Alternative Options to Self-Soothe Other Than Alcohol

Lady using Alternative Options to Self-Soothe by taking a bath

When our bodies are under stress, it activates our stress-response system with the goal to maintain homeostasis or a physiological balance. As a result of ongoing stress, this stress-response system can create unwanted emotional experiences like anxiety and depression. This is when it is crucial to find alternative options to self-soothe other than alcohol.

When experiencing this stress response, individuals may turn to alcohol to help “unwind” or self-soothe. Alcohol is a type of depressant, meaning it depresses your central nervous system or slows it down.

Because of this depressive effect, alcohol initially produces feelings of relaxation and alleviates unwanted emotions like depression and anxiety. With chronic use, alcohol itself becomes a physiological stressor.

It begins to dysregulate our natural stress-response system, and it perpetuates and exacerbates stress and anxiety.

For these reasons, it’s crucial to find alternative options to self-soothe other than alcohol.

Alternative Options to Self-Soothe other than Alcohol:

  1. Engage your senses. Take a hot shower or bath, put on your favorite scented perfume or cologne, watch the sunset, take in the scenery, listen to soothing music, cook or bake something that smells and tastes good, light some incense or a nice scented candle, mindfully taste a favorite food, pet your favorite stuffed animal or the family pet, use a stress ball, or give someone a hug.
  2. Use Imagery. Imagine something relaxing or soothing. Think about your favorite memory or place. Simply daydream.
  3. Make meaning out of the stress. What can be learned from difficult times? Have you survived anything like this before? How has overcoming difficult times helped you?
  4. Find your spiritual center. Pray, meditate, ponder, or use your spirituality to help recenter and find peace.
  5. Mindful relaxation. Practice calming routines. Breathe. Breathe deeper. Remain curious and allow events to unfold. Practice progressive muscle relaxation. Listen to a guided meditation.
  6. Focus on one thing at a time. Be aware of what you are doing now and nothing else. Focus on just one thing at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed with all there is to do.
  7. Take a brief vacation. Take a break from your day-to-day routine to slow down and recharge. This can be for a few moments or a few days.
  8. Hold compassion. Make kind, helpful statements about yourself and about others. Treat yourself like you would a friend. Give yourself a hug. Tell yourself positive affirmations. Consider how your stressors are experienced by others and remind yourself that you are not alone in your experience.

Asian American Woman or Girl in Wheat Field When exploring ways to self-soothe, remember that what’s soothing to you may not be soothing to others and vice-versa, and that’s okay. These are just a few ideas.

It’s important to try them out and see what feels soothing to you since self-soothing is not “one size fits all.”

Practice makes permanence. It’s best to try out these approaches in times when you’re less stressed so that you’re able to think of them and use them during times of increased stress.

With practice, you’ll become more equipped to tolerate difficult stressors and find alternative options to self-soothe.


  1. Keller, J., Gomez, R., Williams, G., Lembke, A., Lazzeroni, L., Murphy, G. M., Jr, & Schatzberg, A. F. (2016). HPA axis in major depression: cortisol, clinical symptomatology and genetic variation predict cognition. Molecular psychiatry, 22(4), 527–536. doi:10.1038/mp.2016.120
  2. Anthenelli, R. M. (2010). Focus on: Comorbid mental health disorders. Alcohol Research & Health, 33(1-2), 109-117.
  3. Linehan, M., M., (2014). DBT Training Manual. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

About the Author:

Chelsea Fielder-JenksChelsea Fielder-Jenks is a Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice in Austin, Texas. Chelsea works with individuals, families, and groups primarily from a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) framework.

She has extensive experience working with adolescents, families, and adults who struggle with eating, substance use, and various co-occurring mental health disorders. You can learn more about Chelsea and her private practice at

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on May 20, 2019
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on May 20, 2019
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About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.