a woman soaking in a bathtub with a washcloth on her forehead and surrounded by lavender

Self-soothing and RLS

As a sufferer of restless legs syndrome (RLS), my legs are always on the move. Even during the day when my symptoms are supposed to lessen, I find myself rubbing my legs together like a large grasshopper!

I do it so much that I have rubbed sore patches on the tops of my feet! But why?

Looking for stress relief

As an adult, you very rarely feel the need to soothe yourself. Babies are taught at a young age not to rely on parental contact to find peace in their surroundings. Adults turn to more damaging tasks to feel relaxed in their environments. RLS can cause us to spend more time alone – how do we cope with that?

Grounding and self-soothing are ways we calm our bodies when we are overloaded with emotions or stress. Stress, anxiety, and trauma can cause our bodies to react in similar ways. Think about when you feel an RLS attack is imminent. Your mind automatically returns to the last chronic episode you experienced – the emotions of fear and dread start building. Maybe you deal with the situation by drinking or overeating.

Grounding techniques

I have recently started to try grounding techniques when I feel an RLS attack looming. You focus on an aspect in the physical world rather than internal thoughts. My preferred technique currently is to pop a cool washcloth on my forehead with some lavender essential oil dripped on it. This helps me breathe the fear away whilst the lavender helps calm me.

There are many, many more techniques available out there, not necessarily targeted for just RLS. They can be used whenever you feel stress or anxiety becoming a problem or impacting our lives negatively.

Progressive muscle relaxation

The next technique I am going to try is progressive muscle relaxation. Now, beware of this one if you suffer from muscle cramps! Part of my RLS symptoms are my calf muscles seizing up, causing one of the worst pains imaginable! So, give this one a wide berth if you have cramping issues.

Be kind to yourself

RLS sufferers can be very self-critical, especially if our condition affects others within our family. Our inner critic can be a complete jerk, saying things we wouldn't accept from others but happily say to ourselves. Say nice things to yourself in a kind, compassionate manner. I mean, if we cannot be nice to ourselves, how can we accept others doing so?.

Coping strategies for mindfulness and RLS are very similar. We all need to take care of our inner selves. So choose to have a soak in the bath, letting your tenseness wash away down the plughole, soaking your feet, or getting your partner to rub your toes before the creepiness starts. On a cold day, try wrapping yourself up in a blanket burrito.

Control what you can

Suffering from a neurological condition is something we have no control over. RLS can sometimes feel like a cruel master holding us hostage in our own bodies. Whilst we spend our nights in turmoil, attempting to try and take some control of the dread we feel as the dark creeps in might make us better able to cope during the lighter hours.

Life is a roller coaster. Just gotta ride it.

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