorite tools is my friend Lara Riggio’s energy work. She’s an energy medicine expert and someone who contributes to all of my courses because her work is so complimentary to mental wellness work! Inside the guide, I’ve included one of her quick, easy energy exercises to relax your body and mind. I keep it saved on my phone so I have access to it whenever I need it! 

Here’s where you can download the guide. 

  • Take a Warm Bath or Shower – One of my go-to self-soothing practices, since I was a child, is taking a warm bath. If baths aren’t your thing, a shower can do wonders to refresh and reset you. 

For me, there is something transportive about taking a bath- I make a ritual out of it, adding beautiful bath salts, lighting candles, and turning the lights down. I try to engage all my senses in a soothing way. Try it and see if you emerge calmer than when you went in!

  • Do a Short Guided Meditation- If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I have a dedicated daily meditation practice and have created many guided meditations for you. But for me, listening to my own voice when I’m trying to reset is a little weird, so I turn to one of my dearest pals and meditation teacher, Davidji. He has a beautiful soothing voice and an 8-minute meditation I use as a resource often when my nerves are feeling frayed. 
  • Simple Breathing Exercises – When we are stressed, there are physiological symptoms that breathing exercises can help relieve. Deep, measured breathing can put the break on the release of the stress hormone cortisol and slow a rapid heartbeat. 

I love using the Breathe app because it is so simple to follow. It doesn’t require me to do a lot of thinking or for me to be very present because in a moment when I am out of equilibrium, I don’t have the capacity to problem-solve. I need something that I can lean on that works and for me, this does. 

Here’s where you can get The Breathing App for iOS and Android.

  • Discover and Share Your Soothing Language– Dive into the inquiry of what soothes you. For me, silence is soothing among other things so if I need soothing and Vic has music on, I ask him to turn it off and because I have shared what soothes me with him- he understands and complies. It can be so helpful to share your soothing preferences with your loved ones, your partner, and your friends, and to ask them to share with you in return! We are all so different, and what soothes you might not soothe another. Think of it almost like the five love languages. Each of us has a unique way of feeling and receiving love, and I find it to be the same with soothing. 

Physical touch is one of my primary love languages and it absolutely soothes me when I’m upset. For my husband, Vic, whose love language is quality time, just being with him helps. If he’s upset or dysregulated, I can say something like, “Hey, do you wanna take a ride or go on an adventure and we can talk about this in the truck?” It helps almost every time. 

Have these conversations with your partner, your friends, or with those you love when you are both in a calm state, so if and when the shit hits the fan, you will know how to help soothe one another. 

But as always, start with you! Inside this week’s guide, you’ll learn how to create your own self-soothing and stress relief tool kit, so you can proactively support yourself and begin to master the art of self-soothing. 

Here’s where you can get your guide so you can set yourself up for success!

If you do create your toolkit, please share it with me here in the comments or connect with me on Instagram @terricole –  I would love to know what soothes your mind, body, and soul.

Remember to be compassionate with yourself, have a beautiful week, and as always, take care of you. 

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  1. This is great information ! I have to take a bath to unwind the day whether I am dirty or not…. every night. I use bath bombs, lavender, oh, and I MUST HAVE MUSIC. That is how I handle normal every day BS.

    If I get upset or "triggered" I will also count, use oils, do Yoga, but it depends on how bad the situation is. For example, last January while driving from Tn to FL a couple of thugs threw a huge piece of concrete through my windshield while I was going 80 mph through Chattanooga. I almost had a heart attack, I couldn't breathe, I was panicked so I did my breathing treatments but really needed a freaking bag because I was so terrified. I called the Police then my friend. I have 2 that I can call at anytime and they calm me. I stayed panicked for hours because I was stranded in a brand new car that I wasn't even familiar with yet and the police didn't help much. They argued whether it would be a Tennessee thing or a Florida thing beacause I was on the state line. That just pissed me off more ! Knowing that really nobody gave a shit at the time. I ended up having to ride with a tow truck driver and driven to a satellite location, then to a rental car company and then a hotel for 2 days because there were NO windshields available for the car because it was NEW. OMG, I'll never road trip by myself again that far because of this incident .

    My historical house burned to the ground in 2011 so I can also relate to the smell :/ thing too. Its something Ill never forget.

    Last week I visited my ex mother in law ( yep, been divorced 22 years ) in her new "Independent Living" facility in Mo.. I was expecting all of the smells that I was familiar with in taking care of my own mother for 13 years. Another smell that I will Never forget ! The last 3 years of her life she was in several different nursing homes .ALL were horrible and neglectful even though I was paying tens of thousands per month for her care.

    Grams took us in to the assisted living section and the nursing home section and I was totally blown away at the cleanliness and the fact there was NO NURSING home smell ! I love her dearly and watch over her because her son – my ex passed away in 2020 of Cancer.

    I have PTSD which was developed in my 50"s due to a LOT of drama. and trauma ! In fact, enough to write several short stories but I won't . I can get triggered very easy.. I thought I was getting better the past couple of years……until yesterday! I am in your crushing codependency course and was taking some "me time" at the community pool where I live. I chilled at the pool for a couple of hours before gathering my things so I could walk home. I passed a graduation party at the residence center. A elderly man sitting on a bench said hello and struck up a conversation. He was eating and asked me if I wanted to join him , I declined a few times and explained that I wasn't part of the party. His wife/mate/friend ? Came over and asked me to go inside and get something to eat. They were just being nice and after declining several times I finally agreed and went inside. There wasn't much left but I didn't want to hurt their feeling so I put a cupcake on a plate and some fruit. It was very crowded so I thought that I would slip away and get home. That is when the shit went down!

    A lady a decade or so younger than me called out a name which was similar to mine. I turn around and she asked me if I were invited? Who am I? Why am I eating her food ? I explained the situation and told her the man was just being nice etc. etc she asked me if I were "Hungry", "Homeless" or just some random "rude bitch" that crashed "her party" that "she paid for" etc. etc. I saw the Devil in her eyes and I was dumbfounded .I apologized several times. She kept trying to get a rise out of me and got louder and louder in front of her guests which esetiallly made her look like an ass but she wanted to entertain them. I was actually PROUD of myself for not punching her in the face. That is how the "old me" would have handled it. I took a few breaths and started walking home. She had to let out one last scream saying "Better be glad I didn't get you on the streets or this would have gone another way"……..I just gave her the evil eye and kept walking knowing that I'll probably end up in jail if I let myself loose.

    I hyperventilated in anger all the way home and then called my friend . He immediately soothed my mind by himself staying calm . By then I'm full blown balling like a 58 year old baby . He reminded me that I did not do anything wrong and explained that she must have some deep rooted shit of her own to go to such great lengths to make me feel like a horrible person.

    Anyway, that is just an example of my life the past several years. From the time my house burned until now, I seem to draw this crap to me even though I know that I am a good person and don't deserve half of what's been thrown my way. I refuse to let others dictate my feelings to such a degree that it actually made me cry! Wow, I know that this woman wasn't shedding any tears. Her Billy bad self was probably day drinking in front of the teens …..IDK

    Your suggestions to decompress are great toolsI I love your lights ! I tend to use oils, candles and turn on music, , I pray A LOT and meditate quite often when I need to.. I don't ask for much from others but I totally my tool box !

    I am friendly with everyone but my personal life is just that for good reason.

  2. THE most grounded, calming gift EVER. you were on fire in the most grounded way. and SO generous. I needed this SO much — after an 8 year analysis — this was over the top a difference of kind and not degree. SO helpful. THANK YOU Terri. i never thought about this — instantly got to lying down, closing my eyes, and rubbing my forehead. wow!

  3. I think that was an excellent podcast thanks. Quite interesting to make the distinction between dealing with stress with either self numbing techniques (eating food/smoking/addictions/alcohol – all which have a negative side effect) OR self soothing techniques to help oneself feel better. I know i go to eating high sugar teats as my go too, which isn't very good. Has anyone got any tips to help give up that? What helps?
    I think education and thinking it through is the first step so thanks for the video Terri.

    1. Hi Felicity,
      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I agree that awareness of your self-soothing techniques is the first step ❤️

  4. Hi Terri,
    I have just recently discovered you. I read your book and loved it and even though I have done years of work, therapy and have lots of wonderful tools, I love learning more and appreciate your wonderful words of wisdom. I am highly sensitive, have dealt with anxiety for years and I have found great sources, amazing people to help and support me along the way. I love this discussion on self-soothing. I usually want to go to food to numb and still do at times, but meditation. journal writing, moving my body, listening to peaceful music, massage, all help. I also appreciate that I can now continue to learn from you and connect weekly with you with your weekly messages. Thank you for all that you do to make such a huge difference in our world. Blessings and Love!

    1. Hi Gail,
      Thank you so much for sharing and for being here ❤️ I’m so happy to hear that this work has been resonating for you!

  5. So thankful for this particular writing.. I spent the last 48 hours crying caused by re-hashing my regrets, questioning my direction, etc.. so, I am eager to implement the above steps…. starting right after this message. I have subscribed for some time to you and really really need to do a workshop with you…thank you again for this timely help.

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