Episode 114 Self-Soothing For Therapists Part 2: Solo Episode by Chris McDonald

Apr 14, 2023

How can you begin to prioritize your self-care? How can incorporating self-soothing strategies into your daily routine not only help you but your clients as well?


  • How to incorporate self-soothing strategies into your day-to-day routine 1:40
  • Techniques to become more self-aware 4:10

How To Incorporate Self-Soothing Strategies Into Your Day-To-Day Routine

  • What does self-soothing do for your mind and body?
  • The importance of regulating our emotions to better serve our clients
  • What does it mean to be “preventative” when it comes to self-soothing?”
  • Finding what works for you and recognizing your individual needs

Techniques To Become More Self-Aware

  • Identifying your triggers and how you respond to them
  • The importance of making a list of priorities and sticking to it
  • What is bottom-up processing?
  • Grounding technique walk-through
  • Self-soothing technique walk-through

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Chris McDonald: Are you struggling to prioritize your self-care? Are you feeling burned out, exhausted and overwhelmed? In today's episode, I share practical, self-soothing strategies you can incorporate into your busy day as a therapist. I hope this episode empowers you to take better care of yourself so that you can continue to provide the most effective and compassionate care for your clients.

So sit back, relax, and let's dive into the world of self-soothing for therapists. This is holistic counseling, the podcast for mental health therapists who want to deepen their knowledge of holistic modalities and build their practice with confidence. I'm your host, Chris McDonald, licensed therapist. I am so glad you're here for the journey.

Welcome to today's episode of the Holistic Counseling Podcast. I am happy you're here with me today, and I'm here to bring you another solo episode. I had such a positive response for my episode 93 on self soothing for therapists. That I wanted to bring you part two today. There is so much I can offer you with self soothing.

I know there's so much you struggle with day to day as a therapist, it can be so hard to find time for yourself as you're giving so much to other people. But you're here today, so welcome and you showed up for yourself. So let's get into this so you can bring more. Peace and calm to your day today. I'm not gonna go into too much on the definition and when to use self soothing, healthy versus unhealthy because I wanted to get to more of the hands-on things.

I know that's what you're looking for as well. So what are some ways that you can use it in your date today and also on the weekend? So this is not something. Oh, I only need self soothing during the week when I'm seeing clients. No, these are practices that you can use even on the weekend or vacation.

Just calming things you can do to sooth yourself. So what is the definition? So again, it's easing the overwhelm. It can be a way to manage your big emotions, calming yourself. Think about emotional regulation strategies for you, not just for your clients. This is not only clients that you, I'm teaching you today, so this is something for you to practice.

Your self-care is so important, um, so that you can be the best. Therapist, counselor, however you describe your role that you can be to make you more effective. And again, just for just a reminder that clients pick up on your energy. So if you are feeling stressed and dysregulated, having trouble being centered and present.

Clients are gonna pick up on that, even if you're not saying it with your words, they can also pick up body language and energy. So just, just be aware that, not that we have to be perfect, but the more we can regulate ourselves, the more it's gonna help us to be better therapists and to be able to teach them the skills that they need to learn.

So it also helps us to bring us back to equilibrium or homeostasis in our bodies, in our nervous system. But the good news is we can also be preventative. So what does that mean? So by doing these self-soothing practices on a regular basis, we are changing our brains. So you are setting your nervous system up to feel calmer.

That parasympathetic response, keeping more in line with that so that it's gonna take a lot more to throw you off balance, to throw you into either activation or shut down response of the nervous system, cuz you're gonna have that internal resourcing, which is an amazing thing to have. But again, it has to be more of a consistent practice.

It can't. Listening today and you're good. So picking up and finding those things, that's what I challenge you today to as you go through these with me, figure out what works for you, what feels good in your body. Cuz some of these might feel okay for me, but for you, they might be activating and bringing you that sympathetic responses, which is not what we're after today.

Or maybe it's just uncomfortable and just not for. And that's totally cool. So this is all about individual needs for you as well. But I think before we start, I just wanna remind you that self-awareness, so for you to do a little bit of exploration within yourself, what are your triggers? When do you need it?

And I know for me, I get overwhelmed when I have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Like today, this morning I had. Overwhelming amount of emails in my podcast email, and I already had a full lot of things going on today, so I had to stop for a moment, take some breaths. Calm myself and just pace myself.

That's, that's another affirmation I like to use with myself is pace. Cuz I have this way of always wanting to get everything done at once. Seeing the big picture, oh, I gotta do it right now. No, we need to put it on hold, right? We can't do everything. We can only focus one thing at a time. Going back to time management.

And I always have liked to get back to people on email as soon as possible, but guess what? We cannot always do that. And I have learned. To put some emails on hold and people are fine with it, right? We can wait 24, 48 hours or longer. How important is that? I'm starting to triage more and that's something, a skill for you to think about.

How can I triage so I can help with the overwhelm? What is most important that I need to get done this week? And that goes back to priorities. Or is there a deadline for something like paperwork you had to get done or something else for whatever reason? And what can be held on the back burner as an example, if somebody wants to reschedule a podcast interview, but the interview is not till the end of April and I'm recording the end of March.

I'm not gonna jump right to your email cuz it's not urgent. I'll get there. But I think just figuring out for yourself what is most urgent your appointments for today? Yes. And tomorrow, but if somebody wants to reschedule something that's two weeks away, then maybe that's not as urgent. So I hope this makes sense that looking at triage for tasks and being able to put that aside to say it's okay, I'm going.

Get to that. Hopefully that can be something for you to consider as you look at your schedule and to-do list, what do I need to focus on today? And I have to remind myself of that as well. What is most important. So I know I went off a little bit on that tangent, but I think that's important for you. Also so you don't get into more overwhelmed activation.

Okay, so moving on to some of the self soothing, and in my episode 93 I did talk about how we start with touch some more, more of the bottom up processing. For those that aren't aware, bottom up processing is using those things like breath, work, movement, yoga, even brain spotting, MDR fall into this realm of the deeper parts of the brain.

Which cannot be accessed through talk therapy or just the front part of the, the prefrontal cortex part of our brain. So that goes offline when we're activated or in shut down. So we need to kind of dig into the body somatic sensations or practices before we get to more affirmations or other thoughts, changing thoughts.

So we're gonna start with a little bit of grounding. So take your time just to get settled for a moment. Just being present. And just noticing your feet on the floor, noticing the chair supporting you, or if you're driving, just noticing the chair beneath you, connecting to your breath in the present moment, noticing your shoulders gently rolling your shoulders back, noticing your head, and just softening in your face.

Arriving into the space and it might be helpful if you are driving to pull over to get yourself more grounded for this exercise or pause it and come back to it and just being aware of your surroundings, noticing objects around you, colors, shapes, being here, being in the present moment. And if you closed your eyes with that short amount of grounding, go ahead and open those.

And gently just turn your head to the right. If you're not driving and then center, just look at your surroundings into the left. And then center. So that activates what's called the orienting response. So that's that part of the brain that can be looking, that hyper vigilance we can get with P T S D or your clients can get when we're looking for danger.

So that tells the brain that amygdala, okay, everything's cool. I'm in a safe place. So just looking around your surroundings, and that's a good thing to do after grounding or having your clients close their eyes if they're comfortable doing. All right. So first part of touch we're gonna do is a holding exercise, and we've done a few of those in the other episode with hand on belly and chest, hand on belly and back of the neck, if you remember those.

So this one, you're gonna take your right hand, put it under your left armpit. Okay. And then left arm and just wrap that around to your right shoulder. I had to think about left from, right. So, So again, right hand under armpit, left hand, wrap it around like a hug, and you can put on your shoulder or arm, it doesn't matter, and you can squeeze tight or have a very loose grip, whatever is feeling comfortable in the moment for you and what you need right now.

And your feet can just be comfortable on the floor or you can do this laying.

And if you remember the holding exercises, we just sit quietly and see what wants to come up. Is there anything like an emotion or sensation as you do this exercise?

And if there is, just notice it. With mindful awareness without judgment seeing for what it is and just be present with it.

See how this feels to hold yourself to give you a care and concern that you give so willingly to all your clients and those in your life, giving it back to yourself.

And if this feels like something you need more of, you can pause the episode and, and continue doing this for a little longer. But in the essence of time for this episode, go ahead in unwrap, take that left arm down, unwrap the right arm, and let's pause. How do you feel after that? Any, anything that's noticeable?

Just be present and know what is, what is in the moment for. And there's no judgment. If nothing came up, that's okay too. So mindfulness is all about accepting everything that is there, even if nothing came up. And we can do this without any expectation. Another thing you can do, either standing or seated and just have your feet make sure they're touching the floor.

It's going to gently rock on the right foot, heel to toe rocking sensation on the right. I just do that a few times, and you can do this standing or seated, and then going to the left foot. Stop the right, go to the left from heel to toe, or just gently rocking, just noticing sensation. What does that floor feel like beneath you?

Is it soft or rough? And then stopping the left and do both. So heel to toe, it can be a bit different to do this standing. I'm doing it seated right now. See how that feels? And then coming to stillness, groundedness, and gently pushing your feet into the floor, bringing that tension and release. , and if you're standing, you can do this exercise either standing or seated.

Put both hands on your chest being present with the sensation of your hands. With this, you can either give more pressure or a little bit less, or hover if you're not comfortable touching your body. Inhale, bring your arms out to the side. Now with your arms here, exhale and just breathe for a moment. And I want you to imagine what is it that you wanna bring into yourself?

What are you needing? It could be an emotion, it could be a positive thought. Doesn't matter what it is. So just imagine what that is, or a color or shape of something and how. Exhale. Imagine bringing it into your heart, to your soul, your entire being. Let's try that again. So inhale from chest, arms out and exhale, bringing it back into your heart, your holistic being wholesale, and try that a couple more times at your own breathing pace, which might be different than.

That intention. And once you've done that a few times, just staying present with the sensation of your hands here, allowing yourself to connect with what is

good and just try to imagine how can you bring that to yourself more. That intention or emotion, what does that look like for you?

And again, another part of self soothing is breath. Let's bring some breath work in. Go ahead and inhale through your nose and see on the exhale if you can make your mouth into a small hole. Just like you're blowing out a straw and exhale through the mouth like you're blowing out a straw.

Inhaling and exhale through the straw

and inhale and using nice lung exhales through the straw.

I keep going with that.

See how this feels in your body to slow your breath down and increase the exhale. Keep it going.

And one more time.

And letting that breath go when you're ready. And what does that bring up for you? I know for me, I feel a little bit calmer, like I released something.

And what affirmation do you wanna tell yourself today? Here's a couple for you. I trust myself. I am capable of overcoming any challenges. I am here right now, or I accept things I can't change. Just see what resonates for you and use that as your affirmation for the day. Or if you have another one, write it down and repeat often.

Moving on to the senses, and I know I talked a little bit about this in episode 93, but I'm just gonna give a few more examples of how you can use your senses for soothing. So for VIS visual, you can go to a museum, look at works of art or online, look at some beautiful pictures through Google Images. For hearing, tuning into some spa music or any music that brings you calm or sounds of the rain, whatever weather's outside, smell smelling some cinnamon or other scents.

Taste eating something from your childhood like peanut butter and jelly sandwich or macaroni and cheese. Or trying some peppermint candy to ground yourself and touch. It's taking a drive without windows down, feeling the wind on your face and hair, or just using some lotion all over your body, gently rubbing it in.

Feeling the sensation. So my challenge for you as I end this episode is how can you bring more daily self-soothing for yourself? If there's anything you liked about today's episode, maybe just try to implement that. And I also would love to hear from you and how the self-soothing is going for you. You can always email me at Chris Holistic Counseling podcast.

Dot com And to end this episode, if you have burning questions about how to integrate your modality into therapy sessions and need support doing so, join me and hundreds of other holistic therapists who are as excited about deepening their knowledge of holistic modalities as you are. Check out my group, the Holistic Counseling and Healthcare Group on Facebook.

The link for this group is in the show notes, and this is Chris McDonald sending each one of. Much light and love. Till next time, take care. Thanks for listening to the Holistic Counseling podcast. Ready to engage with other holistic counselors. Head on over to my Facebook group, the Holistic Counseling and Self-Care Group, where you'll be able to connect with other holistic counselors just like you.

You'll also gain invaluable resources on holistic practices daily, and connect with others in a fun drama-free environment. Remember to tune in next Wednesday. Another episode.

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Self-Care for the Counselor - a holistic guide for helping professionals by Christine McDonald , MS,NCC,LPCS