Feeling burnt out? You might be missing this

As we emerge from lockdown, it can be tempting to return full-throttle to the busyness of modern life, by overbooking the diary, taking on multiple obligations and spinning fast to achieve the to-do list.


The one positive gleaned from several lockdowns for many has been a forced slowing down and appreciation of the smaller things. It has allowed us to live in the moment and have more time for self-soothing and rest. Baking, nature walks and yoga were all practised infinitely more than in pre-lockdown days.

I think that the lockdowns also highlighted how self-soothing probably hadn’t been on most people’s agenda for a while. In lockdown, with expanses of time to fill and no distractions, understandably, food and alcohol (amongst other coping strategies) became soothers through the uncertainty.

Without a constant schedule and multiple balls to juggle, an uncomfortable void appeared. How to cope in the modern world without the stimulation?

Naturally, as human beings, we need to have some purpose, drive and stimulation to feel fulfilled. It can be exhilarating to experience some positive stress, encouraging us out of a comfort zone to welcome new adventures. Frankly, life would be boring without this. But, it is problematic when we drive ourselves too hard, without taking the quality time to rest and recuperate.

The challenge is to find balance and allow time to regularly recharge the human battery.

Here are some warning signs that self-soothing may be missing from your life:

  • You're feeling physically weary and life is an uphill struggle. 
  • You’ve lost the joy from activities or work that used to stimulate you. 
  • You frequently feel anxious, irritable and on edge.
  • Food, alcohol or other distractions have become your self-soothing, as there’s no time for more nourishing alternatives.
  • Everything feels like one immense ‘should’.
  • You’re rushing around constantly and there’s no time to tune in to your thoughts.

Thankfully, self-soothing is a learnable skill, that can be incorporated into your life. It is absolutely worth investing in, to boost mood, self-worth and mental well-being. 

Man experiencing burnout

How to start self-soothing

If you find yourself resisting self-soothing or considering it lazy or indulgent, take a step back and reflect on why this is the case. Obviously, our culture doesn’t help, with tiredness and busyness worn as trophies of achievement. 

But, it may also be rooted deeper in your childhood experiences. If your carers never stopped or took time to recharge, this may feel like your ‘normal’. And, as seductive as it seems, to speed constantly on the treadmill of life, your well-being will inevitably suffer.

Here are three ways to include self-soothing into your life.

1. Acknowledge that self-soothing is a helpful thing to do

Unless you allow yourself permission to soothe, you’re unlikely to commit to any longstanding changes with this. So approach self-soothing with curiosity and compassion, as you may need to learn this skill from scratch, with much trial and error in the process.

2. Use your senses to self-soothe

Self-soothing can be achieved through different ways and utilising the five senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. 

It can take many forms including sitting in your favourite chair with a soft blanket, listening to music, drinking your favourite hot beverage in the garden with your pet on a sunny day or lighting a candle with a beautiful smell. 

Unsurprisingly, one human’s ultimate soothing experience can be another human’s nightmare. You’ll need to find what works personally for you.

3. Create a self-soothe box

You could create a self-soothe box to have on hand when needed. It could incorporate your favourite scents, some objects that bring peace and harmony, a beloved book or silky hand cream. It reminds you to honour yourself and make soothing part of life, even if for only a brief moment.

Pace yourself as we emerge from lockdown and re-engage with life again. Take time to self-soothe and value this as part of boosting mental health. If you're struggling to self-soothe and recognise that you are constantly anxious and in fight/flight mode, you may want to get further help through counselling.

This article was written by Harriet Frew.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Cambridge, CB1
Written by Harriet Frew, MSc; MBACP Accred
Cambridge, CB1

Harriet Frew is a counsellor specialising in eating disorders and body image. She has worked in the NHS and private practice since 2003, and is passionate about supporting and educating others through therapy, writing and social media.
Instagram: @the_eating_disorder_therapist; Podcast - The Eating Disorder Therapist

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