How to soothe yourself when all the soothing things are off limits?
March 1, 2017 3:14 PM   Subscribe

I have health problems that prohibit almost all the things people use to soothe themselves - alcohol, cigarettes, tea/coffee, chocolate, hot baths. What can I do to treat myself well/soothe myself with these restrictions?

I have heart problems that are presently under control through beta blockers, but I passed out twice yesterday getting out of the bath. Hanging out in the bath is one of my favourite ever things! But my blood pressure is too low to allow it. I usually use food to give myself something nice, but I've put 10 pounds on after moving back to the west recently and am hopefully going to lose it over lent. So the sweets/cakes etc I might reach for are also out. I am struggling to find reassuring, calming, soothing things to do for myself and have drunk enough herbal tea (which I hate) to drown a whale. I joined a gym but need a medical before I go.

Things I'm doing right now:

Watching my favourite films/tv series
Listening to the birdsong radio channel
Chatting to faraway friends on FB etc
Looking after my plants
Reading short story collections

It's not really cutting it though. It's super cold out and has been for the past 3 months, and my building don't put the heat on, so I've been hugging hot water bottles under a duvet on the couch for the duration. What do you do to make yourself feel better that don't include food/baths/etc? I'd be very grateful for any suggestions.
posted by everydayanewday to Health & Fitness (55 answers total) 76 users marked this as a favorite
Cannabis in a vaporizer. Smoking isn't really good for you.
posted by fixedgear at 3:17 PM on March 1, 2017

Sorry, just to clarify that one of my heart problems is that it's too fast - which the beta blockers are supposed to be helping. As pot can make your heart race I think I should steer clear of it probably.
posted by everydayanewday at 3:23 PM on March 1, 2017

Super gentle yoga! I love Yoga With Adriene - try this 10-minute yoga for self care. No mat needed.

Along the same lines, and something that Adriene taught me: foot rubs. Start by massaging the arch of one foot, move on to the heel, toe, and ankle, and switch. Spend a solid minute or so on each foot.

Dumb iPhone games.
posted by bananacabana at 3:28 PM on March 1, 2017 [14 favorites]

Last Christmas, a friend gifted me with a tabletop aroma humidifier. Every night as I drift off to sleep, I throw in some water and a few drops of essential oil. It has helped tremendously with my sleep patterns. One of the best things about it is that it turns itself off after a few hours. The room smells pleasant, my bedroom isn't bone dry, and I can breathe and sleep better.

It would be good as well any time of the day.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:30 PM on March 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

Ugh, I LOVE baths. This must be a challenge.

Try a "restorative yoga" class? They're very gentle and kind of like guided sleeping. Last one I went to someone was audibly snoring through half of it.

Terry Pratchett books? They're engrossing and light and humanist and funny.

Go to a live improv show or stand up show? Laughter is pretty great and getting out of the house is probably a good idea.

Podcasts? I like Two Dope Queens for comedy, 99% Invisible for kind of interesting factoids explained thoughtfully, Wooden Overcoats for funny fiction or Bronzeville for dramatic fiction.

Volunteer at a daycare center or senior center? The pace is slow. You could just read out loud to little people or old people.

Walk someone's dog or volunteer at a local animal rescue (Probably involves some kind of training process and possibly stressful weird interpersonal dynamics).

Pedicure or professional foot massage?

Acupuncture (there's something kind of meditative about just lying there while someone sticks needles in you).
posted by latkes at 3:32 PM on March 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

I have a fast heart rate and low bp and have to avoid all of those things too. It sucks. Here are some things I do: Eden's Garden sells essential oils really cheaply. I like to sniff them and diffuse them and make nice smelling things out of them. Light candles that smell like chocolate and coffee and foods you're not supposed to eat. Using fancy body lotion could take the place of your bath ritual. I also like plants and have just gotten a moss terrarium DIY kit that was fun to put together.
posted by ilovewinter at 3:32 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just impulse purchased a small, purple stuffed Easter bunny at the drugstore. I'm 48 years old but holding that little bunny and petting it made me feel good, so I ran with it. It's very cute and soft! I have it here at work in a drawer so I can look at it and smile.

Crafts/creative pursuits are my main source of soothing - knitting and Japanese sashiko, which is straight stitches on pre-printed lines.

I like to read silly cozy mysteries and books about paranormal FBI agents that don't challenge but do entertain.

Pedicure and paint my toenails.

Listen to podcasts while puttering around the house doing small housework projects.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:34 PM on March 1, 2017 [20 favorites]

What herbal teas have you tried? Rooibus is very good as is vanilla bush. They both feel very much like tea but no caffeine. Mint is refreshing. I also like country peach.

How are scents for you? Candles or an oil diffuse with lavender or something can be very soothing and similar to bubble bath smells.

Can you do a face mask or cream or something like a spa day? I also tend to feel better when I play around with makeup if you're a makeup wearing person.

What about audiobooks? More relaxing that reading can be. Same with podcasts.

Also I'd suggest coloring books, watercolors, and crochet or embroidery. Fun, task oriented, and simple.

I'm stuck at home with POTS so I get it. Message me if you're bored. I'm also active on Instagram which I find very useful.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:34 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Heated blankets are great
Listening to Brazilian jazz
Using an electric toothbrush
Cooking (doesn't have to be sweets)
Playing light computer games
Taking a walk
Having a picnic
Drawing, painting, sculpture
Crossing a nagging chore off the to do list
Knitting or crochet

I don't have a bathtub but I do have a Bluetooth shower speaker which I use a lot and helps to relax me in shower.
posted by girlmightlive at 3:35 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Do you have access to a friendly animal that you could pet? I'm partial to dogs but anything soft should do the trick. Petting animals is very soothing!
posted by schroedingersgirl at 3:35 PM on March 1, 2017 [11 favorites]

Candy crush and comfort reading old favorite young adult fiction.
(Edited to remove caffeine-y suggestion, sorry)
posted by procrastinator_general at 3:37 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have elaborate visualizations that help me - I usually design a house or a habitable island or a ship (upon which I travel to Antarctica). The rule of the game is that if I live in the house, nothing bad can happen and no one will bother me - I won't get sick, world affairs will not touch me, etc. I find that when I'm trying to nap or relax, planning the house helps a lot. Sometimes I also visualize flying (some of the houses are flying houses).

How do you feel about vegetable snacks? I make myself, sometimes, a luxury plate of fancy vegetables (for me, grape tomatoes and sliced bell peppers) plus an appropriate amount of fancy cheese plus some fancy whole grain flatbread or crackers and maybe a fancy fruit. It makes a festive and large plate but because it's mostly fruit and vegetables, it's okay. Also, I often saute fancy mushrooms from the Asian market.

Also, what about hard candy? If you're able to keep it around without eating it all, it's a nice treat that is low in calories. I like strongly flavored ones - I have some extremely berry flavored old fashioned ones from Aldi's holiday selection that I got in November and will probably last through the end of April. I can't keep cookies or cakes around or I eat them, but strongly flavored hard candy (Vermont Country store has various licorice, clove, fruit etc kinds) that takes a while to eat works for me. I have a couple of pieces most evenings. These are similar to what I got from Aldi, and I might pick up an order for when mine run out.
posted by Frowner at 3:38 PM on March 1, 2017 [13 favorites]

One of my critical daily "downshift from a challenging project with some difficult personalities" routines is sitting down at a computer away from my work computer (mine's actually on the back patio, along with the TV, so I can birdwatch and just enjoy our generally good weather) and picking stuff from my YouTube subscriptions to my Watch Later list so I can watch them on the TV.

Cooking shows are my mainstay, but I also rabbithole a topic for 3-4 months at a time and pick stuff from there (right now it's fishkeeping and aquascaping, and the many documentaries of Lucy Worsley usually about some historical aspect of British life). I just chill out and watch stuff for about an hour, catch up on my water-drinking which I forget to do in the afternoons, and then I'll go take care of making dinner or whatever I'm going to do next.

I also do a similar visualization to frowner's "build a house" exercise, except mine (usually at bedtime) is specifically building a bed, the greatest bed, the bed that addresses my every pickiest sleeping preference.

Knitting, crocheting, cross-stitch (bonus that there's lots of irreverent/funny patterns out there), embroidery etc are fairly attention-consuming and keep your hands busy so you can't snack.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:42 PM on March 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, what about graphic novels? A Redtail's Dream, which you can read online and which I found out about on metafilter, is long, rich and extremely immersive, and while there are some slightly scary bits, everything resolves just fine in the end. It is one of my go-tos when I'm feeling bad.

Castle Waiting is also immensely soothing to me, although not available online.
posted by Frowner at 3:43 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh, I knew I was forgetting something. I like relatively easy crosswords that come in books. I flip around all the pages and fill in all the clues I can solve in various puzzles. It's a way to get that rewarding feeling without getting frustrated over how crosswords always have stupid sports clues I couldn't possibly know.
posted by Squeak Attack at 3:51 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Sensory experiences! Close your eyes, try out textures – soft pillowy down, feathery ferns, hard gritty leather. I have one of those paper lantern globes, the wire ridges are fantastic to trace your fingers on. Brand new clean dusters! Small fiddly bits! A ring you can spin on your pinkie! *sighs*
posted by fritillary at 3:52 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Definitely knitting, crochet, and cross-stitching are on my list for soothing crafts. Subversive Cross-Stitch's deluxe kits are great for beginners. If you aren't crafty at all, you could do something very basic like fleece blankets.
posted by radioamy at 3:52 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

meditation apps or podcasts? i have a similar problem to yours, and i bounce from one thing to another to another to entertain/amuse myself as my health/attention span/abilities shift.

game apps or online games (stuff like words with friends, 1010, 2048, flow...stuff that's not so overstimulating if that's a prob for you--it is for me)

there's all sorts of podcasts that can be entertaining/interesting/etc. if you like short stories but don't feel like reading, the new yorker has a podcast of authors reading their favorite short stories, then talking about them.

there's a roasted carob powder that's not equivalent, but a comforting approximation to chocolate. Chatfields Carob Powder is the one i've had, it doesn't dissolve well, but mixed in milk (or whatever) with a sweetener (heated up or not) it's good. the first time i tried it i was kind of shocked to have something that tasted chocolatey and didn't make my heart feel thumpy/weird.

if you end up ok'ed for a yoga class, mention to the yoga instructor that you might need alternatives for certain poses (maybe bending over like triangle pose, idk). my experience with yoga was that the teacher was very understanding and accomodating about adapting poses or giving me alternate poses that would be okay for me.

someone said upthread when i was typing all this, but yesssss, crafts. knitting, crochet, whatever. they get completely addictive, and they have a wonderful soothing quality to them when you're in the groove. and if you get into it, ravelry is an addictive social website for talking to fellow addicts!

learning to draw could be another new-hobby kind of option. i loved the book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
posted by JBD at 3:56 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, also, if you're never delved into ASMR videos on YouTube, you should check them out (with headphones). If you are ASMR sensitive, they're very relaxing! I'm feeling soothed right now just listening to the video I linked to while I type this.

There are different types, including whisper, scratching/tapping, haul, massage, hairplay, back-tickling, role play
posted by radioamy at 4:02 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Sorry for the multiple posts. I forgot to add that for some reason I find giving myself a manicure or pedicure very soothing. I don't even usually bother to paint them. But I hate when my nails are annoyingly long and my cuticles are ragged, and it's so nice to make them look clean and nice and moisturized. Plus you could soak your feet or hands in warm water to start, which would replicate the bath feeling without the issues of a full soak.
posted by radioamy at 4:05 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

My weird pick-me-up is foreign seltzers/sodas (which are frequently no-calorie) and weird mineral waters in fancy, alluring bottles. Sometimes they taste bad, but part of the treat is NOT CARING if it goes badly. It's just a soda! It's like, $2! Come to mama, unusual flavors and bubbles!
posted by Charity Garfein at 4:05 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Is it just baths that are a no-go? Can you do a hot shower instead? Not the same i know, but a hot shower with a good podcast/audiobook on my waterproof bluetooth speaker is a decent-enough substitute for me most of the time.

Walks in nature (with the aforementioned podcasts/audiobooks) are also awesome when the weather allows it.
posted by cgg at 4:17 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Since you mention hanging out under a duvet, maybe you can up your blanket game. This past Christmas I gifted someone a faux-fur blanket from Brookstone that was the softest, minkiest, plushest thing imaginable, tremendously soothing to pet. Unfortunately I can't find that exact model on their website, but there are a ton of similar things out there, and it's probably more fun to shop for them in person if that's an option for you. You could probably find an electrically heated one that would give you some of that soothing hot-bath feel without the problematic intensity. Or you could go crazy layering electric blankets, plush blankets, and weighted blankets until your nest is just right.

I am also a big fan of young-adult fiction and "kid's shows" (current favorite: Steven Universe), which tend to be both somewhat more cosmically reassuring than adult-oriented media and available in easy bite-sized doses. Curling up on the couch with a stuffed animal to watch cartoons is an all-ages activity!
posted by cortisol at 4:19 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

One of my favourite soothing rituals is to moisturise my hands and cuticles. I was inspired by this blog post that recommends rubbing your substance of choice into each fingernail for at least 20 seconds. I try to do this meditatively and slow my breathing as I do it. It feels really nice and I feel nourished by it.

This will probably make me sound a bit cracked, but I have a plush cat (a Pusheen) and I sometimes sit with her on my lap while I'm watching TV and imagine she is a real cat. Occasionally with actual stroking. Not as good as a real cat, but then who even knows if a real cat would stick around for this kind of treatment!
posted by Cheese Monster at 4:21 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

pedicures. fancy makeup. body oil spray. massage. your favorite music. a deep conditioning hair treatment.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:34 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Playing a PC game in the simulation genre can be relaxing and gently stimulating enough to soothe and distract. Something like Euro Truck Simulator 2 or Kerbal Space Program or Planet Coaster. Perhaps a coffeebreak roguelike.

It may also be enjoyable to look up music you like and see what others who like it too also enjoy. You could use Rate Your Music for this. Pandora and Spotify could work too.

If you live near a local park and are safely able to, taking a walk among the grass and trees could also be quite nice. You can bundle up and plan a little walking route, and the walk might warm you up. For added fun, you can load a backpack with something a touch heavy, like books or water jugs, and do some low intensity rucking.

Lastly, you could do some self-massage via trigger point therapy or another similar modality. With a lacrosse ball, foam roller, or even a jury-rigged household object that has a rounded edge, you can directly massage your forearms/hands/legs/hips, or use a wall or the floor to assist with massaging your back or glutes.

Hope you feel better soon!
posted by Iron Carbide at 4:41 PM on March 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

How about painting? There are lots of group studios popping up everywhere (sip and paint, sipping optional), but you can always just go to a craft store, get some canvas and paints... and paint! I feel like I have little to no artistic talent, but even making brush strokes and mixing colors is very soothing. You don't have to paint anything specific, just let the strokes on a canvas feel nice on their own.
posted by raztaj at 4:43 PM on March 1, 2017

Nothing comes close to a professional deep tissue massage for me. It's a little strange that I have zero interest in getting one when I'm not in need of soothing, finding the idea a little icky in fact, but when I need one, it's like finding water in the desert.
posted by alusru at 4:54 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get a giant, fluffy bathrobe. Wearing the bathrobe and hanging out under a blanket while sipping cool flavored water and reading something beautiful (Robert Frost poetry for me) or light and entertaining feels like a tremendous treat.

For a quicker fix, get some fancy hand lotion and give yourself a quick hand massage.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:03 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

When you're getting ready to wrap yourself in the cozy blanket or bathrobe, take a few minutes and put it in the clothes dryer to warm it up. If it's a blanket, wrap it around you tightly, like swaddling for babies. That is a substitute for a bath I've used with hospice patients who want a bath but can't have one for whatever reason.
posted by janey47 at 5:16 PM on March 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I struggle with this too. Lately I've been trying to make my house as hygge as possible, since it's still snowing here with no signs of letting up. For me that means loading up on fancy-looking but inexpensive candles at TJ Maxx, lighting all of them at once, wrapping up in a faux fur throw, and just generally cozying up with a book. I've been finding Anne Lamott's books especially soothing lately.

I also have gotten back into adult coloring lately; I have a beautiful coloring book but found it stressful/annoying with colored pencils. I have some Tombow Dual Brush Pen Markers that I use for my bullet journal (also SO soothing, use pencil first if you're a perfectionist) and I was trying very hard to not look at the internet in the wake of the election, so I just used those on my coloring book. Let me tell you, it is so much more enjoyable to use markers when coloring!

Podcasts/music and puttering or decluttering is another good one for me, maybe for you too if it's not too stressful with your heart rate. My go-to is This American Life but there's been lots of questions here about finding good podcasts. I also like to listen to podcasts and do jigsaw puzzles if you have the space for that; I have a few from favorite artists that I'm working my way through.
posted by stellaluna at 5:32 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh God, when I was on beta blockers for heart rate stuff, they helped until the pushed my blood pressure too low, at which point my heart went crazy fast trying to compensate for the low bp. It was...maddening. As were the physical limitations.

Seconding meditation and essential oils etc. also pets. Massage, including self massage with a tennis ball or a foam roller (though go slow and maybe wear your monitor thing).

Basically anything that got my awareness into my body without focusing on the ways it wasn't working as it should, if that makes sense.

I also really like elaborate fantasy stuff -- drawing, map making, writing. It's good to go to another world sometimes.
posted by schadenfrau at 5:49 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do you have a heating pad? A good heating pad in bed with a book and a nice drink of some kind (if I were you, it'd be decaf tea) captures several of the bath elements without the water or the wooziness.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:22 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think this is why adult coloring books were invented: to have something soothing to do that is relaxing and has no side effects. But really, any art or craft project. My sister just took up crochet and has gotten really good at it really quickly. I like to make collages out of weird found items. They're not always pretty, but the process of making them is fun for me. Other people like painting or playing musical instruments or scrapbooking or sculpting or whatever. Go to your local art/variety store and see if anything there moves you.
posted by decathecting at 6:23 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, can you get a space heater, even just a small one for the little area of your home where you spend your time during the day? Having that warmth may make you feel better.
posted by decathecting at 6:24 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I had the same thing, right down to the beta blockers. (I still took baths, because I'm stubborn.)

To chill: binge-watching YouTube videos and Netflix, reading books, finding new authors to read via my local library's iOS app (lots of Agatha Christie and Rex Stout), listening to music via headphones and visualizing scenes in my head, playing various iOS/PC games - I'm a long-time World of Warcraft player, so the familiarity of it soothed me, but games like Bejeweled or Candy Crush were also really helpful for being engrossing and time-sucking but not anything that required a lot of concentration, since I was out of my mind on the cardiac medication and couldn't knit or cross-stitch. Monument Valley was also nice for this, as was the Room series.
posted by Nyx at 6:27 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Looking at fire. This might mean lighting candles, a fireplace if you have one, a public space with a fireplace (there is a hotel near my house with a fireplace in the lobby and I have sat in lobbies of hotels I wasn't staying at just for a place to chill), or even just a YouTube video of a fireplace playing on the TV.

Watching animals. This might mean getting a birdfeeder (even if you end up watching squirrels) or a low-maintenance fishtank, or adorable pet videos on YouTube. I am not a big pet person so I don't really want to get an animal or volunteer at a shelter, but watching them is very soothing to me.

Being near the water. I don't know just how restrictive your exercise limitations are or what the weather is like where you are, but even at this time of year, sitting at a park near a river or lake is very calming to me. Even if I'm just sitting in the car.

A foot bath. I get a big basin of warm water, put a towel down on the floor under it, and sit in a comfortable chair to soak my feet. No idea if that would appeal to anyone else, but I enjoy it.

Seconding everyone who finds foot massages soothing. I also enjoy having someone wash my hair, which they'll do at a salon for a relatively small fee, or at a beauty school for a VERY small fee.
posted by gideonfrog at 6:43 PM on March 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

I would be scouring the Sharper Image catalog for the most ridiculous foot bath/massager possible. In fact... yeah, I think I need to do that.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:51 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

A variation of one of Frowner's suggestions: in addition to nice vegetables, both fresh and pickled, I find that a key accompaniment to that sort of snack is razor-thin slices of fancy cheeses and charcuterie.

You want it so thin that just placing it on your tongue warms it up to body temperature, a point at which it's much more flavorful. I keep a variety laid out on a cutting board with a knife, covered and in the refrigerator, so I can whisk it out and have a snack several times a day. As long as most of what you're eating is vegetables by weight, primarily fresh vegetables, you should only have a positive impact on your diet and nutrition.

One pickled vegetable I find I really like is pickled okra, which Walmarts near me carry.
posted by XMLicious at 6:56 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Drink hot water with honey and lemon
Snuggle with a heated blanket
Listen to soothing music
Eat delicious fruit like pomegranates and cherries - I prefer them at room temp in the winter
Wear very warm soft clothes - a silk top will feel warmer and softer than you expect, and never too hot
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:13 PM on March 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

TV shows which are lighthearted or upbeat eg comedies, Supergirl, The Flash.

Computer games which are lighthearted or upbeat, eg Stardew Valley.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 7:14 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I like the whole "listening to pleasant music while lying on the floor" (or couch or whatever works). There are a bunch of silly light things that are cheap (I can't vouch for them, but well, cheap) that may provide some atmosphere.

I don't have a pet (I can't right now) but I do have stuffed toys around that I cuddle. It's not the same but they do provide some soft comfort.

Sometimes instead of watching a movie on my main TV, I'll get in bed, get cozy and prop up my tablet and watch a favorite movie in bed (I try to avoid screens in my bedroom, but this works for me).

If you're afraid of the fire hazard of scented candles, reed diffusers are a good alternative for some pleasant smelling things (provided you're not allergic).
posted by darksong at 8:05 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Some small pleasures that have worked for me:

-Investing in some serious lounging clothes: a long old-fashioned flannel nightgown, silk long underwear that doesn't constrict, real shearling slippers, 100% cotton terrycloth robe

-Investing in glorious body lotions and oils

-Exfoliating with the dry-brushing method (natural bristle body brush, circular motions, start with feet and move toward heart. Bonus: you won't have to spend a ton of time in shower)

-Paint by number kits. So tacky yet so engrossing. I'll just do all the black, you'll say, and three hours later you're almost done and you think your cheesy wolf in the forest is the most beautiful art ever created

-The company of a purring cat

-Cooking. Making a healthy soup I can eat all week, picking a recipe from a magazine, working my way through parts of a cookbook

-Borrowing a shredder and organizing all my documents

-Picking a subject I never learned much about, finding out what texts are on the syllabi for intro college courses, ordering the books, and educating myself as best I can
posted by kapers at 8:41 PM on March 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

While a self-administered foot massage isn't as awesome as one involving a third party, it can still be glorious, especially if you choose a scented lotion you enjoy.
posted by praemunire at 8:51 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get a heated blanket, flannel sheets and flannel pjs, watch terrible but fun movies and get some really cheesy magazines.

Also consider things that are not "relaxing" per se, but are self care - like a manicure, facial etc.
posted by Toddles at 9:38 PM on March 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Do you have a local yarn store near you? Not a big box store like Michael's, but a little one? If so, you could go down there and ask if they offer beginning knitting classes. That way you could learn to knit and also have a bit of company while you do it, which can be just a soothing as the knitting itself.
posted by colfax at 12:58 AM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Nthing some kind of artsy craftsy type thing.

I have several anxiety and mood disorders. When things got really overwhelming in November, I made an appointment to see my therapist. (I'm primarily on medication management, and only see her as needed.) She strongly recommended that I take up some creative pursuit with a physical output as a means to calm back down.

I currently have multiple projects in the works, and have completed a big one involving adult coloring book pages with outline letters printed on them. In the works: English Paper Piecing several quilt projects - including a lap blanket for me, a decorative pillow for my daughter, and a laptop bag for my son, weaving baskets with reeds made of rolled up newspaper strips, cross stitch, various types of paper flowers - including tissue paper, crepe paper, and the pages of old books, and am planning to also learn to knit and crochet.

Right now, the most calming of the bunch is the quilting. I use "happy hexies" - hexagons with smiley faces - so that "someone" is always smiling at me. My mother taught me how to sew them in about 10 minutes over Thanksgiving weekend, but here's a great tutorial.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 1:55 AM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

i got a beautiful smooth stone for just this purpose. I keep it around to admire (and remind myself that I love myself). Lightly moving its silky surface over my lips is very soothing (like a baby's ,s blanket).
posted by Jesse the K at 6:11 AM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Get a really, really nice blanket. Maybe even a weighted one; I find those very soothing. Something that feels like clouds or chinchillas or angel wings or whatever, that you just want to curl up in forever. Make it king size so you can wrap it around yourself several times. Hunker down on couch with previously suggested TV shows/podcasts/etc. and veg.

Maybe a really nice soft pillow too.
posted by chainsofreedom at 6:29 AM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have a lot of what I call "comfort blanket" movies. After a long, crazy day, I curl up on the sofa with a blanket and a heating pad if it's cold, in my softest, fuzziest pajamas, and watch one of them.

My current comfort blanket movies are things like older Disney musicals, teen comedies I liked when I was younger, and some older films, like the Nick and Nora series or Katherine Hepburn's works. I always feel good watching them, and I feel all cozy and relaxed in my softest, most comfortable clothes.
posted by PearlRose at 9:40 AM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Listening to music is a standard mood alterrant. Your heart rate will get closer to that of the music and the mood of the music will affect you.

Even better than listening to music is singing. Singing requires breath control and breath control helps you regulate your heart beat. The type of music to start with is generally either lullabies or mournful love songs. Avoid the angry broken heart type of love songs. "Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall" is an example of what I mean. Singing works best if you do it while standing as it gives you more room to breath. It also works well if you move, such as walking dreamily around your apartment or swaying and washing dishes while singing.

Making up your own lyrics means that you can use the words to help sooth you. Just like if you were singing to a pre-verbal kid you don't need to actually make up anything performance worthy. All it needs is to scan so you can stay in rhythm. For example you could take the tune to "All the Pretty Little Horses" and sing something suitable to your own situation like, "I can climb. I can smile. I am feeling so much better" and then just repeat it, no need to invent a second line. You can sing the lines from your song of choice that are comforting and mix them with your own words, "I can climb. I can smile. Everybody loves the baby. I can climb I can sing, Who the heck is at the door now...?" and then go answer the door and see who it is.

Many people find a book of daily devotions helpful. If you are religious prayer is very effective. However both those tools work equally well for people who are humanist atheists. Books of daily meditations are available that do not assume you believe in God, as are books of daily reflections to increase your gratitude. This works best if you do it daily at a certain time and make a ritual out of it. For example, you could open your curtain to let in the morning sun every day, read your passage and then stand at the window, eyes closed listening to the birds outside.

Making a daily gratitude post, or positive thought journal as a ritual is another thing that comforts. So is sending your niece a daily picture of a kitty. There are a lot if lonely people out there who would be willing to stand in for your niece if you don't have one.

Many of the behaviours that are self-soothing are frowned upon and you may have been taught not to do them while in kindergarten or pre-school. For example rubbing things on your mouth and nose, and sucking something can lower cortisol levels rapidly, but for most people the only choices available to do this are either smoking cigarettes or kissing their romantic partner.

Your own body odor is soothing to you because it indicates that the space is yours and therefore safe, but sniffing your own body odor is considered horrid, and the little kid who holds their own underpants up to their cheek after taking them off is likely to have the garment snatched away with cries of "Dirty!" Chances are you have been too socialized to be able to do some variant on this, but you could seek out the scents that were comforting during your childhood - the floor wax from your grandmother's house, real spruce boughs that smell like Christmas, cinnamon buns (no sugar, whole grain) - whatever you remember as a smell from your childhood - even chalk from a chalkboard if it reminds you of elementary school and if that was a safe and comforting place for you.

You may be able to figure out what time of day there is sun in your apartment and schedule yourself to spend time in it. If the sun is too bright you can sit in the sun with your eyes closed. I am assuming you get a decent amount of sun if you can grow plants.

Making a collection of pictures you like, sorted by themes can be a good way to use the internet to comfort you. Just search for images of a random thing you find interesting and save them in a folder or on pinterest. An example might be one folder of castles, one folder of Ireland, one folder of Celtic crosses, one folder of pre-Christian Irish jewelry and stone work.. etc.

Depending on how your memory works and your experiences in the past, going on a Nostalgia trip can be soothing. Pick a year in your past - say 1981. Where were you then? What were you doing? How old were you? And think of the food you ate, the music you heard on the radio, the clothes, the place you lived etc. Don't just think of them. Look for your house and school on Google Streetview and walk your old neighbourhood; Buy Alphabits and whole milk if that was what you might have eaten for breakfast, and make an iceberg lettuce salad if that was what you might have had for lunch. Figure out what type of clothes someone of the age you are now would have worn then - as likely you would not want to dress the way you did when younger at your age now, and put together an outfit that would have passed for unobtrusive then out of the clothes you have now.

Low blood pressure can make you very susceptible to cold, so look into little things that could help keep you warmer, like wristlets knitted out of the kind of yarn that feels cozy against your skin. If you are not already doing so, try wearing something on your head. It may make a big difference to just go around in a hoodie with the hood up. In my household we keep fingerless gloves for times when it is bitterly cold indoors, as they make typing and turning pages and such things much easier. Consider more than just a hot water bottle - pocket warmers could be comforting. We use baked potatoes. That is a very comforting thing to hold to keep your hands warm. As it cools you nibble on it. Also consider wearing long winter underwear or some substitute for it. For example a pair of flannelette sleep pants worn under your jeans can make a big difference and the soft fabric isn't too constraining.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:26 AM on March 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

Can you do a heated mattress pad? It's my soother of choice because I am not physically able to get out of a bath tub.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 11:51 AM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

FLEECE! I've been wearing a huge fleece sweatshirt and fleece Hello Kitty pajama pants all winter. When I put it on at night my whole everything goes, "ah." Very comforting. Also a simple heating pad has been soothing. And my kitties. Maybe fleece stuffed animals? (No one needs to know.) (I have a Totoro)
posted by soakimbo at 9:10 PM on March 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yoga, specifically breathing techniques to calm and soothe. Currently PBS has a few in the early morning, including Wai Lana Yoga. I love the ocean behind her as she moves slowly through the asanas.
Try lying on a yoga mat or closed-cell foam mat (Walmart currently sells the Thermarest X-Lite) and doing the poses slowly while lying down. Downward Dog as a V on your side, etc. She usually does something contorted, like a head stand or plow, but I skip those and do breathing.

Belly dance, specifically slow moves. When the dancer is doing a shimmy, you do a slow count. Go for technique, then work toward speed (if desired). Again, try adapting for sitting down, kneeling, or lying down.
Note that some of these products are available commercially, as well as online.
EHABY is excellent for belly dance and dance hall moves.

Crochet, both for personal creative artistry and for hand flexibility. I can't say enough praise for New Stitch A Day. I am lucky to have an excellent library system for craft books, but I do have a burgeoning collection with many, many notes inside. I have found that diagrams are required for me to get the patterns right.
And if I get tired of a completed project, I can unravel it and go again in a new direction! Try that with painting or sculpture.

Walking or biking at a nearby park or well-traveled trail. Perhaps a walking chair / cane will help with balance and those moments when you need to sit down. I see people on recumbent bikes / trikes at the lake, and they do sell adult tricycles.

Good luck!
posted by TrishaU at 2:37 PM on March 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

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