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DBT: How to Self-Soothe

A person who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), often has a hard time dealing with stress. As such, the person usually develops unhealthy habits. For instance, you might smoke, abuse drugs, drink alcohol or develop an eating disorder.

Fortunately, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) can help. Many people turn to DBT for self-soothing skills. DBT teaches you how to improve your distress tolerance using self-soothing measures. With the right self-soothing measures, you can calm your mind and feel more at east in a stressful situation.

Train Your Senses

When a stressful situation arises, it often makes you feel as though you have no control. Rather than allowing stress to control you, you must learn to manage your stress. The best way to do that is to learn coping methods that self-soothe you into a calmer state of mind. Use your five senses to do that, which includes sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch.


Start by using your eyes. When you feel stressed, look for something that is calming. Look around you and find something beautiful that is easy on the eyes. For instance, if there are flower nearby, admire them for a moment to help ease your stressed out mind.

Another idea is to surround yourself with colors that make you feel calm or happy. Keep in mind that blue and green are often calming colors. In fact, experts usually agree that blues and greens can help reduce a person’s heart rate. When you are stressed, your heart rate tends to rise, so bringing it back down with calming colors is a good idea.


When it comes to DBT for self-soothing skills, you will find that your hearing is just as important as your sight. Use your ears to help bring you back to a calmer state. If necessary, throw in some earbuds and listen to your favorite tunes.

If it is possible, go for a walk or drive until you find the soothing sounds of nature, such as water running, birds chirping, or the wind blowing. If you prefer quiet rather than noise, do your best to quiet any external noises using earplugs. Filter out sounds and allow your ears to enjoy the soothing sound of silence.


Your nose can be just as helpful as your eyes and ears, especially when it comes to using DBT for self-soothing skills. DBT focuses on all of your senses, which includes your sense of smell. Certain smells can have a calming effect on the mind and body.

If there is a particular scent you like, take it with you. Some necklaces allow you to always smell your favorite essential oils, perfumes, or colognes. Whenever you begin to feel stressed, grab for the small vial around your neck and breathe in your favorite scent until you start to feel calmer.

Another idea is to stretch your legs and take in deep breaths of fresh air. Fresh air can often help you clear your head so you can think more clearly. The clearer your mind, the better you will be at handling stressful situations.


Believe it or not, your mouth can be just as helpful as the rest of your body when it comes to self-soothing. When you are stressed and upset, you won’t consider the power your mouth has to help you. However, when you use your sense of taste properly, it can calm you.

To begin with, make sure you keep a stock of mints or gum on you. Chew the gum or suck on the mints and focus on it. The goal is to preoccupy your mind to take it off of whatever has you feeling stressed.

Another suggestion is to make sure you have a stock of herbal teas on hand at home or work. When you start to feel stressed out, warm up some tea for yourself. Choose soothing herbal remedies and mixtures to help relax you further.


Finally, as far as DBT for self-soothing skills, you will discover that your hands are just as important. Your sense of touch can significantly improve your mood. For instance, keep a bottle of lotion handy. Work the lotion onto your skin or into your hands when you feel stressed. Focus on how it feels on your skin to help soothe you.

You could also use your hands for various tasks, such as gardening. Digging in the dirt and gardening in general often have a calming effect on your mind and body. Feeling different textures can also help calm you. You could also try using your hands to massage your neck when you feel stressed, which helps relieve tension in your muscles.

If you find that despite your best efforts, you are still struggling with stress, it is best to speak to a therapist. A therapist can provide you with DBT exercises to help teach you how to self-soothe so you can better manage your reactions to stressful situations.

Monica Ramunda is a cognitive behavioral therapist with offices located in Louisville and Denver, Colorado for in-office visits. With a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and more than 16 years experience in therapy and counseling, Monica works as both a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Registered Play Therapist (RPT) with adults and children respectively. Much of Monica’s success is based on her eclectic orientation and drawing on a wide range of different approaches and techniques all while remaining strongly grounded in the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Techniques (CBT).