Anxiety, both chronic and acute, is one of the biggest concerns I address in my practice. One of the most frequent questions I receive from clients is how to relax and self-soothe between sessions￼. I have written several articles for my blog and other sources about strategies I have developed or refined, including the #RelaxationKit, #GuidedVisualization, #MindfulnessMeditation, the #WorryHour, ￼#StreamofConsciousness, and #EarthGrounding.
Recently, I have developed a gentle technique, which is not to be used in acute situations or crisis, but can provide cumulative soothing if practiced on a regular basis.￼ What would you do if you had a fractious child? You would soothe them￼ by touch, tone of voice, reassurance, perhaps movement (rocking).
The tenderness ritual involves deliberate soothing, combining mindfulness using our senses and self compassion￼, at least once per week. I ask my clients to schedule it purposefully, not try to squeeze it in “if they have time.”￼
The olfactory bulb is one of the structures of the limbic system and a very ancient part of the brain. The legendary neuroscientist, Eric Kandel, studied the effects of scent on memory functioning. He found a very powerful connection between smells and memory. ￼The limbic system is also concerned with translating sensory data from the neo-cortex (the thinking brain) into action. When a familiar or beloved scent hits our brain,￼ it immediately activates the limbic system￼. Find a scented candle, incense ￼(you can get smokeless)￼, or home fragrance that appeals to you.
Invest in a soft blanket that you love. Wrap yourself up.
Listen to music that is soothing. Often, something that does not have lyrics is less stimulating. Personal preferences matter, but you don’t want something that’s going to make you get up and dance. That’s another form of therapy.￼
Sip your favorite tea, broth, or soup. Hot beverages soothe your throat, and any possible congestion, of course. ￼￼ But what gives the hot drink an advantage in the tenderness ritual ￼is that taste is enhanced by heat. The taste receptors that pick up sweet, bitter and umami flavors send a stronger electrical signal to the brain when food or drink is warmer.
No social media or YouTube. Instead, look through a beautiful book, look at photographs from a vacation that you treasured, scroll through nature scenes, go to a virtual art gallery, ￼even the ubiquitous baby animal pictures and videos￼￼ have been correlated with a drop in stress.
Stretch gently, massage your neck and shoulders (can use a roller for this), tense and relax your muscles￼￼.