Self-Care and Self-Soothe
The start of the semester, during mid-terms, or as you approach finals are all great times to look at how you can manage stress by using self-care and self-soothe strategies. We’ve collected 11 tips to help you hone these abilities. When you do a self-care action, you’re setting yourself up to better respond to a stressor (ex. dedicating a specific day each month to review your budget), you can think of it as somewhat proactive. When you engage in a self-soothe behavior, you’re allowing yourself the time and space to recover from a stressor (ex. drinking a cup of tea to relax after a difficult exam), you can think of it as somewhat reactive. To expand your knowledge, check out the comic, “The Unspoken Complexity of Self-Care,” by Deanna Zandt to learn more about the difference between these two concepts and how using both together can help you manage stress.
You can practice self-care anytime, anywhere, by simply taking a moment to reflect on an upcoming or current problem.
Practice self-care by setting boundaries and limitations regarding how much news-related information you consume and when.
Practicing a hobby allows you to hone self-care and self-soothe skills.
Meditating, eating nutritious foods, engaging in mindful breathing, showering, practicing intentional movement, and getting good-quality sleep can be self-care actions or self-soothe behaviors depending on when and how you use or do them.
Whether you’re riding a bike, going for a walk or simply sitting and enjoying some time outside, this is a great way to engage in some self-soothing behavior after a stressful experience.
Make time to unwind.
Intentional movement is a critical piece of any self-care plan.
Taking care of yourself can sometimes involve connecting with others to help you sort through emotions, reflect on experiences and figure out the best way to move forward.
One of the best ways to decompress when you’re feeling stressed is to share a meal with people you care about.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed, practice self-care by using the resources and services that are available to you.
When used responsibly, technology can be a great tool for working on self-care or for doing a little self-soothing.
Learn How to Apply These Tips in Your Life
Click the accordion tabs below to explore the ways in which you can incorporate one or all of these self-care and self-soothe tips into your life:
Tip 1: Take a moment to reflect on an upcoming or current problem
Find a spot where you can take a few moments to think about the problem without too many nearby distractions. First, identify critical obstacles, identify key resources and brainstorm a few potential solutions. Then, visualize scenarios in which the problem is resolved and predict how successful each of your solutions would be in achieving that outcome. Next, come up with a timeline to implement the best solution, including time to check in with one of your resources in case things don’t go as planned. Finally, take a deep breathe, and whenever you’re ready, resume the rest of your day. You can start by tying up a one or two loose ends unrelated to your problem, and then dive into executing your solution-focused plan.
Tip 2: Set boundaries and limitations for how much news you consume
- Next, be sure to balance the bad news with the good news, by checking out the @goodnews_movement. Then, commit to improving your tech wellbeing by setting aside time to regularly switch off your screens (TV, laptop and even phone!). Finally, if there’s a piece of bad news that keeps churning around in your head, do something self-soothing to help your mind switch gears: listen to music, play video games, make yourself a special snack or walk outside and see how many different types of trees you can identify.
Tip 3: Practice a hobby
When make time work on a hobby, you’re setting aside a dedicate time and place to distance yourself from stressor and do something that makes you feel good, while also developing whatever skills it takes to do your hobby. So whether you like building claymation characters, playing the harmonic, geocaching, or reading books from the BBC’s “The Big Read,” list — set aside time this week to fully immerse yourself in your hobby.
Tip 4: Self-care actions or self-soothe behaviors depend on when and how you use or do them
Make sure your schedule includes time to practice taking care of your body (self-care) and when you’re feeling overwhelmed, look at ways to take care of your body in the moment (self-soothe) to reduce your stress.
Tip 5: Enjoy some time outside
While you’re outside try one of these practices:
- a) let your mind wander allowing thoughts to drift in and out without spending too much time engaging with any particular thought,
- b) pick one of your senses: sight, hearing, smell, or touch (taste won’t be safe for this exercise) and focus your mind on everything you can experience outside through that one sense,
- c) make a game for yourself (ex. how many different animals can you see or hear),
- d) mix the outside with some art (take pictures, make charcoal rubbings, sketch something you see or record the sounds you hear to create your own personal soundscape to use for meditation or while studying) or
- e) simply appreciate the change of scenery by taking a nap (if you’re in a location in which it would be safe to do so), reading or practicing some mindful breathing.
Want to turn the great outdoors into a source of self-care? After you’ve discovered which of the practices above you enjoy the most, schedule time to get outside once a week and do one of the above practices proactively as a way to re-energize yourself.
Tip 6: Make time to unwind
Find what helps you relax (ex. singing, dancing, talking to friends or family, reading, watching a movie, cooking, exercising, etc.), then find time when you can do it. This is a great way to self-soothe after a stressful event or to practice self-care by regularly restoring your energy supply. Unwinding can last for seconds, minutes or even a few hours. Do what suits you, and if possible do it everyday, if not, aim for at least once a week. Prioritizing yourself this way helps you develop your self-care skills, and the act of unwinding — experiencing that release of tension — can be very soothing.
Tip 7: Plan for intentional movement
Physical activity has a host of benefits for you body and your mind. When we talk about intentional movement, it can be something as simple as choosing to use the stairs instead of the elevator. Physical activity is one form of intentional movement and it involves any way in which you use your body deliberately, and it can be as intense you want to make it. Mindful breathing = physical activity. Exercising is one example of more intense physical activity, but so are playing sports or engaging in outdoor recreation like rucking or kayaking.
Some people find that engaging in physical activity is one of their most effective forms of self-soothing behaviors to reduce stress. If you’re not used to getting much physical activity or even engaging in intentional movement, set a goal for yourself. Could you dedicate 5 minutes everyday to physical activity? More? Whatever the amount, come up with one activity you can do in the time you’ve allotted for yourself. Or, ask yourself what’s one way you could incorporate more movement into your day? Are you sitting a lot, lately? Could you stand up for 30 seconds once each hour?
Pick your goal and aim to meet it 2 out of 7 days next week. The following week, aim for 3 days, and work up to 4 or 5 days a week, then see if there’s a way to increase the intensity of your goal. Started with 5 minutes of physical activity? Now, shoot for 10 minutes.
Tip 8: Connect with others
Depending on the situation, you may find comfort, support and solutions by connecting with family, friends or mentors. Other times, if you have a more critical need or are feeling very overwhelmed or pervasive anxiety, it may be more appropriate to seek professional help from a counselor or other expert in behavior and mental health. Regardless of whether you’re seeking help through a personal or clinical relationship, trust and compassion are core pieces for you to look for in being able to build and maintain this type of connection. Keep in mind that no one can be all things for everyone. A counselor that works for your friend, may not be the right for for you. It’s okay to reach out to someone else to find the best fit connection for you. By having a network of people that you know you can rely on to support you through a variety of needs, you’re taking an important step in ensuring you have someone to turn to in case something feels too overwhelming to take on by yourself. Knowing when to seek help enables you to build resilience and the skills necessary to face current challenges more independently in the future.
Tip 9: Share a meal with people you care about
Order from a favorite restaurant or make a few special dishes. Have a game or other activity to engage in before, during or after the meal. Whether you’re able to get together with friends or family physical or virtually, setting aside time even just once a month to catch up and talk about life can be a great way to allow your mind to anchor in the present: appreciating the good food you’re eating, being grateful for the people you’re connecting with, and being thankful for the time you have to experience both.
Tip 10: Use the resources and services that are available to you
Below are 6 services available at no cost to University of Delaware students:
- The UD Helpline is available 24/7/365 by calling 302-831-1001. Press #1 to connect with a Sexual Offense Support (SOS) Victim Advocate or press #2 to connect with a mental health clinician.
- UD students can also make an appointment with the Counseling Center (CCSD) to meet virtually with a counselor by calling: 302-831-2141.
- Additionally, students can text “UDTEXT”, or “STEVE” for students of color, to the phone number 741741 to connect with confidential text message support.
- UD students experiencing issues related to your substance use (including if you are in recovery) or the substance use of a friend, family or roommate, can reach out to Student Wellness (SWHP) to meet virtually with a substance use counselor by calling 302-831-3457.
- Victims of sexual misconduct can schedule an appointment to meet virtually with an SOS Victim Advocate by visiting: https://sites.udel.edu/studentwellness/victim-services/
- the Dean of Students office is a great place to start if you’re not sure what resources would be best for you, reach the office by calling: 302-831-8939.
Tip 11: Use technology responsibly
You can use it to look up local resources, learn about tools, tips and strategies that work for others to manage stress, watch videos or play games to decompress, connect with people you care about, listen to music, make art, learn a new skill or hobby, catch up budget management, find extra help for academics and so much more! Just remember to use this equipment (whether its a phone, tv, laptop, video game system, the internet, etc.) with respect and care:
- set a time limit for your use
- block websites and apps that are attention-sucking black-holes if you feel too much of your time is spent using them
- set and maintain boundaries around your social media use
- take breaks to rest your eyes, reset your posture and clear your mind
- keep it organized: use folders, labels and bookmarks to avoid the stress of not being able to find something you’re looking for
- protect your privacy: be mindful of what information (if any) that you share online, use strong passwords, and avoid sketchy websites or apps
Choosing Well at UD
Click on the images or titles below to explore the "Choosing Well at UD" series which includes information about topics such as substance use, safer sex, healthy relationships, stress management, and more.