Anxiety can be hard to deal with at times. When your heart starts pounding and your thoughts start racing, it can feel overwhelming. Self-soothing is needed, but may be hard to do. There are probably a number of coping skills that you can use to help ease your symptoms. However, it can be difficult to remember what helps in the moment. Creating a self-soothing kit that contains different items that engage your senses and ground you in the moment can help you effectively manage anxiety.
What Is Anxiety
Although anxiety, extreme worry and fear, is a normal reaction to a stressful situation and can be quite helpful at times, for some it can be debilitating. When every day occurrences trigger the fight, flight, or freeze response on a regular basis, it can be difficult to calm down and relax. Overthinking, persistent worry, racing thoughts, difficulty concentrating, feeling keyed up, and irritability are common symptoms associated with anxiety. Physical symptoms can include fatigue, trouble sleeping, muscle aches, a heightened startle reflex, sweating, trembling, and nausea. If anxiety continues to escalate, it could lead to a panic attack. The physical symptoms can be severe enough to mimic symptoms of a heart attack. Since anxiety is future oriented worry about what hasn’t occurred, but what might occur, the worst possible outcome in often imagined. Bringing your focus back to the present moment can help calm you down. While you may know many ways to calm yourself down, it can be difficult to recall them when anxiety takes over. A self-soothing kit is a tool you can use to help decrease anxiety when it strikes.
What Is A Self-Soothing Kit
A self-soothing kit is a small box or bag that contains things that help ground you in the present moment. This is something that you create with items that help engage all of your senses so you can be more mindful. When you are able to be fully engaged in the present moment, symptoms of anxiety usually subside. Since a self-soothing kit is small, it is easy to take it with you. This enables you to access your calming tools in different settings that might be especially anxiety provoking. For instance, if a visit to the dentist causes you a great deal of anxiety, you can bring your self-soothing kit with you and use it in the waiting room. In order for the self-soothing kit to be the most effective, it should contain items that engage all of your senses.
Something small that you can hold in your hand with an interesting shape or texture can help engage your sense of touch. Notice the materials that you like and what is soothing or comforting to you. A comfort object that you can hold, such as a stuffed animal, weighted blanket, or even a piece of material from your childhood comfort object can be quite calming. It can even bring up childhood memories of being held and comforted by a caregiver. You might enjoy molding clay, knitting, crocheting, using a fidget toy, or squeezing a stress ball when you are feeling anxious. A scarf, hat, or small piece of clothing with sequins, fur, or satin can help you use your sense of touch to self-soothe. Gather up the things you like to touch and include some of them in your self-soothing kit.
There are many items that you can use to elicit your sense of smell. The sense of smell is linked to the emotional center in the brain. Certain scents can be used to help you calm down and decrease symptoms of anxiety. Lavender, bergamot, and frankincense have been shown to decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression, and pain. Candles, essential oils, sachets, and soaps are small enough to easily fit in your self-soothing kit. Vanilla can elevate your mood. Peppermint can enhance your ability to concentrate. You can also include scented markers or crayons. Having things that contain these fragrances in your self-soothing kit can help reduce your anxiety.
To engage your sense of sight, you want to include items that are visually soothing. Photos of loved ones, favorite places, or of yourself doing something that you enjoy are good options. A book of inspirational sayings can help elevate your mood and calm you down. You can include a coloring book and use your scented markers or crayons. Including a small notebook and pen enables you to write down your feelings as a way of stopping the thought loop. Art supplies can be used to express your worries and fears creatively. You can include a diagram of your favorite breathing exercises and some bubbles to remind you to breathe. Anything that is visually calming or engaging will be useful to add to your self-soothing kit.
Music can affect your mood and help you get in touch with your emotions. It can calm you down and make you feel good. Hearing certain songs can illicit memories and related emotions that can cause you to become nostalgic. A set of headphones and creating playlists that make you feel happy and relaxed are things that you can put in your self-soothing kit to stimulate this sense. A recorded message from a loved one, or a recording of your favorite poem can also be helpful. A small white noise machine, music box, or nature sounds machine can engage your auditory senses and help you calm down. You could write down your favorite guided imagery or guided meditation apps as well as your favorite playlists and what emotions they bring up for you and add it to your self-soothing kit. This way you don’t have to worry about searching through your phone when you are feeling overwhelmed.
When you add things to your self-soothing kit for taste, make sure what you add is non-perishable, or replaced often. Chocolate can increase serotonin and help you feel calmer and more content. Packets of your favorite tea, especially chamomile and peppermint have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Hard candies, lollipops, and even cough drops are helpful if anxiety causes your mouth to feel dry. Ginger candy and mints can ease any nausea that might occur when you’re anxious. Chewing gum has been shown to reduce the amount of stress hormones in your body. All of these things can stimulate your taste buds and easily fit into your self-soothing kit.
Try creating a self-soothing kit and see if it helps the next time you feel anxious. If you notice that anxiety is having a negative impact on your life and relationships, you might benefit from counseling. When you feel confident in your ability to manage the symptoms of anxiety, you can feel calmer overall. A self-soothing kit that engages all of your senses and is portable can help you handle symptoms of anxiety more effectively.