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Self care requires daily commitment but there are times when even the best self care routines fall short. Something as simple as a conversation can suddenly trigger a panic attack or a depressive episode. In those moments, it is important to have a “crisis toolbox” at your fingertips. Everyone is different, but I’ve listed ten things to have on hand that many people find to be helpful during a panic attack or other crisis moment. I’ve also included links to some of my favorites to make it easy to create your kit!
Headphones and a preset playlist
I personally find noise cancelling headphones to work the best to tune out the rest of the world. A calming playlist, such as nature sounds or acoustic music often works well. By blocking out the noise around you and focusing on something relaxing and rhythmic, your mind is able to rest and reset.
Writing your feelings down on a piece of paper can be incredibly cathartic when you feel overwhelmed by them, and the physical act of writing can ground you, releasing some of the nervous energy that may build up. If you feel stressed and your mind is racing through the millions of things you need to do right away, making a list of all of these things and breaking them down into manageable tasks can calm that stress as well. I fully recommend trying to use a bullet journal for this. I use mine for daily planning, to-do lists and journaling. I have found my “brain dump” pages, the pages that are lists upon lists of things I need to do in a moment of panic and overwhelm, to be the most useful.
Essential oils/diffuser jewelry
I’m not a devote EO user, but I do believe they can be beneficial in conjunction with other things. I was lucky enough to try the DoTerra Serenity Blend (read about my experience here), and I do notice a difference in my mood when I use a few drops. My favorite accessory for everyday use of this oil is my Vitality Extracts Lava Stone Bracelet. I can wear it anywhere, add a few drops of Serenity to it, and it gives me a boost of calm throughout the day.
If you like to knit or crochet, keep a small, simple project in your crisis kit. Any craft that you enjoy is a great use of your energy, sometimes I even decorate my bullet journal. Focusing on something repetitive and physical can be soothing. It can also help to keep your hands busy if a stressful situation can trigger self-harm or binge eating behaviors.
Stress balls/fidget toys
Much like doing crafts, using stress balls (these have motivational sayings on them!) or fidget toys can be a constructive way to release nervous energy. Fidgeting is a common symptom of panic attacks, stress and nervousness and many people find that using manipulatives like these can be beneficial to them.
Ask your friends and family to write you positive letters and save them in your toolbox. Write yourself notes, gratitude lists, accomplishments big or small, or your favorite inspirational quotes. Anything that makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you’re in a good place can help build you up when you’re feeling more depressed or hopless than usual.
These days, we always have our phone nearby, but we often forget that it can be a useful tool for our mental health! Sending a text to a friend or calling family, reaching out for social interaction, even small talk, can break through the feelings of being alone. There are also endless meditation apps that can help you focus on breathing and mentally take you out of the stressful situation.
This is often easier for your at-home kit, but having a favorite blanket, pillow, stuffed animal or even your favorite comfy clothes can be reassuring when you’re dealing with something heavy.
Maybe you prefer to temporarily “check out” of life when things get bad. Keep your favorite show or movie queued for those times! My go-to’s are Supernatural or The Office!
There is a wide range of possibilities in this group, but watching something like a candle flicker, the lava in a lava lamp, water in a fountain, etc. is really soothing. It’s like white noise for your eyes! If you’re looking for something you can have with you anytime that will have the same effect, I fully recommend this glitter quicksand phone case. Sometimes I find myself turning my phone over and over, watching the glitter and stars flow for an embarrassingly long time!
Every person’s definition of a mental health crisis is different, and everyone has unique needs during a crisis. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it’s a great starting point for building the toolkit that works best for you!
If you find something that you think should be included, leave a comment, you never know who could benefit from your advice!