When is the right time to self-soothe?

It is difficult to know when we need to calm down.   While not full-proof, the easiest way to get a good idea of when we reach the “stress zone” is by monitoring your heart rate. When hear rate reaches over 100 bpm (resting is 60-80 bpm) a cascade of changes occur in the body that makes it hard to think normally, perform fine tasks, feel sexual or communicate with our partner. Diagram of heart rate zones: How to monitor your heart rate?

1. Use the finger test. Standing still, put your index and middle finger onto your carotid artery (neck) or on your wrist.  Time yourself (watch a clock) for 15 seconds.  Count the number of beats in that short time, and then multiply the number by 4. If your number is over 100 you are likely in or entering the stress zone.  Over 110 your can expect. * this does not apply if you are exercising.

2. Heart rate monitor. Heart rate monitors work well, especially if you are in a heated discussion with a partner.  Look for heart rate monitors that are “continuous”.  With a continuous monitor you don’t have to stop to test your heart rate.  In the heat of the moment it is difficult to remember that you even have a heart rate.  With a continuous monitor you can set the alarm to alert you when you have reached over 100 or 110 bpm. An alarm goes off and your can start self-soothing.

This is the time to start self-soothing practices.

You can also look to other symptoms to see if you are in the ‘stress zone’:

Physically symptoms

  • Heart rate goes up above 110 bpm (Gottman says even 100+)
  • You are shaking (hands, arms, etc.) without controlling it.
  • You find fine motor tasks hard to do.
  • You feel jittery, energetic but not comfortably so.

Mental symptoms

  • You are hyper-focused on one subject (usually what is causing you anxiety/fear).  it feels like if you let it go, holding onto it for dear life.  After all, your body is zoning in to save your life.