Self-Soothing: A Mindful Practice for Health & Wellness by Linda Cammarata, RN, RYT Consultant, Contributing EditorOctober 3, 2013 at 11:58 am | Posted in Mind Body Medicine, Mindfulness, Pain Management, Pain Relief, Self-Regulation, Sleep Health, Stress Management, Trauma | 2 Comments
A soothing backrub was a nightly ritual for my sister and I. Those backrubs warmed us during the cold winter nights and helped us doze quietly off into a deep sleep. Thoughts of my nightly backrubs have created a sweet, soothing childhood memory for my sister and myself.
Has our increasingly busy lifestyle contributed to the lost art of self-soothing? I wonder; if we engaged in more self-soothing, would we have less anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia? Does our health and wellbeing suffer as we become more disconnected from the practice of self-soothing? Has technology displaced our deeply rooted need for touch, connection, and feeling soothed? How does the rise of using medications for stress, anxiety, and pain reflect our diminished relationship to self-soothing?
Atlanta-based physician Anne Namnoum, M.D. has written an excellent article entitled Self-Soothing vs. Self-Medicating. In her article, she explores the importance of self-soothing in the face of today’s anxiety, stress, and discomfort. She makes the distinction between the health benefits found in self-soothing and the challenges found in self-medicating. She points out that self-medicating includes numbing and avoidance, whereas self-soothing promotes acceptance and the decision to do something that will become helpful for our wellbeing in the long-term. She also shares that the hazards of self-medicating vs. self-soothing can result in addiction, obesity, emotional disorders, physical complications, plus a variety of other potential health risks.
The attitude of acceptance that Dr. Namnoum shares in her article reminds me of the mental attitudes found in the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to stay in the present moment. Mindfulness promotes a mental attitude of curiosity, gentleness, and flexibility, with a willingness to face reality on reality’s terms. There is something quite soothing about the idea of letting go and accepting each moment as it unfolds before us. We can learn to relax and cherish every moment and every breath.
Today, there is an active movement of nurses providing hands-on-therapies for their patients. Medicine is returning to the healing power found within therapeutic touch. I recall the nightly backrubs we provided to our patients when I first began my career as a nurse. Providing soothing touch was an integral aspect of our healing work. Self-soothing can relax the nervous system, reducing pain, anxiety and stress. It is an expression of our human need for connection.
· Dr. Anne Namnoum http://www.annenamnoum.com
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(with contributing editors Heather Butts, JD, MPH, MA, Larry Cammarata, Ph.D., and Ed Glauser, M.Ed., N.C.C., LPC)