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Healthy Self-Soothing and Self-Care Practices

“Self “ is not necessarily a physical part of the human body.  It represents to many of us the combination of our soul, spirit, personality, mind, identity, ego and whatever else is inside that is not physical.

Humankind has been challenged for milleniums with stress, panic, overwhelm, anxiety and tension.  In ancient times it was prompted by a lack of food, the impending death of a clan member or being stalked by a large, vicious wild hungry animal.  In our current day it can be fear of criticism, getting a bad grade, failing a class, not knowing if we can get into the college we want and afford it, losing a job,  parents are getting divorced or you are simply being followed by a cop.   In any case, the repetitive rise and fall of adrenalin causes stress and fatigue, and even the fear of anyone of these things coming to pass is enough to overwhelm us.

When we are overwhelmed, we are less effective,  making bad decisions or stalled and making no decisions at all.  This can lead to antipathy, apathy, and inertia issues, all of which can lead to feeling paralyzed.

The abundance of over the counter, prescription and illegal drugs, as the almighty “alcohol” has for centuries met our stress symptoms straight on, and have presented themselves as solutions.  They promise to relax you, calm you down, mellow you our and numb the pain.  Often times, they do, temporarily.  This is called self-medicating.   Rather than or after seeing a medical of mental health professional we learn to interpret our own issues, and prescribe for ourselves.  Alcohol may temporarily serve to calm us down.  A cigarette may help us make it through the day.  Marijuana may help sedate us and help us escape, for a while, and literally forget about our problems.  Barbiturates may seem to numb our pain, for a while put us in a euphoric state.  Uppers and methamphetamines, along with cocaine and ecstasy and seem to temporarily block our depression and make us feel elatedly happy, for a while.     Even for some, obsessive eating, self-starving, gambling, spending money, obsessive internet or gaming engagement or even self-harm can fall in the frightening practice. of self-medicating.  It is temporary and it is not real, it is a hallucination at best!

These activities fall under the heading of “self-medicating”, because in our own, feeble, biased way, we have diagnosed our problem and prescribed our very own remedy.  The common result; addiction, chemical dependency, acquisition of illegal substances, financial ruin, losing friends and family and even, in some cases,  death.

Here is an essential piece of advice, three healthy alternatives to self-medicating;

Advice- When dealing with any physical, emotional or other symptoms of medical or mental unwellness, see a doctor or mental health professions such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist, social worker.  If you don’t know any, seek referrals from teachers, guidance counselors, mentors, coaches, parents and other responsible adults.  Keep asking for help until someone gives you some resources.

Follow their medical, counseling and pharmaceutical recommendations and check in with the appropriate on regularly.  Do not change or eliminate your medications without first consulting you prescriber.  Your health professional will be your advocate and will have many suggestions for you.


When it still hurts–We all have moments of depression, insecurity, anxiety, doubt and fear.  Often, in the moment, there is no caring advocate available.  This is often when the moment presents itself to self-medicate, or become your own doctor, counselor and advisorDon’t, you are not trained to know what you need and what will make it better or worse.  There are things that you can do for yourself which will not necessarily cure you or alleviate the larger problem, but these things can help you make it through the night, the morning and the other tough moments in-between.

Self-soothing—This is the act of initiating activities which you can engage in when the problem sets in, which is often during or late at night, or when you are out and about.  Take a few minutes and put into practice on of your pre-determined and pre-practiced self-southing activities.  You can make your own list, but here is a start, and most of they do not cost anything.

Self-soothing suggestions

“Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect,

And Whistle a Happy tune, so no one will suspect,  I’m afraid.”

Rogers and Hammerstein, “The King and I”

–Drink some water or have a healthy snack


–Breath rhythmically

–Take a power-nap (short and intense)

–Read or listen to a distracting book

–Listen to music

–Journal, write prose or poetry or songs

–Strum your guitar, banjo or other instrument, play a song, write a song, sing a song

–Lay on the couch or your bed and just “be” for a period of time

–Take a walk, run or bike-ride or walk your dog

–Pet your dog or cat or?

–Make yourself looking nice and love yourself

–Call a friend and make a plan

–Get your homework or tasks or chores out of the way

–Make a gift for yourself or somebody

–Organize your things or drawers or closets

–Take a bath or shower

–Play Scrabble or Solitaire

–Clean or organize your room

–Change or refresh your bedding

–Groom yourself

–Make a healthy snack

–Dream and imagine whatever youwnt

–Make a smoothie, or as some would call it “a soothie” since it has the word soothe in it.

These are but a few coping mechanisms to work with.  Feel free to come up with your own as well!

Know that these strategies over a period of time and in the moment can:

–Reduce Stress

–Help non-clinical depression

–Mitigate anxiety

–Make you more rational

–Help make you less likely to hurt yourself and others

–Get you through the night, or whenever the tough time occurs

–Make you more functional and easier to deal with

–Keep you in good health

–Become a good habit that helps you many times during the day

Please do not cease any of the therapeutic or clinical advice you have gotten from your healthcare professionals.

“Self-Soothing”, “Self-Care” and other healthy “coping mechanisms” are usually not harmful, costly or hard to do.   Any, by the way, grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings and other trusted elders can support your self-care strategies with encouragement and love.  Don’t forget to ask for it!

Rick Concoff, M.A. c 2013

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