Most people have heard the term self-soothing before, but very few of them actually know how to apply it to their lives. In fact, the majority of couples we work with — especially those with communication and conflict issues — simply don’t know how to calm themselves down when their stress levels are at their max and emotions are running rampant.
Think about all the times this has happened to you. You’re in the middle of an argument with your spouse, and things are getting pretty heated. You’re both saying some pretty hurtful things when you literally lose it!
- You can’t think straight.
- Breathing is irregular and shallow.
- Palms are sweating profusely.
- Your heart is beating a mile a minute.
- You feel emotionally attacked by the person you love.
Self-soothing in these situations is a great technique to master. Not only is it good for you to learn how to control yourself and get into a more relaxed state, but self-soothing also helps you become more cooperative with your spouse as you both try to resolve whatever issues you are having.
Self-Soothing – When you’ve had about all that you can possibly take!
Thankfully, there are several easy steps that you and your partner can take to improve your ability to self-soothe.
Breathe and Count — Breathing exercises are perhaps the single most effective way to calm yourself. But what most people don’t remember to do is to include counting exercises along with the breathing piece. The act of intentional deep breathing diaphragmatically presses and relieves your Vagus nerve, which is necessary for calming the central nervous system. Adding counting to the mix keeps you mindful of what you are doing (slows the brain down) so your mind is focused and not thinking of other more stressful events.
- Sit comfortably and with good posture.
- Breathe in through the nose for a (comfortable) five count.
- Feel the breath coming into your nose and filling your lungs.
- Breathe out through your lips for a six-count or more — whatever is more comfortable.
- Repeat this sequence at least 10 times.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation — As you will see below, the key is to first tense up the muscles throughout your body and then progressively relax through this series of steps. Tensing up may sound counterproductive, but remember that muscles always release to a state of less tension than before. So, as you progressively tense up and release, you become more relaxed the longer that you do it.
- Lie on your back in a comfortable position. Allow your arms to rest at your sides with palms facing down.
- Inhale and exhale slowly and deeply.
- Clench your hands into fists and hold them tightly for 15 seconds. As you do this, relax the rest of your body.
- Visualize your fists contracting, becoming tighter and tighter.
- Let your hands relax. While relaxing them, make all your muscles soft and pliable.
- Now, tense and relax other parts of your body (shoulders, back, arms, legs, feet, etc.).
- Hold each part tensed for 15 seconds and then relax your body for 30 seconds before continuing.
Questions to help you understand the underlying nature and causes of stress
Remember that stress is a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. It’s also defined as a state resulting from stress — one of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium.
As we experience stress, it’s important to slow down and ask ourselves why we are feeling or reacting this way.
- What are my body and mind trying to tell me?
- Really dig to see what is causing me stress?
- What is behind my developing this stress?
- How was I led to developing these symptoms?
- What changes are necessary for me to recover?
- How can I live better knowing there are things I can’t change?
All we are saying here is that being able to self-soothe — even during the most trying of times — benefits you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. It also plays a bigger role in promoting good communication in marriage than you may have originally thought. When we learn to self-soothe, our hearts and minds are more open to the people we love the most. And when this happens, communication is more positive.
Our heart is devoted to caring about people and marriages!
Our heart is devoted to caring about people. We want to ensure you have the tools to communicate better in your marriage. The best way we know how to do that is by spreading the word to more people and let them know that we are here.
Did we leave anything out? If you tried the exercises above, what did you learn? Have you noticed that your communication has improved as a result? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going. mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com