Eating Disorders: Self-Soothing Techniques

Eating Disorders: Self-Soothing Techniques


Greta Gleissner, LCSW



When diagnosed with an eating disorder such as bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, or binge-eating disorder, individuals may experience high levels of stress and anxiety. To cope with tumultuous situations that elicit the stress-response, learning self-soothing techniques can highly benefit any individual during stressful situations or environments.


Individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder may have difficulty reacting mindfully in stressful situations. When people do not recognize the present moment, they may struggle with managing their emotions. This can cause the person to engage in destructive eating behaviors such as purging or binge-eating. Self-soothing techniques are useful tools that are used to distract the individual from impulsively engaging in harmful eating behaviors.


What is the Purpose of Self-Soothing Techniques?


Self-soothing techniques seek to offer individuals an opportunity to integrate self-compassion and mindfulness in everyday life. The techniques are useful because they replace negative thoughts and harmful behaviors with personalized coping mechanisms during a difficult moment. Instead of using food as a coping mechanism, people will learn how to comfort themselves in more positive and productive ways. Simultaneously, these techniques will build resiliency within the person to combat future stressful situations.


How Self-Soothing Techniques Can Be Incorporated into Everyday Life: 


Individuals can use self-soothing techniques to elicit the relaxation response during difficult moments. Here are some techniques to try.


Types of Self-soothing Techniques:

  1. Cultivating self-compassion.-Be kind to yourself. Tell yourself it is okay to struggle and that you are not alone. Give advice to yourself as though you were giving advice to a best friend or family member.
  2. Practicing Meditation.-Guided meditation techniques help to bring you at peace with the present moment and calm your mind.
  3. Engaging in mindfulness.-Practice understanding the present moment. Be aware of your entire body and your thoughts. Recognize the difficult situation you are in and think of ways to reframe negative thoughts and harmful urges. Understanding the present moment will help you to think of solutions to escape a stressful situation.
  4. Writing.- Writing your thoughts on paper will help you to take the time to figure out what you can do to reframe your mindset. You can keep track of the progress you have made and create goals for next time. You can note which self-soothing techniques are helpful and think of new ways to comfort yourself.
  5. Practicing Yoga.-Partake in a very relaxing type of exercise. Yoga can be combined with meditation and also can be done in either a group or individual setting. Yoga will help you to release tension in all parts of your body and will soothe your mind, body, and soul.
  6. Being social.-Have fun! Get together with friends and go biking, join a book club, sign up for a college course, or join a karate class. Getting involved in the community will help you to re-establish your purpose on your recovery journey.
  7. Going outside.-Go for a walk, hike in the woods, or begin planting a garden. The sunlight and fresh air will help to clear your mind and ease your thoughts. This will also give you more time to actively think about how you will face difficult situations in the future.
  8. Calling a friend, therapist, or family member.-If you are having negative thoughts or want to reach for food to comfort yourself, connect to the people who care about you. Call your therapist because he/she can offer more advice and techniques. Call your friends or family and be invested in their lives. The more you invest in people and care about them, the less likely you will find yourself in environments that elicit the stress response.
  9. Distracting yourself. Do all of your favorite things-Watch a marathon of your favorite TV series on Netflix, take a bubble bath, drink tea, go shopping, clean your house, or call up a friend to go do something. When you engage in activities you enjoy, you will not only reduce your anxiety, you will also feel happier and comforted.


Try a self-soothing technique and reflect on its effectiveness. What would you change or keep the same when you find yourself in a similar situation?


Self-soothing techniques are ways to cultivate more self-compassion and comfort in your daily life. Be mindful of the present moment and remind yourself that in the face of adversity, you are a resilient human being. Reflect on the painful moment and take a positive course of action. Your body will thank you and you will also feel more confident in the future.



Greta Gleissner, LCSW, is the Founder of Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists, a nationwide meal support and coaching program that provides services alongside treatment programs and outpatient providers.  EDRS specializes in meal coaching, clinical coaching, in-home cooking, and therapeutic exposure 7 days a week; days, evenings, and weekend.