How To Self-Soothe and Heal Anxious Attachment

Woman self soothing her anxious attachment style

February 22, 2022

Relationships play a crucial role in our emotional well-being. And for those with an anxious attachment style, they can feel like a source of constant worry and insecurity. Usually developed during childhood, having an anxious attachment style can feel challenging . But the good news is, there are ways to soothe and manage it. By learning about distress tolerance and techniques to calm your nervous system, you can build healthier romantic relationships and find greater peace within yourself.

What is anxious attachment?

Anxious attachment is one of four attachment styles first identified by psychologist Mary Ainsworth. Also known as anxious-pre-occupied attachments, folx with this style often seek high levels of intimacy, approval, and responsiveness from their partners.  They tend to be more dependent on their relationships and can experience intense fear of abandonment.

Common traits of anxious attachment include:

  • A constant need for reassurance and validation from others.
  • Overanalyzing and overthinking relationship interactions.
  • Fear of rejection or abandonment.
  • Difficulty trusting partners or friends.
  • Emotional highs and lows based on relationship dynamics.

What is Distress Tolerance for Anxious Attachment?

Distress tolerance refers to the ability to endure and manage emotional distress in a healthy way. It’s the ability to recognize your emotions without immediately reacting to them. Developing distress tolerance skills is particularly important for individuals with anxious attachment. It helps them manage the intense emotions that often accompany relationship insecurities.

Key components of distress tolerance include:

  • Acceptance: Acknowledging your feelings without judgment.
  • Distraction: Engaging in activities that take your mind off the distressing emotion.
  • Self-soothing: Using techniques to calm yourself physically and emotionally.
  • Improving the moment: Finding ways to make the present moment more bearable.

By building distress tolerance, you can reduce the urge to react impulsively to your emotions and create space to respond more thoughtfully and calmly.

Techniques for Building Distress Tolerance

  1. Mindfulness Meditation Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. By practicing mindfulness, you can become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. This allows you to observe them without getting swept away by them.How to practice:
    • Find a quiet space and sit comfortably.
    • Close your eyes and take deep breaths.
    • Focus on your breath, noticing the sensation of air entering and leaving your body.
    • When your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath.
  2. Distraction Techniques Distracting yourself from distressing emotions can give you time to calm down and gain perspective.Examples of distraction techniques:
    • Engaging in a hobby or creative activity.
    • Exercising or going for a walk.
    • Watching a movie or reading a book.
    • Spending time with friends or family.
  3. Self-Soothing Techniques Self-soothing involves using your senses to comfort and calm yourself.Examples of self-soothing techniques:
    • Taking a warm bath or shower.
    • Listening to calming music.
    • Using aromatherapy with scents like lavender or chamomile.
    • Wrapping yourself in a soft blanket.
  4. Radical Acceptance Radical acceptance involves acknowledging reality as it is. Without trying to change it. This can help reduce the emotional intensity of a situation.How to practice:
    • Identify the situation causing distress.
    • Acknowledge the reality of the situation, even if it’s painful.
    • Remind yourself that accepting reality doesn’t mean you approve of it; it simply means you recognize it.

Calming the Nervous System

The nervous system plays a crucial role in how we experience and respond to stress. When you feel anxious or threatened, your body enters a state of heightened arousal, often referred to as the “fight-or-flight” response. Learning to calm your nervous system can help you manage anxiety and reduce the intensity of your emotional reactions.

Techniques for calming the nervous system include:

  1. Deep Breathing Deep breathing exercises can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation.How to practice:
    • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
    • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen.
    • Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, allowing your abdomen to rise.
    • Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdomen fall.
    • Repeat for several minutes.
  2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body. This can help reduce physical tension and promote a sense of calm.How to practice:
    • Sit or lie down in a comfortable position.
    • Starting with your toes, tense the muscles as tightly as you can for a few seconds.
    • Slowly release the tension and focus on the sensation of relaxation.
    • Gradually work your way up through your body, tensing and relaxing each muscle group.
  3. Grounding Techniques Grounding techniques can help bring your focus back to the present moment and reduce feelings of anxiety.Examples of grounding techniques:
    • 5-4-3-2-1 Exercise: Identify 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
    • Body Awareness: Focus on the sensations in your body, such as the feeling of your feet on the ground or your hands resting in your lap.
  4. Yoga and Stretching Yoga and stretching can help release physical tension and promote relaxation.How to practice:
    • Find a quiet space and lay out a yoga mat or towel.
    • Follow a guided yoga session or practice gentle stretches.
    • Focus on your breath and the sensations in your body as you move.

Building Healthy Relationships

While working on self-soothing and calming techniques is important, it’s also crucial to build healthy relationship habits. Here are some tips to foster secure attachments and reduce anxiety in your relationships:

  1. Communicate Openly Open and honest communication is key to building trust and reducing misunderstandings. Share your feelings and needs with your partner and encourage them to do the same.
  2. Set Boundaries Establishing healthy boundaries helps ensure that both partners feel respected and valued. Discuss and agree on boundaries that work for both of you.
  3. Seek Support If you’re struggling with anxious attachment, consider seeking support from a therapist. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore your feelings and develop healthier relationship patterns.
  4. Practice Self-Compassion Be kind to yourself as you navigate your emotions and work on your attachment style. Remember that growth takes time and effort, and it’s okay to have setbacks along the way.


Self soothing your anxious attachment style in relationships is a journey. It involves understanding your emotions, building distress tolerance, and learning to calm your nervous system. By incorporating mindfulness, distraction,  and grounding techniques into your daily routine, you can create a more balanced and fulfilling life. Additionally, fostering healthy communication and boundaries in your relationships will help you build stronger, more secure connections.

Remember, it’s important to approach this journey with patience and self-compassion. If you need additional support, don’t hesitate to reach out to a therapist who can guide you through this process. At Be Well Therapy Group, we’re here to help you navigate your emotional landscape and build the relationships you deserve. Contact us today to start your journey towards greater emotional well-being and healthier relationships.

Learn more about attachment theory and find out your attachment style.


How to self-soothe anxious attachment

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