Settling Down

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

In the movie “The Right Stuff,” actor Ed Harris, playing John Glenn starts humming “Battle Hymn of the Republic” during re-entry from his first orbital flight. His fellow astronauts on the ground remind everyone that this is how Glenn deals with stress and of course, he makes it back, cool as a cucumber from that fiery ordeal.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we call could just settle ourselves down even in the most challenging of situations? Guess what, we can. All we need is to do a little self-soothing, just like Astronaut Glenn.

I’ve been reading a lot about self-soothing recently and seeing ways that it is a powerful tool for mitigating stress. The notion of self-soothing, is that we have to take active physical actions in how we deal with our emotional ups and downs. It may not be enough to just take deep breaths or think positive thoughts. We may have to be assertive about actually moving our bodies in new and different ways.

Most new moms know self-soothing as a strategy to help calm their new born babies so that they can sleep more easily and be less fussy (which all sounds like a good thing for we adults as well.) Mom’s engage their infants in physical movements such as rocking, swaying, stroking a teddy bear or humming or singing a soft melody. These kinds of physical actions create an environmental calmness for the baby (and mother) which helps lower autonomic stress levels.

There are probably any number of self-soothing actions you take that you may not be aware that you engage in with yourself. As I’ve discussed this with several of my business clients, they’ve mentioned some of the items above like swaying or humming. In addition, some may rub their hands together, smile, play with an office toy, doodle on paper or bring up their favorite photo on their smart device. Self-soothing is also why people love having dogs in the office. There may not be anything more self-soothing than petting that pup for creating personal calmness.

We can’t rely on others to help regulate our emotional ups and down and self-soothing is a good additional strategy for finding that calm place that helps us return our nervous system back to a normal state.

Your Assignment this Week: Notice how you calm yourself and consider adding a self-soothing strategy to your resilience repertoire. Let me know what you come up with and how it helps your recover from a stressful situation more quickly and more effectively.

© Richard Citrin, All rights reserved, 2019


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