By Laura Begin, CM Clinical Social Worker
I know I’ve been practicing good habits with nutrition and exercise along with hand washing and social distancing, however, caring for my mental health sometimes takes a back seat. It’s important to be proactive and helpful to have a ready reserve. Now, more than ever, is a good time to identify and assemble an emotional first aid kit filled with ideas and items that promote self-care.
Just like a medical first aid kit provides for a medical emergency, an emotional first aid kit helps reduce tension and provides comfort in times of crisis and stress. Items to include in your emotional first aid tool kit should cater to your senses of sight, sound, hearing, touch and taste. Pleasing sensory items will help regulate your nervous system. Your tool kit can become your go-to resource when feeling stressed or anxious.
Below are suggestions to consider for creating your own personal kit:
_____A grounding object, something to hold on to with texture that provides relaxation. A piece of satin, a stone, or a small ball.
_____A list of people you can call. Emotionally supportive people who listen and care. Write down what you want to say until you can reach them if delayed.
_____A journal to write down feelings, doodle or draw in. Having an outlet to express yourself is beneficial to discharge a wide range of emotions.
_____Positive photos or images. Have these pictures or videos easily accessible as part of your kit. People, pets, scenery. Images that provide you with positive memories and sensations.
_____Hydration, sipping water, flavored or not, mindfully & slowly, helps you settle. Feel the temperature, track the sensation in your mouth as you swallow. Try adding fruits to your water & try herbal teas.
_____Water. Soaking your feet, taking a shower or taking a bath, help relax and reset your nervous system.
_____Inspirational reading or listening. This is whatever speaks to you. Old cards, poems, quotes, stories, news clippings. Anything that engages you positively.
_____Funny Videos or Images. The internet is an abundant resource from YouTube, to archived television shows and movies. There is something for everyone.
_____Chewing Gum. The chewing action can have a calming effect on the brain because the repetitive motion produces serotonin.
_____Relaxing audio/sounds. From soundtracks to meditation apps or recordings online: nature sounds of ocean waves, rippling water, birds chirping, wind chimes, chanting; Whatever helps you relax and let go. Avoid music in a minor key or sad songs.
_____Favorite Scents-Aromatherapy. Your sense of smell is powerful and the receptors in your nose send messages to your nervous system. Choose ones that make you feel good. Lavender, citrus, vanilla, pine, ocean scents, in the form of candles, sprays, sachets, or essential oils.
_____Temperature and texture. If you have a favorite chair, blanket, pair of socks, old shirt or even an item of jewelry to wear or keep in your pocket, all help keep your mood and nervous system calm. Using a fan to add movement of air or use of a heating pad placed where you hold tension can help provide relaxation.
Pictured from left to right: Sarah Blake, Ana C. Lategan, Robin McCoy and Laura Begin
“Remember the entrance to the sanctuary is inside you.” – Rumi