My 10 Practical Relaxation and Soothing Techniques

My 10 Practical Relaxation and Soothing Techniques

If you know me in real life, you wouldn’t be surprised to know that I’m easily overwhelmed, especially when I’m easily upset. Years of chronic pain have left me unable to relax, sleep, or even get into a comfortable for a myriad of reasons. For a long time, and even now, I am still trying to find the best treatments for my underlying conditions, but I also ignored the emotional aspects of what chronic pain and illness have done to my life.

The long-term consequences of chronic pain… “negatively impacts multiple aspects of patient health, including sleep, cognitive processes and brain function, mood/mental health, cardiovascular health, sexual function, and overall quality of life. Furthermore, chronic pain has the capacity to become increasingly complex in its pathophysiology, and thus potentially more difficult to treat over time.” –NIH Study

I started to notice things like friends abandoning me, the lack of motivation to do anything outside of my comfort zone, and how poorly I coped with stressful situations. These are serious issues that I needed addressed. And as I work on them on my own and with help, I put together a relaxation list. After reading books on chronic illness, doing workbooks, etc., and this is still a work in progress. While there are techniques to cope outside of the house, these are my favorites for at the house.

You should note that I have been through a lot of biofeedback and neurofeedback and I am backwards, so to speak. The things that they do to stress people out (like counting backwards by 7) or reading actually slows my brain down and relaxes me. I find it physically painful to try to lean back in a recliner, shut my eyes, and clear my mind. So, naps are not relaxing (or possible) for me.

  1. Listen to my favorite music. Before I got married, when I lived by myself, I had music playing if I wasn’t watching TV. So, basically all of the time. It’s pretty interesting to look back at my account and see how my music consumption dropped dramatically. Once I thought about it, even if it’s not my husband’s favorite band (Fireworks, Man Overboard, Fall Out Boy), I can still listen. And it really does relax and distract me, if I’m upset.
  2. Put on headphones while I listen to an audiobook. This prevents multitasking and encourages relaxing. My husband had an old pair of headphones that aren’t noise canceling, but they block out a ton of noise, so I can recline back and focus just on the book.
  3. Go through my Feedly. I love to read lifestyle blogs on Bloglovin and comment, but I use Feedly to set up searches for topics that interest me and that I want to learn about. I also follow a lot of news, books, and other websites on there where I find inspiration, something funny, or just get distracted from anything upsetting and relax! Learning is fun?
  4. Do something for myself. Sometimes this is plucking my eyebrows (it hurts, but self care was one of the first things to go when I got sick), trying to paint my toe nails, or putting on a little make up before my husband comes home, even if he’ll be the only one to see it.
  5. Make a special coffee drink or tea. I love London Fogs, fancy coffees, or iced coffee, depending on the season. So, if I am not full or too tired, I at least attempt to make one of these. The easiest is to have iced coffee ready to go these days, since I’ve had a few accidental nasty burns recently.
  6. Bubble bath! I use Epsom salts (unscented) and a scented bubble bath. Sometimes I turn on my favorite music or an audiobook because I have a hard time sitting still, having something for my mind to focus on helps me relax.
  7. Light a candle. I love florals in the spring, beachy scents for the summer, and heavier scents for the winter. I can’t go wrong with a candle.
  8. Pet my dog(s). If I grab Josie for a hug, Rylie will definitely be part of the dog pile, but Josie plays harder to get. However, if I am really upset, Rylie runs away, and Josie is the one in my lap. Rylie is smaller and friendlier, so sometimes I just grab her. Either way, petting them or watching them play with each other relaxes me.
  9. Make a list. I know this stresses some people out, but if I make lists of everything that I need to do, I feel better. Even if I can’t do anything like reschedule an appointment until the office opens on Monday, just having it out of my system and down on paper helps!
  10. Treat myself to a TV show. You would probably think that I watch a lot more TV than I do. But, between reading, filling out paperwork, and going to the doctor, I honestly don’t watch much.

What do you do to relax? If you’re in chronic pain, do you do anything special?


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  • These are all great! I love to put on nature sounds CDs and just sit next to an open window with my eyes shut.

    • Hahaha I put on audiobooks or music that was my favorite in college. I do love a good sunny day with a light breeze when I can sit next to a window. When I was little, my parents got me all types of cds to try to help me sleep (classical, sounds of new england, nature sounds), but they never relaxed me! It’s weird, but music with words that I know really well is probably the most relaxing.

  • I used to have a lot of issues with anxiety and panic attacks. Every now and then I still have problems with it, and I’ve been using a lot of these things to calm me down! A bubble bath is my #1 way to relax and destress! But when I’m out and about and I feel anxious or can feel a panic attack coming, deep breathing helps a lot.

    • When I get a panic attack, I get hot and have heart palpitations, so I would stay away from a bath myself, but I could see that if I was getting worked up, they would be good! Sometimes, I have to be like “ok, already took one today… my skin is going to get dry…” hahahaha. I have a program on my computer that I use to measure my heart rate and breathing, but there are a ton of great free apps for breathing!

  • I swear Katie needs to be considered a therapy dog, because I’m not the same when she’s not around! She’s gone to “visit” my parents a few times and after a week or two I’m really struggling. Dogs are the best relaxation technique in my eyes, followed by sitting down with a good book 🙂

    • Ahhh yes, dogs and books. They are the best. Sometimes I do have to yell at them to go away because they’re playing and it bothers me, but I swear that Josie can tell when I’m distressed. She is very insistent on getting very close when I’m super sad, angry, or in pain. Rylie is more oblivious, but she’s younger. She is more likely to come when I call her at a regular time, so I can hold her and listen to a book.

  • I like to do mindfulness in addition to most of these things! Or even progressive muscle relaxation.

    • I’m working on mindfulness (like with a counselor and workbook). Progressive muscles relaxation can set of my tics, at least how a doctor explained it to me. If I think about any one spot too long… boom. Tics. But they used to suggest that for sleep. After some recent labwork, though, they think they know why I don’t sleep 🙂

  • A bubble bath is always a good choice!

  • These are such great suggestions! I really need to do more of these things to eliminate and balance the stress in my life. 🙂

    • Yeah, like you said in your post, it’s about priorities to a certain extent. I had totally neglected myself. While it seems like laying in bed and not doing anything for 4 months isn’t neglecting yourself, I wasn’t doing even the most basic self-care things, so once to get myself motivated to even bathed, I kind of had to think of it as relaxation/a bubble bath haha.

  • great list, sarah! thanks for sharing what works for you and i’m glad you are able to find some relief there. we moved into an apartment last year that i LOVE but the one draw back…no bathtub. i totally miss it.

    • I read something about eucalyptus showers. I’m not sure what they are, but I think they help you relax in the shower. I would hate not having a tub – actually, my doctor said that I would have to use a shower chair if I wanted to continue using a shower. It’s hard to get in and out of the tub, but the shower chair is horrible to use, too.

  • Life in Slow Motion

    This is important for me to read – I’m in a place where it is literally impossible for me to be productive all the time, but I feel so incredibly guilty if I am not being productive. It is hard for me to take the time to do things like this without feeling like I am wasting time. But, I know that I need to. Reading this, I’m realizing how short my list is – I typically go towards tv, occasionally reading a book, or drinking a hot beverage. Need to add a few more!

    • After being bedridden for so long, these items are actually on my to-do list! That way, not only do I take care of myself, I feel productive!

  • I love making myself a chai latte and really savouring it. I’m drinking it now! This is a great post.

    • I love making vanilla chai lattes! I cheat and use vanilla chai tea and mix it with heated/frothed milk and sugar or splenda, but I think it tastes so great. I pretty much love all chai, though. My husband hates it, so when I pick up pumpkin chai tea, I know that I’ll get ALL of it 😉

  • I love a bubble bath to relax. I usually put one of my favorite shows on the ipad and enjoy an episode while soaking. Nothing better!

    • Ooooh! I haven’t thought of watching TV during a bath! I would need to prop it up, I guess. I use my headrest thing and listen to an audiobook. Either way, I have trouble sitting still, so having something else to focus on helps me actually get the benefits of sitting in the Epsom salts! Otherwise, I’m in and out!