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  • 4 Steps To Help Self-Soothe In Moments of Distress


    Have you ever noticed your heart rate increase or your body temperature change whenever you go through a distressing situation?

    I know I certainly have!

    It can be something as simple as anger or anxiety that causes your internal body chemistry to change. Or maybe it’s feelings of panic or sadness that seem to overcome you.

    Whatever it happens to be, with all of the ups and downs of the past year, it’s no wonder a lot of people feel as if they are struggling to find ways to navigate their moments of distress.

    The good news is that no matter what crisis or situation you are going through, there are proper tools to help you manage these emotions in order to self-soothe. 

    So, you may wonder how in the world do I regain control of these feelings of distress that have taken over my body? Before we dive into that, it’s important to understand what a crisis is and what kinds of emotions you feel in these types of situations so you can best identify when you are experiencing something like this: 

    A crisis is a stressful event or period of time that can cause an individual to experience a breakdown and/or disruption in their decision making and functioning. It can be triggered by something big or small. 

    An example of a big crisis may be a death, divorce, loss of a job or (you guessed it) a pandemic. Small crises can include things like waiting in traffic or not knowing how to organize your day. Both types of crises can cause you to feel a variety of negative emotions.

    If you find yourself in any of these situations, take a minute to explore your emotions and how they feel within your body. 

    Oftentimes, when experiencing a wave of overwhelming emotions, the ability to mindfully process what has happened and how to healthily proceed decreases. Understanding your emotions is key in establishing and implementing effective coping tools. 

    Now that we’ve identified what a crisis is, let’s introduce the recommended method to help self-soothe when you feel a surge of emotions take over your body due to a stressful situation. This recommended method is called TIPP.

    TIPP stands for Temperature, Intense exercise, Paced breathing, and Paired muscle relaxation. 

    TIPP is a method developed by renowned psychologist, Marsha M. Lineham and is designed to assist you with calming down in efforts to mindfully manage your emotions. 

    Read on to learn what the TIPP acronym means and how it can help you feel more calm in moments of distress…..

    Temperature – If your body temperature rises when you are upset or angry, try cooling yourself down with something cold.

    For example, drinking a cold drink, turning up the A/C or a fan and going outside for a few minutes in the winter cold can all be extremely helpful. 

    The ultimate goal is to quickly change your body’s temperature. The thought is you can change your body’s chemistry by cooling yourself down both physically as well as emotionally. 

    Intense Exercise– I know what you may be thinking when you see the word “Intense”! I promise it’s not as bad as the title may seem. Try ignoring that word as you reference this step as it’s totally ok if you haven’t visited the gym recently or are not physically prepared for some vigorous cardio. 

    The purpose of this step is to simply release built up energy caused by your emotions. 

    Some great examples are jumping jacks, walking around your neighborhood, weightlifting, light yoga stretches, etc as they are all excellent ways to help release energy.  Try engaging in these activities for at least 10-15 minutes and pay attention to how it makes you feel once done. 

    Paced Breathing– What’s most important with this step is to slow your breathing down!

    Try thinking of this as “if you can regain control over your breathing then you can take back control over your emotions and how they make you feel”. 

    One way to do this is by taking some deep breaths in through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds and then breathe out. Repeat this until you feel a better sense of calmness.

    If you struggle with holding or counting your breath on your own, try using guiding meditations instead. There are tons of breathing meditations on Youtube or through apps like Calm or Headspace that can help guide you through this.

    Whichever way you choose to practice paced breathing, the ultimate goal is to slow down which can help you find your center again. 

    Paired Muscle Relaxation (also called progressive muscle relaxation)- This step requires you to intentionally tense your muscles. By tightening your muscles it helps to loosen built up tension and promote relaxation. 

    One way to do this is by starting in a seated position. Mindfully recognize where you feel tension and deliberately tighten that area for about five seconds. Start with the top of your body (head) and work your way down (feet). Pay close attention to how it makes you feel as you continue through each part of your body.

    For those who enjoy a guided routine, there are a lot of paired muscle relaxation exercises that can also be found on Youtube or on meditation apps.


    So, now that we’ve broken down what TIPP is, try exploring these steps the next time you feel distressed and take note of what works best for you. The really cool thing about TIPP is that there is no order in which these activities can be used. If you wanted to start off with paced breathing and then engage in the other exercises you can. Or if you wanted to only focus on one activity like intense exercise, you can do that as well.

    Whatever you decide, I highly recommend spending time engaging in activities for each letter of the TIPP acronym in efforts to build mastery with this skill.

    Managing emotions during a crisis can be very difficult, but I hope that this information on TIPP and how it’s used will be as helpful and empowering to you as it has been for me.

    If you find yourself having troubles handling distressing situations and feel like it’s affecting not only yourself but your relationship with other people, Solid Foundations can help! Learn more at solidfoundationstherapy.com or give us a call at 630-633-8532 today!

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