Updated: Feb 28
What does ‘soothing’ mean to you?
The Oxford dictionary definition of to soothe is:
"To gently calm (a person or their feelings)."
"To reduce pain or discomfort in (a part of the body)."
The Cambridge dictionary definition includes:
"To cause someone to be less upset or angry."
I tend to think of soothing as something I do to, and for, myself (but trust me, everyone around me also benefits from a calmer, happier me!). Often these soothing habits come down to the basics of activating my parasympathetic nervous system, helping to reduce feelings of stress and increase relaxation. Even in the middle of a busy day.
🔑 The key is to set aside a little time each day to practise these things when you're NOT stressed. And not wait until you ARE stressed. So if and when your stress load increases, you already know some tricks to handle it. And by a little time, I really do mean a little. Some of these take just a minute or two. I’ll aim to achieve a few of these every day, even if I don’t think I’m in the mood, because I know I will feel the benefits.
Warning! As a list-making type of person, I have to be careful not to think the goal is to tick them all off. That would just add to my stress!
Why keep them so little?
It can add to your stress trying to work out how to fit in, say, an hour long yoga class into your day. You would definitely benefit from it, but your heartrate might zoom up beforehand, as you rush to the class from work and try to find a parking space. Your mind might be frazzled afterwards when you realise you’ve still got to go the supermarket before heading home to make dinner. You might even decide to give up on it altogether. And none of that is very soothing!
Try lowering your expectations!
Incorporating small (and quick) soothing activities into your day can make a big difference.
Especially if you don’t leave it up to chance, and have a plan of how you’ll fit them into your day.
Check out James Clear’s website for info on habit stacking – attaching new habits to behaviours that you already do every day. For example, doing 3 minutes of jumping jacks, or some less sweat-inducing deep diaphragmatic breathing while you wait for the kettle to boil. I bet you never forget to make yourself a morning cuppa! So take advantage of that habit by pairing it with a soothing activity. (On that note – could it also be time to look at changing out your morning brew for something with no caffeine in it? Definitely a more soothing option for your nervous system.)
SO. Which of these simple and quick soothing solutions do you think you could add to your day?
(I thought about splitting them up into mind, body, soul sections but some are a bit of everything and I didn’t want to up my stress levels by making decisions that weren’t really necessary. So I never!)
Listening to a 5 minute guided meditation on a free app like Insight Timer (you can find tracks that are as short as one minute that are great for a reset in the middle of a hectic day).
A walk outside. Surrounded by trees and greenery if you can.
Getting 5 minutes of daylight as early in the day as you can. You can combine this with some gentle stretching, savouring your morning cuppa, or writing in your journal.
If you have a garden, spend 5 minutes out there doing some weeding or clearing up. That combines movement, nature, and a feeling of accomplishment. Nice!
5 minutes of movement. Snacksercise if you will. It’s thought that physical activity releases endorphins – hormones that tell your brain you’re not in danger. Plus it soothes stiff muscles if they’ve been stuck in one position for too long. Some people set a timer to go off every hour as a reminder to move. I find if I drink from a water bottle while I’m at the computer, the need to pee gets me up and moving!
Make your movement fun. Something you enjoy. Say, walking the dog or, even better, playing with the dog. His utter appreciation of spending time with you will help increase YOUR oxytocin (the bonding, feel-good hormone) levels.
Daily gratitude practice. It’s great if you can take a few minutes to write these in a journal or another nice option, if you eat a meal with family members, is to all say something you’re grateful for that day.
Taking 3 deep breaths, focusing on making each out breath longer than each in breath. Thanks to Jane McClurg at Blend Wellness for the reminder of why – the longer out breaths help to activate your vagus nerve, settling your nervous system.
Progressive relaxation – tensing then releasing your muscles, one body part at a time. You can do this sitting at your desk and nobody will know (as long as you’re doing it with your toes, feet and legs, and not your face)!
Use a foam roller or tennis ball to relieve muscle tension. While your hands are busy doing this it’s tricky to be checking emails etc at the same time, so focus on the sensations you’re feeling and you’ve helped clear your mind for a few minutes too.
Get cold! Cold water jolts your brain into increasing alertness and clarity. You don’t have to go for full cold water immersion, but you could try turning your shower to cold for the last 30 seconds, plunge your hand into a jug of iced water, or simply splash your face with cold water. My tip is to not think of it as ‘eeks I’m about to get cold’ but to instead focus on your breathing, again making your out breaths slightly longer.
Bring up a favourite tune on Spotify and dance!
If you can’t take your mind off something, try doing a crossword puzzle to focus your attention, as long as that’s not the kind of thing that will frustrate you more! Eight letters; feeling anxious or overwhelmed … Did you guess it was ‘stressed’?!
PS - The magnesium in our natural Epsom salt is thought to help regulate mood, boost serotonin levels, and help relieve stress and anxiety.
Epsom salt baths are also a long-used method for relaxing muscles and easing tension, and are gaining in popularity again, especially with people who work out.
If you don't have time for a bath, our Magnesium Oil sprays are such a quick and easy way to incorporate some more magnesium into your life. We'd actually call this our bonus 14th way to relax in under a few minutes. Find out more about magnesium oil.
At Salt & Oil we make magnesium-filled bath soaks and magnesium oil sprays to help you relax and feel good. And we support other NZ businesses by stocking their well-being gifts.
If you'd like to find out more, get an introductory offer ($5 off and a free soak worth $14.50), AND be in to win our monthly gift draw, sign up to our Weekly Soak email:
Best wishes for a calm and happy day,