Welcome to our Stillness in the Storm (SITS) blog. Each month we look forward to introducing you to one of the seven tools for coping with fear and uncertainty explored in our recently published SITS book. We aim to briefly introduce a theme and give you a selection of practices you can try out during the month ahead.
This month we are beginning at the beginning with the idea of self-soothing, one of the themes from Chapter 1. One of our most basic human needs is to feel safe. When we feel threatened, our nervous system’s ‘fight-flight’ response is triggered to mobilise us to escape or fight the danger. This survival response, although useful in times of real danger, can become part of our pattern of responding and can eventually impair our well-being. We can find ourselves imagining all kinds of frightening future scenarios and even though these things are not really happening, our bodies will be flooded with stress hormones just as if they were real.
Our nervous system has another pathway that can calm and relax us physically and mentally, restoring vital functions for physical health and helping us to stay hopeful and resourceful in times of uncertainty and challenge. This system can be activated by meditation, relaxation and learning to use our powerful imaginations in more helpful ways, making us feel safe, secure and connected. One of these ways is to create a safe, inner space within our minds that we can visit regularly, particularly when times are challenging.
In our book, we detail how to go about creating a safe, inner space, but here is a related practice introducing the idea of ‘self-soothing’. You can make use of this throughout your day, by bringing calming sensations into your life. Even if your life is restricted and you cannot get out and about, you can use your imagination for this practice.
What sensations do you find most soothing? Jot down some answers to the following:
- What sounds do you remember to be, or experience now, as most soothing? For example waves rolling onto a shore, birdsong, a piece of music.
- What are the most soothing sights for you? For example ripples fanning out on the surface of a pond, a glorious sunset.
- What are the most soothing smells and tastes for you? For example the scent of lavender, the taste of smooth chocolate.
- What are the most soothing textures for you to feel in your hand or against your skin? For example smooth velvet, a warm bath, a baby’s head.
Now explore bringing some of these sensations into your life, for example:
- Listen regularly to calming music or go for a walk to hear your favourite nature sounds.
- Put a drop of your favourite perfume or aromatherapy oil on a tissue, or wander around a rose garden and breathe in!
- Focus on the sensation of stroking the bark of a favourite tree, or walking barefoot on grass.
- Feast your eyes on a favourite picture or stroll round a market and enjoy looking at all the colours and textures.
Create some multi-sensory experiences, again for real or within your imagination, by combining some of these. For example, you could extend your love of the sound of a crackling fire on a winter’s day to watching the changing colours in the flames and sparks, feeling the warmth spreading through you, smelling the scent of logs burning and so on.
Enjoy this practice and make a note of how you feel when you have spent some time self-soothing in this way.