Tip #127: Make a self-care box for a rainy day.
The Why: As has been said many times before, recovering from anxiety is a journey.
I’ve always found the analogy of Frodo’s journey to Mordor in Lord of the Rings to be pretty accurate. Basically, it’s really, really, difficult.
Except I often add what I think is missing: as soon as Frodo gets back into his lovely, comfy hobbit bed, the ring suddenly appears next to him, and he has to do it all over again.
This is because with overcoming anxiety, you are literally having to reprogramme your mind to think and work in a different way.
This sounds like an almighty task, but it is one that can be achieved over time. However, this reprogramming often happens in stages. So, sometimes when you have dealt with one trigger, another may still be active and waiting in the wings.
For instance, last month I felt amazing (not to brag). It had been two weeks since I even felt a twinge of panic. My mind felt calmer, more positive, a happy place.
And then I developed a rather large and rather unsightly bug bite.
I spent the next two days in a constant panic attack. I couldn’t sleep, I could barely leave my house, I honestly believed that I was dying.
I felt so angry at myself for giving into it.
Turns out my health-anxiety trigger was still clinging onto my brain for dear life.
So, what should we do in preparation for these days, should they ever come?
The days where we feel suddenly dragged back into the depths of a time we’d rather forget? The days where we feel the full force of anxiety all over again?
Pack a self-care box.
This is a box that you fill with all sorts of anxiety-busting, happy-inducing things to combat the panic you are going through.
So, what should be in this kit?
Number One – Be Bespoke
As with anything anxiety related, what works for one person may not work for another. So, it’s important that your box is really your box.
Of course, there are some basic guidelines as to what may be good to include, but the exact items are yours to decide.
Be bespoke about it.
Number Two – Chocolate
Because it’s damn tasty, that’s why.
But on a more serious note, eating chocolate releases dopamine (the happiness hormone). So, keeping a small stash in your self-care kit can ensure that you always have a little boost ready and waiting when you need.
Number Three – A Distractor
This is potentially one of the most important elements to have in your kit.
A distractor is something that completely absorbs your mind and your attention, meaning you focus on something else rather than the cacophony of negative thoughts swirling around your brain.
Some good examples of distractors are: puzzles, fidget spinners, colouring books, sudokus, crosswords.
What you want is something that requires a lot of brain power. After a while of completing such a task, you’ll find your breathing returning to normal and your mind quieter.
Number Four – Affirmations
Affirmations are a great way of reminding yourself of the important messages to send to your brain to calm it down.
For instance: “I’ve survived worse. I’m going to be okay”, “I am in control of my thoughts and myself”, “I can and will make it through this”.
Repeating such affirmations out loud or in your mind is a good way of focusing your brain, distracting yourself, and positively reinforcing some excellent truths.
You can find a guide on how to write affirmations here.
Number Five – Good Memories
Another important thing to include in the box is good memories.
Writing down three or four of your favourite memories can be a great way to escape the current moment.
For instance, if one of them was eating ice cream on the beach as a child, sit somewhere and try to picture the moment as vividly as possible. Imagine the taste, smells, sights and sounds of that time.
Pretend you are trying to literally teleport yourself back through space-time into that scenario.
Doing this will force your brain to concentrate heavily, therefore distracting it from the anxious thoughts that threaten to take over. It will also bring back the happy feelings you felt during that moment, releasing the happy hormones.
Number Six – Top Tips
Although there are many anti-anxiety tips, it’s good to keep four or five that you know definitely work for you.
By putting them in the box where you have easy access to your top tips, this means that if you need to access your self-care kit, you can immediately begin to do the things you know help you out.
This can be crucial, as cognitive functioning can temporarily decrease during a panic attack, making it harder to remember things.
Number Seven – Something Soft
This one is more comfort than science. Having something soft like fluffy socks or a favourite blanket can provide some much-needed security and feelings of protection.
Well, maybe a bit of science then. When mammals give birth to their young, babies associate the softness of their mother’s fur with security and comfort.
Although we have evolved in many ways since we were monkey’s, we still share some of the same evolutionary instincts as we did millions of years ago. Therefore, soft things remind us of the feeling of our mummies, and make us feel a little bit better. How sweet.
Number Eight – Top Tracks
Music doesn’t just make the world go round, it also can totally effect and change your mood.
Many psychologists have produced pretty iron-clad reports on the effects of music on mental health. Essentially, listening to happy, positive music can make you feel more happy and positive.
So, creating a playlist with some of your favourite, mood-improving, dance-inducing, inner-strength-providing tunes, plugging in those headphones and drowning out the doubtful thoughts can provide instant relief to a panic attack.
Number Nine – A Hobby
Include the materials you need to complete one of your hobbies. Whether this be painting, drawing, knitting, writing, polishing, origami, whittling, ukelele or even magic tricks, put it in the box.
This means the next time you’re experiencing some extreme anxiety, you can do a fun, productive activity that will take up your mind, and your time.
Your brain will get a boost of energy and happy hormones from completing the task, improving your mood and focusing your mind.
We can only be as strong as we want to be if we take the time to take care of ourselves.
Especially on our bad days.