How I Self-Soothe My Anxiety and Stress (Hyperarousal)

I’ll be honest, this post started out as “How I deal with my anger,” but it evolved into my self-soothing techniques. If I’m being honest, one thing that tends to sneak up on me is anger. I can go from being happily disconnected from my own body to having hot lava seeping out of my skin.

I’ve read a lot of articles on the connection between PTSD and anger. My anger can sneak up on me and often feels out of my control. As a disclaimer, I’ve never physically hurt anyone or myself. As you can see, I’m saying physically. I’m sad to say that my anger tends to make my already blunt mouth even worse. This makes it especially important for me to find healthy coping mechanisms for my anger, anxiety, and stress. Equally worse is when I push my anger, anxiety, and stress down. This results in self-destructive behavior.

So why anger, anxiety, and stress? Well, after experiencing trauma survivors experience Hyperarousal. What is Hyperarousal? It’s an abnormally heightened state of anxiety that can happen at any time that someone or something reminds you of the original traumatic event. In the case of C-PTSD, the traumatic event happened over a long period of time. For me, I have no real recollection of everything I went through. For example, I know that loud noises make me go into Hyperarousal. Another personal example is that I don’t like artificial light. A few weeks ago, I was discussing this with my therapist and she made the connection of the darkness allowing me not to be “seen.” As you can imagine, this can make certain things very hard for me.

Anyways, we’re here to discuss soothing. So how do I self-soothe when I’m going into Hyperarousal?

1. Acknowledge what’s happening – This may seem silly, but it’s so important. I need to acknowledge when it’s happening, so that I can deal with it accordingly. Sometimes it takes me a bit of raging.

2. Ensure that I avoid alcohol and caffeine – Caffeine will make me a shaky mess. It’s never a good idea for me to have it, especially in the form of coffee. Personally, I try to avoid alcohol as much as possible, as I do have an addictive personality. If I do have a drink, it’s out of my home and with a limit of 2 cocktail drinks.

3. Eating healthy foods – I’ve been struggling with this one lately, but it’s so important, and I’m duly committing to getting back on track. The right foods help my body feel better. For me, it’s lots of fruits and veggies and no meat.

4. Exercise – This is another one I’ve been struggling with. I need to exercise. The best thing I’ve found for my anger is a good cardio workout. I’ve tried to do yoga, and it’s something i want to love, but I struggle with perfectionism. On the other hand, a good elliptical or treadmill always help me let it all out. I’m hoping to try kickboxing this upcoming year.

5. Sleep – Besides a good workout, the best thing I can do is take a nap. I know most people can’t sleep when angry, anxious, or stressed, but for me it’s different. Not only can I sleep, but I find it extremely helpful in regulating my system. It’s also crucial for me to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.

6. Sensory deprivation – This is my go to when I’m home. I simply turn off the lights, tv, or any other outside noises. I sit in darkness and silence. If it’s daytime, I get under my covers or use an eye mask to completely shut down out the light. I also have blackout curtains that help keep my room nice and dark. At times, I’ll book a sensory deprivation float.

7. Hot shower and lavender milk – A lot of times a nice hot shower and lavender almond milk will do the trick. Try it, if you haven’t!

8. Meditation – This one can be hard in the middle of heightened emotions, but it’s so soothing once you’re on the other side of it. My favorite app is the Insight app. I pick a guided meditation and lose myself in it. Long guided meditation work best for me.

9. Animals! – At any time that I’m stressed, I can surround myself with animals. This can be my own pets, or a trip to the shelter to walk a dog or cuddle a cat. Right now, I’m fostering kittens, so I’m usually able to find someone to cuddle.

9. Support – There are simply times where I cannot “handle” an episode alone. During those times, I reach out to my support system. This includes family, friends, and professionals.

Last but not least, my number one way to self-sooth is to write. I’ve always found it so freeing to write. It’s my favorite method of communication. It’s also how I’m able to find what’s hidden deep within. Journaling or simply writing a blog post is the most soothing thing for me.

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