Emotional First Aid

If you are waiting for your first appointment, or need support in between sessions, the following are some useful tools and resources that can support you to find internal safety and stabilization through self-regulation, self-soothing, self-care and distress tolerance. The resources below incorporate grounding skills, Somatic Experiencing ’emotional first aid’ skills, mindfulness and self-compassion strategies, and DBT skills.

Many of the resources below are free of charge, or offered for a nominal fee.

If you are in immediate crisis and at risk of harming yourself, please call your local crisis / distress line, 911 or support yourself to get to the nearest hospital for care.

NOTE: For the mindfulness practices below, some are more spiritual in feel while others are more secular. Feel free to experiment with what feels best for you.

iChill App and Website

iChill was developed by the Trauma Resource Institute. Inspired by neuroscience, stress physiology and Somatic Experiencing, the About iChill section provides an overview of the effects of stress on your body and emotions, and introduces core skills for emotional regulation that are trauma-informed. There are exercises and an audio track to guide you along. The Help Now button also provides a quick list of handy strategies you can use in a crisis.

*Note: The crisis line numbers in the app are US-based. Please contact your local Canadian crisis/distress line for immediate support.

Self-Soothing Exercises

Dr. Peter Levine (founder of Somatic Experiencing) teaches a number of nurturing self-soothing gestures that you can use to help settle and ground yourself. Descriptions of three versions of the exercise can be found here:

Trauma Healing Resource Blog Book

Author Heidi Hanson, PTSD survivor, has compiled a free online resource of self-healing exercises that incorporate activities drawn from Somatic Experiencing, art therapy, creative writing and poetry, and other modalities to support you in your growth and healing. As with any self-help exercises, if something feels uncomfortable or triggering, give yourself permission to pause, focus on something more resourcing, and contact your therapist to explore that material further.

Guided Mindfulness Practices

The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center offers a number of downloadable MP3s that can guide you in redirecting your attention, calming your mind, developing your capacity to be a kind, neutral witness to yourself, and grounding yourself. Dr. Ron Siegel and Jack Kornfield have also created a number of mindfulness MP3s and written meditations that you can download as well.

*Note: if you have difficulty being in your body or tracking your breath, or struggle with meditation or yoga, you may want to start with the iChill app or contact The Refuge for additional support.

Self-Compassion Practices

Dr. Kristin Neff, Dr. Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield have developed a number of resources to help you explore the idea of self-compassion / lovingkindness, and their websites include exercises and downloadable MP3s with guided practices you can listen to. Dr. Neff’s site also distinguishes between self-compassion, self-esteem and self-indulgence for those who are skeptical about the advantages of being gentler towards themselves as a way of healing from shame.

Mindfulness Training Apps

These apps offer certain guided practices for free, with others you have to purchase. The apps offer a step by step process to develop mindfulness skills for relating to yourself and your life experiences differently, and build from smaller increments of time to longer practices.

Check-In / Mindfulness Timers

These apps can be set to send you reminders at set intervals or randomly throughout the day to pause, ground yourself and be more present in the here and now. If you do not resonate with the pre-programmed reminders in the Remindfulness App version, you can enter your own.

Nature Sounds and Ambient Noise Apps

A YouTube search will help you locate many other audio tracks that have soothing sounds. Here are some other ones that may be helpful, either on the web or in app form:

DBT Skills

These websites cover the basics of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy skills, including self-soothing, emotional regulation, mindfulness, distress tolerance and interpersonal effectiveness.

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© 2013 –   Sarah Schlote.

The Refuge and EquuSpirit are registered trade names of the Schlote Psychotherapy Professional Corporation