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Thriving through Caregiver Compassion Fatigue: Self-Soothe

In this episode, you will learn about the dialectical behavior therapy skill of self-soothing. Today we talk about how to take a really, really distressing moment. We're really struggling. We're feeling really intense emotions, whether it's anxiety, depression, stress, feeling overwhelmed and using self-soothing strategies to soothe ourselves.

So when do we learn these strategies? Ideally once we're a baby, babies get really upset and they don't understand their environment. They don't know what to do to calm themselves down. And we, as parents may not know we do the best we can, but there's no communication. The children can't understand us or speak, and we can only do the best that we can.

But over time, the baby learns how to self-soothe when they're hurt, when they're trying to get to sleep. When they're upset because mom or dad have walked out of the room. And as we get older, we find other ways to soothe ourselves and relax. But when life gets really, really distressing and really challenging, it's really helpful to go back to the basics.

So what are the basics? The basics are our senses. Vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. So what we want to do is, as we learned the last lesson, do one thing at the moment. So pick one of those senses and really throw yourself into that sense as much as you can. So for example, you can take a drive around town or a walk and focus on the beautiful trees or flowers, or if it's snowing, you can focus on the individual snowflakes. If that's not an option because it's not safe or it's too cold, you can focus on things inside your home. Is there a nice piece of art or can you create a nice piece of art that you can look at?

Can you Google search? Pretty pictures or YouTube videos of exotic locations. Can you look at a book with beautiful pictures or maybe even something that a child has drawn you? You can look at the flame on a candle. And just give yourself a few minutes to just look and don't worry about or dwell on thoughts.

Don't worry about what needs to be done or what you said or did, or what happened earlier in the day. Just focus on what you're looking at. Hearing's another great one. So I personally like to listen to my favorite songs that always get me more upbeat because a lot of times they're songs that I only listen to when I'm stressed and haven't heard in a while, you can listen to relaxing music like jazz or classical.

If you enjoy it or a favorite, no stress podcast. There are some TV shows that I love to listen to because there's nothing stressful. There is no politics, no nothing, no relationships, no anything, just no stress. You can listen to the wind blowing or the leaves wrestling. You can listen to your pet.

If you have one bark, Meow squeak, you can listen to a happy child laugh or a baby coo as long as that's not going to be distressing to you, you can listen to sounds of the ocean or rainfall or some other sort of nature sound on your phone, or even get a white noise machine. And nowadays there are a lot of apps that offer free sounds of nature or heartbeats or anything else like that, or just white noise that can be really useful and you don't have to spend any money for smell is also really nice. As long as it's not something that's going to trigger you to want to overeat or use things like drugs or alcohol or cigarettes. So you can focus on the pleasant smells like what your breakfast smells like or a dessert that you're making bread.

I know it has been big during the coronavirus. And so you can smell the bread that's being made or cooking. You can smell the flowers in your neighborhood, or if you even have a bathroom spray in your home, you can spray and smell that sometimes people have a scented candle or essential oil, like lavender, mint, or lemon, which can be really good.

And I always recommend lavender just because we know that is very, very relaxing. Taste is, this has the same caveat of making sure that it's not going to trigger you to drink something that you have difficulty with or overeat if eating is an issue for you. So you can pick a food that you love and just taste every morsel of it.

So what does it taste like? What does it feel like in your mouth? Slowly and savor that bite. You can use a delicious drink, like hot chocolate, a special wine, a delicious tea. And back when I was in grad school, I would even put lemon or lime or cucumber in my water. And I would find that really relaxing.

And I really enjoyed that. Because sometimes I just get really sick of water. And if I was having a tough day, it would really help. Touch is a very, very beneficial way to self-soothe and that doesn't necessarily mean, although touching someone else or having them touch you. A massage is always very nice, but it could be something like using a scented lotion on your hands or your feet, or even your face, running your hands over a soft blanket or a sweater, feeling your headrest on a comfortable pillow or feeling your body sink into a comfortable bed or chair. It could be feeling the water run over your body in the bath or shower or using a bath bomb or what I really love to do when I am about to get in the bath, because I haven't been to the beach in way too long if I put in an Epsom salt.

And then I put my feet on top of the Epsom salts and kind of move my feet around to feel like I'm standing in sand. And that really helps to relax me in the minute or two that I can do that if you want to. And it's not going to cause you too much distress, you can also do things like snuggle your child, your significant other, or your fur baby.

Any of those things can be really helpful. And of course they all can be helpful, but still pick one to try to do one thing in the moment and really, really focus, and that will help to improve that specific moment and bring you some joy and calm in that moment. So next episode, we will be talking about how to be mindful while with our children, especially in the day and age of coronavirus.

Thank you for listening to this course on Listenable. I hope you enjoyed it.

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Written by

Jessica Temple