Many people, especially those who identify as sensitive or empathic, haven’t yet learned how to self-soothe when they’re upset, or when life gets intense.
Maybe they didn’t have the kind of parents who held them or let them know that everything would be okay. Or maybe their parents were anxious and transferred that anxiety to them. Regardless of the reason, so many sensitive children grow up carrying this anxiety through to adulthood.
To take charge of our emotions, we can begin by practicing the following self-soothing techniques, which can prevent us from feeling overwhelmed by the stress of the world or by our own internalized stress. Using these strategies from my book, The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, can help us stay calm and centered.
1. Practice Conscious Breathing
As soon as stress hits, immediately take a few deep, slow breaths. Breathing helps us expel tension so it doesn’t get lodged in our body.
2. Engage in Positive Self-Talk
Tell yourself, “This is a transient situation. I will find the best way of handing this. Everything will be okay.” Do not let negative, fear-based voices get in the way of consoling yourself with kindness.
3. Develop a Witness State
We are larger than fear. We are larger than anxiety. When we notice ourselves getting stressed or overwhelmed, we need to say, “I am not this emotion. I can center myself. I can lovingly detach from my state of overwhelm and instead witness the feelings I’m experiencing.” Realizing that we are larger than this feeling will help us relax and give us perspective.
4. Stop Taking Responsibility for Other People’s Karma
Remind yourself that everyone deserves the dignity of walking their own path. This will help you avoid feeling inappropriately responsible for what others are going through.
Picture divine white light coming though the crown of your head and darkness flowing out of the bottom of your feet. This reduces overwhelm by keeping energy flowing out of your body.
6. Use Lavender Essential Oil
Inhale lavender essential oil or put a few drops midway between your eyebrows (on your third eye) to calm yourself.
7. Place your Hand over your Heart
Just as mothers console their babies by patting their chests, we can put our hand over our heart to calm ourselves. The middle of our chest—our heart center—is the center for unconditional love. When we touch it, we activate love, which sends blissful biochemicals, called endorphins, throughout your body.
8. Practice Self-Compassion
Our thoughts make a difference. Be sweet to yourself whenever possible, and avoid beating yourself up. Remember to practice self-compassion when you’re stressed or emotionally distraught. Replacing negative, fear-based thoughts with positive, love-based ones enhances our well-being.
Being an empathic, caring person leaves us open to a wide range of feelings. When we sense love and joy, we feel grounded in our own well-being. However, picking up negative emotions can cause us to feel agitated. As part of our self-care routine, it’s important to find and use techniques that can create peace and equanimity in our lives.
(Adapted from”The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” by Judith Orloff, MD.)