4D Self-soothe

This page tells you more about the DBT ‘self-soothe’ skill for ‘crisis survival’.

‘Self-soothe’ is one of the 4 crisis survival strategies of Distress Tolerance.  Crisis survival strategies are about helping you tolerate and survive a crisis situation, they provide you with tools to help you cope with and get through a difficult experience and to manage overwhelming emotions.

Crisis survival skills are like a ‘sticking plaster’ to get you through a crisis.  They are short-term solutions.

How do I ‘self-soothe’?

This skill is about soothing yourself with each of your 5 senses.  By using your 5 senses to comfort, nurture, be gentle and regulate your mood during stressful situations.  Self-soothing is about being kind to yourself and helping you to manage your stress.

Here are some examples:

The 5 senses - Self-Soothe

Vision: Go for a walk somewhere that has nice scenery, take notice of everything around you; wear something that you feel you look good in, watch a tv programme or film that interests you.

Hearing: Listen to fun or relaxing music, listen to yourself and the people around you, go for a walk and pay attention to the sounds around you – hear the sounds of nature.

Smell: Light a nice scented candle; wear something with a nice smell –perfume, deodorant, body lotion or hand cream; go for a walk in the park or by the beach and notice smells of nature around you; bake something that smells nice.

Taste: Have a good meal, chew gum, have a soothing drink, treat yourself to something sweet or to a food you have never eaten before; eat one thing mindfully.

Touch: Hug someone or something, rest your head on a soft pillow, wrap yourself up in a soft blanket, stroke your dog, relax in a hot bath.

DBT ‘Mindfulness’ skills are the foundation ‘step’ to using your other skills effectively.  To effectively soothe yourself through your 5 senses, you must give each experience your full attention.   As you experience it in the moment, try not to get distracted by other thoughts, judgements or worries.  Don’t get stuck on or push away any part of the experience.

The ideas behind self-soothing are pretty straightforward to learn, but some people can find self-soothing difficult or uncomfortable at first.  When this happens, it can be because we’re not used to being kind and gentle to ourselves.  With practice, you will notice the benefits and you will come to enjoy those benefits.  So remember, it gets easier, you’ll come to enjoy it and you deserve it!

Remember, hard times pass.

These skills will help you to get through the moment.


My 4D Toolkit Activity

When we are feeling down, or low, angry or confused, these aren’t the times we tend to think to ourselves, “you know what would really make me feel better?” -followed by a great idea.

Often, when we’re in a low mood, our urge might be to just curl up in bed and ignore the world, or to want something that is instant and gratifying. We tend to turn to what we know, or use most often, and this quick choice is not always a healthy one.

So, for those low days, why not create your own “Self-Soothe Kit”; with something in to help satisfy each and every one of your 5 senses.

Self-soothe download button

Distress tolerance

Related Pages – Crises Survival: Distract, Improve the moment, Pros & Cons

Related Pages – Acceptance Skills:  Acceptance, Acceptance Exercises

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