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Self-soothing tips to help with pain or worry

Introduction

Your therapist has given you exercises to help with the healing of your injury and the movement of the area affected. Sometimes children can feel worried about doing the exercises or they can find it uncomfortable or painful. You may have been given medication for pain relief from your doctor if it is felt that you need it. You can ask your physiotherapist or occupational therapist about this if you are not sure.

This resource gives you some ideas to help you manage pain or worry when you are doing your exercises. These ideas are also really good to use to help if you feel worried about coming to the hospital for your appointments and treatment.

Information:

It is really important to do your exercises so that you can heal from your injury in the best way possible. 

Self-soothing techniques

When you are upset, it is important to have ways of coping with your feelings. ‘Self-soothing’ skills or techniques are simple things that you can do wherever you are that can help you feel calmer.

Practise these strategies to help find out what works best for you.

Breathing

woman-closing-her-eyes-against-sun-light-standing-near-purple-petaled-flower-plant Photo by Alexandr Podvalny

  1. Put one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.
  2. Close your eyes and really relax your muscles.
  3. Breathe slowly and deeply from your belly and imagine all the tension and worry escaping.
  4. You can choose to imagine breathing in a ‘relaxing’ colour and breathing out a ‘worried’ colour.

Flower and candle breathing

  1. Hold both hands in fist.
  2. Imagine that one fist is a flower and the other a candle.
  3. Breathe in and pretend to sniff the flower
  4. Breathe out and pretend to blow out the candle.
  5. Take your time and try to breathe deeply to really smell the flower and make sure the candle has blown out.

Moving and stretching

Moving can makes you feel better. If you can get outdoors for fresh air, even better.

Remember
Only do exercises or stretches approved by your therapist

You could also try yoga! The Down Dog yoga app lets you put in your own limits to personalise the programme.

mother doing yoga with her daughter Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Visualisation

  1. Close your eyes and imagine a relaxing place. Perhaps picture your favourite place, like the beach.
  2. Either by yourself or with the prompts from an adult, think about the sounds and smell of this place.
  3. Concentrate on all the details of this place — the sounds of the waves crashing, the smell of salt in the air, the feel of the sun on your face.
  4. Imagining being in this relaxing place can help you feel much calmer.

Music

Music can help get rid of tension and help us feel good.

Choose a selection of different songs, ones that make you feel good and want to dance and those which are softer and soothing that help you feel calm.

Photo of a Boy Listening in Headphones Photo by jonas mohamadi

Laughing

Tell jokes, watch funny video clips, or funny films.

children laughing together Photo by Cleyder Duque:

Photo of Girl Sitting on Sofa While Using Tablet photo by julia cameron

Relaxation and mindfulness

Have a look at the following online resources:

  • Headspace website and app
  • Calm app
  • Mindful Gnats app for mindfulness and relaxation (Download for iOS or Android)
  • Book: Sitting Still Like a Frog

De-stress toys

Your body may be tensed up. Gripping a squeezy ball, squishing up modelling clay or playdough or hugging a stuffed toy can help you get rid of this tension.

Distraction

Get your mind to think of something else!

For example:

  • play who can spot the most blue objects in the room
  • count back in 5’s
  • go through the alphabet and name an animal which starts with each letter

Talk

Talk about how you are feeling – you don’t have to do the exercises on your own or pretend you are ok if you are not.

adult listening to a young person talk about their feelings

Self talk

What we say to ourselves makes a difference to how we feel.

Say positive, calming things to help yourself. Brainstorm to come up with phrases that will help you. Write them down so you don’t forget them.

Here are some good phrases to repeat:

🗨”Everything will be okay.”
🗨”I can do it.”
🗨”This feeling will pass.”
🗨”I am strong.”

Self-soothing box

Make your own special self-soothing box. This is a good way of stopping our brains from thinking too much about pain or worries. Your box could contain lots of things that make you feel happy, calm and safe. Try and chose things that include your different senses:

  • sight
  • hearing
  • smell
  • taste
  • touch

Examples include:

  • happy memory picture
  • favourite toy
  • snuggly blanket
  • favourite snack
  • relaxing music
  • bubble bath
  • colouring book to take your mind off things.
  • stress ball or fidget spinner.
  • something that you like the smell of
  • stroke a pet (don’t put your pet in the box though!)
  • relaxation reminder cards – such as breathing techniques or visualisation you like

Rainbow Playdough Colour and Counting Game

Take a look at these guides on how to do this with more ideas

Top tips for you

If you are really struggling with pain or worry it is important you tell your parent or carer and your therapists so they can help you.

Remember
Any physical exercise done must be approved by your therapist 

Top tips for parents and carers

Your child is likely to need some support with using these techniques so your help is really important. You can help them practise the ideas and tailor them to their age and interests.

Be a role model

How you deal with stress will influence how your child learns to cope.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, say something like, “I have got so much to do today, I don’t know how I am going to get everything finished. I need to take a minute to jump up and down on the spot or do my deep breathing exercises. Then I’ll feel much better”. Then ask your child to join you.

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Disclaimer

Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

Resource number: BU2

Resource Type: Article

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