I attended a wonderful Understanding Psychological Distress course at my local Recovery College a few weeks ago. A good portion of the course was how to deal with periods of psychological crisis without self-harming or using behaviours that can become maladaptive like alcohol, drugs or overeating.
One of the things that came out of this was it is okay to comfort yourself when in crisis – there is no shame in needing to wrap yourself up in a blanket on the sofa or cuddle up in bed under a duvet. This was news to me who always felt guilty if I indulged myself like this. Somehow I always berated myself ad nauseum if I couldn’t just carry on with my day to day activities regardless. Sometimes I do – it’s a practice called “Opposite Action” to force yourself to do the opposite of what your brain is telling you to do. So if your anxiety is telling you to stay in the house alone and quiet, you make yourself go out to the shops instead. Often you will find you feel much better for doing the Opposite Action and quite pleased with yourself, and eventually that action becomes easier to do as your brain is effectively “retrained”. It’s not easy so don’t beat yourself up those times the brain wins – it’s only won the battle not the war. Sometimes, in the midst of crisis, the amygdala just seizes control and logic doesn’t work. If you are in crisis it is okay to self-soothe and concentrate on managing any unsafe impulses.
Another way to self-soothe is with comforting drinks. I sometimes binge eat when in crisis so I have some favourite drinks that I choose from depending on whether I want comfort, sweetness or chocolate! What’s more, none of them have added sugar, alcohol or caffeine so I am not taking in anything that is going to mess further with my already tipsy-turvy brain chemistry!
Here are my favourites:
Honey and Lemon (serves one)
I make this whenever anyone has a cold, but it is also quick and easy as a go to comforting drink when I need something to get me through the next few minutes.
1 tablespoon runny honey
half a lemon sliced
Literally put the honey and lemon into a mug and pour over boiling water from the kettle. Stir really really well, then leave to cool slightly before drinking.
Cocoa (serves one)
This is what I go for when I am craving the comfort of chocolate, or indeed just craving chocolate!
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 mug semi-skimmed milk
a little runny honey to taste (optional)
Mix the cocoa in a (microwave-safe if required) mug with a tablespoon of the milk. Stir well to make a smooth paste.
Then either tip the rest of the milk into the mug and microwave on high until hot. Making sure it doesn’t boil over.
Or, if like me you don’t have a microwave, tip the milk into a saucepan and gently heat up, remembering to watch it so it doesn’t boil over! Add the hot milk to your cocoa in the mug and stir well.
Hot Spiced Apple (serves one)
When I was 16 I had a weekend job as a waitress in a local vegetarian cafe. This was one of the drinks on the menu. This not only tastes lovely and warming it also has the bonus of being one of your five a day – though if you have another juice or smoothie remember you can only count one portion of juice / smoothie towards your five-a-day count.
1 mug unsweetened apple juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
To microwave, put all the ingredients in a microwave-safe mug and stir well. Pop into the microwave for 30 seconds on High until hot. Alternatively, tip all the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat up on the stove. Give it another stir before serving.
Yes it’s an oldie but a goodie. I like mine unsweetened, or rather, I actively dislike it sweetened!
1 mug semi-skimmed milk
I literally just warm a microwave-safe mug of semi-skimmed milk in the microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds, or tip the milk into a saucepan and heat on the stove for 3 minutes, being careful to watch it so it doesn’t boil over.
Herbal tea is great for self-soothing. My day to day favourites are berry and strawberry and mango, but flavours like lemon and ginger and also camomile are extra-comforting when you are in crisis.
Image by Hans Vivek via Unsplash
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