Emotional distress and feelings of sadness, anxiety, and general unease sometimes feel like they can turn our day upside down. Often when we enter into these emotions it can be difficult to think of helpful resources in the moment to make ourselves feel better. That is why advance planning is essential. What if we could create a box of resources and items to use when we need to self-soothe? A self-soothing kit consists of activities that feel calming, comforting, and soothing. You have the opportunity to fill your kit with anything that helps you feel safe and calm when feelings of distress arise.
Where do you start when deciding what to put in your self-soothing kit? Think of the five senses. Which of the senses appeals to you and is the most effective? For some people, the sense of smell is extremely influential and has the power to calm and easily regulate one’s emotions. For others, visual images are more helpful, like gazing at photos of loved ones or watching a funny movie. Whatever you choose to put in your self-soothing kit is up to you.
So, what exactly is in a self-soothing kit? Anything that helps you feel better when you are down can be added to this kit. You can create your own kit or decorate a basket or bin. Place items, like candles, silly puddy, stress balls, or coloring books inside your self-soothing kit to use when you want to support yourself and raise your spirits.
Let’s look at some ideas of what to put in your self-soothing kit:
Have you ever had an entirely calming experience while sitting at the beach watching the waves of the ocean roll in and out? Seeing something beautiful or meaningful has the power to regulate distressed emotions and create moments of joy. Try adding photos of friends, nature landscape images, or a stress-relieving adult coloring book with colored pencils. One study found that individuals tend to gravitate toward the arts during times of emotional stress. The researchers asked participants to draw 4 drawings over the course of 4 days. They found that drawing improved mood and the benefits of drawing persisted over several days. This is a great reason to add art materials to your self-soothing kit; drawing and other art forms have the potential to improve mood (and make that good mood last).
The sense of smell is extremely powerful. Certain smells have the power to ameliorate anxiety symptoms, like lavender. Try adding small vials of essential oils to dab under your nose when you begin to feel anxious or distressed. Add a variety of options, like peppermint or rose, to have on hand in your self-soothing kit.
Often time when final exam week rolls around in high schools or colleges, stress balls make their appearance. These squishy balls or star-shaped objects fit into the palm of your hand and allow you to squeeze all of your worries away. Stress balls are a great somatic stress management technique and particularly helpful for those who tend to internalize stress. You also may contemplate putting your favorite fluffy blanket in your kit, or a reminder to play with your pet in times of anxiety or frustration.
Sound – Certain music or nature soundscapes are a great addition to any self-soothing kit. Place a pair of headphones in your kit to remind yourself to listen to your favorite music. You can also opt for a mindfulness technique where you breathe deeply and focus on the sounds in the present moment, like the birds outside or the wind blowing.
Taste – Lastly, think about your sense of taste and how you can use this sense to your advantage when you need to be soothed and comforted. Maybe a stick of gum or a mint can help bring you back to the present moment. Perhaps you would like to bake homemade chocolate chip cookies or a birthday cake for a loved one.
Your self-soothing kit can be filled with reminders and suggestions of what makes you feel safe, loved, and nurtured. Create a list of 10-20 ideas of what to do in the moment you’re feeling distressed. Some of my favorites include, “Call a friend, take a bath, go outside, read a book, meditate, and practice gratitude.”
Mindfulness can also be added to your self-soothing kit. This practice of staying in the present moment and remaining non-judgmental is an amazing resource when feelings of emotional dysregulation arise. Try creating a decorative fun reminder on a notecard to “stay in the present moment” or “breathe deeply.” You can also incorporate mindfulness into your kit by recording yourself or someone you love repeating mantras, values, or helpful alternative thoughts when negative beliefs seem to be particularly distressing.
Self-soothing kits can be kept in your home or workplace. Try creating a mini self-soothing kit for your car. You can add just a few items or 20 items in your kit. It is uniquely yours. We all experience emotional stress at times; a self-soothing kit can be a calming and comforting thing to turn to during those moments.