Here’s the final blog in my series about how to soothe the nervous system and restore a sense of calm using our five senses.  It’s the turn of touch, a powerful tool for feeling better when stress, anxiety or overwhelm are looming.

The techniques listed in these blogs are all great ways of finding some calm.  Some are more complicated than others so use the rules of KISS to find the ones the resonate with you.  With practice, they’ll become easier to tune into when things get tricky.

Plus the added bonus is that the more you do these – or any mindful practice – the more resilient you become to the stress response being activated.

So it’s a win win situation:

  • You don’t get stressed so easily

  • When you do, the response isn’t as strong or overwhelming

  • And you’ve got a kitbag of tools (your Mindful First Aid Kit) to soothe and feel calm much quicker.

Remember to Keep Things Super Simple (KISS)

  • Find small, simple ways to soothe
  • Choose ones that resonate with you
  • And do them again and again, especially when you’re feeling strong, so you’ll be able to access them easily when there’s a wobble

Soothe Your Nervous System with the Sense of Touch

Here’s some ideas, proven to work:

Holding hands

1. The Human Touch

Touch is a powerful way in which we can help others to feel better.  And, that they can help us.  Studies have shown that the right kind of touch encourages the release of oxytocin, a neurochemical linked with relaxation, willingness to trust and general psychological stability. It is thought to help reduce the stress response and general anxiety.

Simply holding the hand of a loved one has been shown to deactivate stress-related regions of the brain.  And encouraging touches of appreciation make others feel valued and appreciated.

Of course, the key to this is the “right kind of touch”.

Touch with permission, in a way that feels safe, with someone who is trusted and accepted.

This could be with a loved one, but also someone like a massage professional.  And it’s possible to create self soothing touch routines ourselves…

2.  Self Supporting Touch

It’s possible for us to give ourselves supportive touch which will sooth the sympathetic nervous system and those feelings of stress and anxiety.

Though it might feel a little strange at first, it really does work and is super simple to do wherever you are.

Here are a few methods:

  • Hand on heart

When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of deep breaths and then gently place your hand over your heart.  Notice the warmth and gentle pressure of your hand.  See if you prefer using 1 hand or 2.  Notice the natural movement of your chest as you breathe in and out.

  • Hand on cheek
  • Stroke both of your arms
  • Give yourself a hug
  • Put one or both hands on your abdomen
Self soothe through touch
Snuggly blanket

3.  A Comfort Blanket

I love my blankets!  They’ve been with me for many years and keep me warm and snug on the sofa on chilly nights.  I’d prefer to have a blanket on me than put on a jumper (and the heating, moans Mr B!).  And I think that’s partly because they make me feel settled and secure, as well as warm.

They’re really soft to the touch, soothing and comforting.

They’re a signal to my brain and body that the work of the day is done and it’s relaxation time.

And I love them!

Although my blue fleece is super light, there is still weight in it. My purple blanket is the “big guns” brought out and doubled up with the blue one if I’m super cold.

And the weight is great for stress too.  Weighted blankets are very popular at the moment, proven to help calm a restless body, reduce feelings of anxiety and improve sleep difficulties for some.

They’re widely available now but you can also mimic the effect by cosying up under a big pile of blankets.

What are your comfort blankets?    

And that’s it for my series about using the senses to soothe your nervous system and restore a sense of calm.  You can read the previous blogs of this series at:

Soothing Stress & Anxiety with The Five Senses – Sight
Stay Calm and Stress Free with The Five Senses – Hearing
Using our Sense of Smell to Stay Calm
Simple Tips to Reduce Stress and Anxiety The Senses – Taste