Self-Soothing Practices for Turbulent Times
10 simple, self-soothing practices to promote your physical and emotional wellbeing during times of uncertainty, including rituals, movement, essential oils and a touch of silliness.
There is no denying that we’re in the midst of uncertainty. Even before any of us had even heard of Coronavirus, many of us were already struggling with our fast-paced, switched-on existence. We could see this in the levels of anxiety, overwhelm and depression all around us.
To expect ourselves to cope with the huge changes swirling around us whilst having our everyday normalities and distractions forcibly removed, it’s little wonder that we can feel like we’re floundering, drowning even.
As a tonic to all of this, I’d like to share the simple practices I often turned to when I need to feel more grounded and at peace. By no means are these magic cures but they might serve as a soothing balm at times where we could all do with a little extra support.
1. Make time for movement
Whether it’s a fully rounded yoga practice or just 10 minutes of mindful movement led by the body, making time for movement will always be beneficial. We can move in ways that are energising or calming depending on what we need in any given moment.
In moving, we are able to:
redirect blocked and/or stagnant energy in the body
balance body and mind
embody a feeling of wellbeing
For guided practices, do keep an eye on my YouTube channel, where I am hoping to release short yoga and movement videos every Thursday.
2. Set up a sacred space
A sacred space doesn’t have to be religious or grand. It is quite simply a little corner of your home that feels a little bit special, that invites you to realign with the present moment and to come back to yourself. You might use it for meditation or just a quiet place to sit where you can take a short time-out for yourself at the start or end of your day, or any time you need grounding.
My sacred spaces are dotted all around the house, in the hall, kitchen and next to my bed. They are all places I pass frequently, prompting me to pause and reconnect before moving back into my day.
You could decorate this space with an altar: a small gathering of mementos or objects that serve as a reminder of the things that sustain and nourish you. I have an altar at the head of my yoga mat, where I come to sit most mornings before anyone else is up. There are photos, flowers and other cherished objects.
Ideas for your altar:
photographs of loved ones
incense or an essential oil diffuser
3. Get some fresh air
Regardless of the weather or how tired I’m feeling beforehand, I don’t think I’ve ever regretted going out for a walk. And there are so many well-documented health benefits to getting outside and being in contact with nature including:
reducing stress levels
easing anxiety and depression
lowering blood pressure
boosting concentration and focus.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to green, open spaces, take advantage. Even if you can’t get outside (certainly trickier at the moment), open the windows and flood your space with fresh air. I promise it’ll give you a boost.
4. Tune in to a feel-good podcast
Podcasts for my have been a continual source of comfort, knowledge, joy and inspiration. And there is an utter wealth of podcasts to choose from. Whatever your interests, I guarantee you’ll find something that takes you fancy in the land of podcasts.
During challenging times, I recommend focus on podcasts that feature wellbeing, self-development and uplifting stories of human connection.
Here are a few to start with:
Feel Better Live More with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee
How To Fail with Elizabeth Day
Dolly Parton’s America with Jad Abumrad
This Conscious Life with Emine & Paul Rushton
Happy Place with Fearne Cotton
5. Lose yourself in a good book
The simple joy of curling up in bed, on the sofa or in the bath (my personal favourite) with a good book should never be underestimated. Being transported to a different realm even for a moment can work wonders when it comes to lifting our spirits.
Through the power of words we can connect with other people’s stories, we can laugh, cry, and we can be reminded of the sheer beauty of imagination.
I neglected my love of books for many years. But having rediscovered the joy of reading for reading’s sake, books have become an extravagance of mine, one which I feel all the richer for having invested in.
Here are some fiction and non-fiction reads I’ve enjoyed recently:
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Circe by Madeline Miller
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay
Becoming mindful of the breath is a simple yet powerful way to ground yourself and bring yourself back to the present. Often, the very act of stopping and noticing is enough to slow down the breath down, elongating the inhales and the exhales until they are longer, slower and fuller.
When our breathing is slow and full like this, it signals that the nervous system is in the optimal state of Rest and Digest as opposed to Fight or Flight mode, an adrenalised state that primes our body for action in the face of danger. While Fight or Flight mode is sometimes necessary, we often find ourselves habitually tuned into this state even when no danger is present, which can lead to prolonged anxiety and stress.
How to tune in to your breath:
Stop whatever you’re doing
Place one hand on your belly and the other on your heart
Close your eyes
Observe your breathing without changing or manipulating it
Become attentive and allow your curiosity to blossom.
Where do you feel your breath? In the front, back, or the sides of your chest? In your belly? How long or short are your breaths? Is the inhale longer or shorter than the exhale?
The more you tune into your unique rhythm, the sooner you’ll start to recognise how stress, anxiety and/or relaxation shows up in your breath. patterns indicate various states of being, stress, anxiety or relaxation.
7. Put the kettle on
There’s something so comforting about preparing and savouring a warm drink. Whether its a soothing cup of tea, coffee or warm golden milk, rather than going through the motions, turn this simple everyday activity into a slow, mindful exercise. It can be a magically transformative ritual, and a delightful way to begin your day.
Savour the process of making your first hot drink of the day. Witness the unfolding aroma as it brews, the way the liquid swirls in the contours of your favourite mug. Savour that first sip, enveloping yourself in the way it tastes, the way it makes you feel.
It might sound silly but awakening to these small, everyday moments really does make a difference. The more attention we pay, the more we can live our lives in a gentle, mindful way that’s inherently soothing in its nature.
8. Start a mindful morning ritual
Establishing a morning ritual is about all starting the day in the right way. It can be as simple or as elaborate as you choose. What’s important is it sets a positive, mindful tone and encourages you to be open to whatever comes up.
I like to include meditation, movement, breath work and a walk with my doggies but when I don’t have the the luxury of time, I prioritise 10 to 20 minutes of seated meditation. The benefits of meditation extend way beyond those first few moments of your day.
Here’s how to set yourself up for meditation:
1. Sit in a comfortable position on a little cushion or with your hips slightly elevated for comfort. Make sure you’re nice and warm with a blanket, jumper or pop on a pair of socks.
2. Take a couple of deep breaths, close your eyes and begin to notice the sounds around you, the weight of your body, and the feel of the air moving across your skin.
3. Give your body a quick scan and simply notice how it’s feeling. Then settle your attention on the breath and notice where you feel it most strongly, getting curious about its rise and fall.
4. Thoughts will come and go. We can’t prevent them, but we can notice them. Try to label them as thoughts rather than getting caught up in the narrative, whether they’re ’good or bad”. Then return to the anchor of the breath or the sensations dancing through the body.
Try setting a timer with the free Insight Timer app or listen to a guided meditation with a teacher like Tara Brach or Jack Kornfield.
9. Use essential oils
Essential oils are a wonderful resources to turn to in times of uncertainty. They have been a personal support for me over many years, soothing, balancing and uplifting me whenever I’ve needed it. Whether we dilute them in our bath, massage them into our skin, add them to a diffuser or simply inhale them, there are so many ways to use essential oils.
The Ayurvedic practice of Abhyanga (self-massage) is another beautiful way to use them with the added benefit of aiding detoxification, encouraging a healthy digestive system and balancing hormones.
I like to savour this practice on a weekend morning after a shower but if I don’t have a wealth of time, I focus on massaging my abdomen and kidney area with an appropriate oil for my dosha.
Here are my favourite oils for turbulent times:
Use grounding oils like vetiver, frankincense, patchouli and chamomile to promote steadiness in times of uncertainty and upheaval. Massage into the soles of your feet for an increased sense of grounding.
Turn to citrus oils when you need to lift the spirits and revitalise energy when your mood feels heavy and lethargic. Add 5-6 drops to a vaporiser to infuse your home with brightness and freshness.
Soothe over-active minds before bedtime with oils like chamomile and lavender. Applying to your pulse points as you slip beneath the sheets will help ease you into a restful sleep in no time.
My family and I have been using my Rest Well, Sleep Deep blend (blue and roman chamomile, vetiver, lavender and more) every night before bed and it’s worked wonders. Do let me know if you’d like more info.
10. Dance, sing, and be silly
This might not be soothing in the traditional sense but singing and moving to music is beneficial for body, mind and soul. It helps that it also gives everyone a good laugh!
Even if I’m normally the only person attending, I love a kitchen dance party. I get my Spotify playlist going in the kitchen and dust off my grapevine footwork, fist pumping the air and generally acting like I’m one of the dancing troops on Top of the Pops, back in the day. The disco ball hanging in my kitchen certainly helps the party mood.
I challenge anyone not to feel better after this. And if you can drag your partner, kids or pets onto the dance floor so much the better!