I Don’t Know How to Soothe Myself

by D.J. Paris on January 21, 2014

What do you do to soothe yourself when you’re having a rough day?

I stared at my therapist blankly.

By 10am I had been having a “not feeling good” kind of morning. The cold and the sludge and no sun – it was affecting my well-being. I was bummed. Plus, I hadn’t slept enough the night before. Not in a good mood.

The first thing that my therapist does in our sessions is to ask how I’m doing.

“All I want is to go home, overeat pizza until I pass out, play video games, write jokes on Twitter so people tell me I’m funny, and not be responsible.”

Okay, you want to blow off the day. How will that make you feel if you do those things?

“Um – worse.”

So, escaping is not going to make you feel better. What could you do instead?

“There are things I can do instead of blowing off the day to change my mood?”

She then asked the soothing question. I didn’t understand what “soothing” meant so I asked for examples. Being a woman she listed things like chocolate, pedicures or massages, buying an item of clothing. These I can’t relate to, but I understood the concept. She was talking about self-care. What were some small gifts I could give myself that would change my feelings?

I can’t put on music or a podcast at work and it’s too damned cold to take a walk with my dog. Other than that, I was out of ideas.

She reminded me that I didn’t have any other strategies to cope with a tough day other than powering through or completely escaping. Both are not ideal.

I needed to find ways to give myself things I enjoy when I’m feeling crummy. The problem is I have no idea what soothes me. I just know how to obliterate feelings by going off the deep end into short-term pleasure.

Since I didn’t have any suggestions on soothing she offered this idea – I start trusting that my body knows this information. To continue to stay with the discomfort until answers bubble up from the feeling. I agreed to give it a shot and went back out into the cold.

What I ended up doing was leaving work a few hours early and taking an hour long nap. That was what my body was telling me to do. Then I was interviewed for someone’s podcast and my body suggested another short nap. I obliged.

Now, I’m ready for bed and I feel better. I listened internally and did the suggested actions. I didn’t blow off the day or try to use force to change my state. I trusted there was something happening inside of me and that it would pass. It did.

I still ate pizza and tweeted a little and I’m about to play a video game. But all in small doses.

I wish someone when I was younger would have told me how “feeling your feelings” would be one of the most useful skills to life. Would have saved me God-knows-how-much in therapy.

That being said, I’m still allowing one blow off day a week. Getting high by eating four donuts at 10am is simply fun. Don’t judge me.


I can’t believe I ate just a few of you. Moderation is weird.

photo credit: Adam Kuban via photopin cc

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