It’s finals week and almost spring break! If you’re feeling stressed about grades and exams, self-soothing is a great way to relax. Self-soothing is a distress tolerance skill that uses the five senses (smell, taste, touch, hearing, and vision). The goal of this skill is to find comforting activities that can ease distress through the five senses. When we’re in a distressing situation or having upsetting thoughts, it can be easy to jump into action without thinking and it can be just as difficult to calm yourself down. Using the self-soothing skill through the five senses, you can slow down, ease negative thoughts, and overall, lower your distress.

A few examples of these activities include lighting a candle (smell), eating a comforting meal or enjoying a cup of tea (taste), taking a bath or using a favorite blanket (touch), listening to music that is calming (hearing), or taking a walk outside or viewing art you like (vision).

Another self-soothing activity can be done through meditation. Through a body scan meditation, you take a break from the stress of what is going in the present and you can reconnect with where your emotions are at as you shift your awareness to your body. Click here to check out a great beginner’s body scan meditation!

When we’re able to step back from what is distressing us, we’re doing ourselves a favor. Self-soothing can be an act of kindness towards yourself and, ultimately, can help you think more clearly when your emotions are running high – which is great for de-stressing during finals week!

The STOP Skill

Crises happen all the time, whether you’re in college or not. From academic stress, to social and family stress, it can be helpful to have tools to help you manage situations and events that cause emotions to run high. Sometimes when our emotions run high, we’re tempted to act impulsively or reactively – meaning that we don’t think about the consequences of our words or actions in the moment. Sometimes we end up regretting what we’ve said or done when we act impulsively. The STOP skill can be used to help make better decisions in the moment.

  • Stop
  • Take a step back
  • Observe
  • Proceed mindfully

The first step, stop, is freezing in the moment. Instead of angrily saying something back to someone – it’s pausing. Next, take a step back, ask yourself how you want to respond. It’s important here to give yourself time to cool off or calm down. Observe is next – what is going on around you? How do you feel? Sometimes we want to assume we know everything that is going on in a situation, but that’s not usually the case. Take time to gather information so you can understand what is going on with other people involved. Lastly, proceed mindfully. Whatever the situation, there is an optimal outcome – how can you respond to the situation so that your goals are met? What do you want out of the situation? After utilizing the STOP skill, you can move forward calmly and towards a better outcome.

Like all skills, the STOP skill can be difficult to master, but practicing it can help you handle distress and difficult situations easier!