We know we cannot make anxiety disappear, but rather we learn how to better manage the effects. As much as I am so passionate about the value of a good therapy session, there are also many everyday items that can really assist with anxiety, regardless of age.
These are my top 10 suggestions for putting in an Anxiety Survival Pack:
Earphones: Music is a great coping tool for anxiety. You can listen to music, calming breathing activities, guided meditations etc. Also hearing the sound directly will allow you to focus on what you are hearing rather than the ‘noise’ in your head.
Heating pad: This can be a hot water bottle, a microwave bean bag or even those heated plasters. This can provide relief to the very physical symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, stomach aches, back pain and muscle tension. The heat encourages the body to relax which tends to automatically tense up when anxious
Bubbles: Every one smiles with bubbles, no matter how old you are. Not only does it encourage fun, but also helps regulate breathing. This action is especially helpful when feeling the onset of a panic attack.
Tea: The English were onto something with their belief that a ‘cuppa’ solves most things. The act of making and drinking tea can be really comforting.It is not the choice of tea, but rather the value in slowing down to deliberately wait for the water to boil, making a cup of tea as you like it and taking the time to drink it (as opposed to gulping in down in between tasks). Having a special mug for the tea will further help you to focus on the experience rather than the anxiety symptoms.For the non-tea drinker, you could have a special water bottle where you can focus on the air bubbles in the water, watching the level go down etc.
Silly putty: It is so satisfying squishing, pulling and molding silly putty. We are also using our sense of touch, which is a very grounding experience when feeling anxious, and it gives the hands something to do when restless
Fidget toys: Like the silly putty, it allows an outlet for the nervous energy associated with anxiety. Previously we may have ‘clicked a bic’, but nowadays there are different options to occupy those fingers.
Nail cream: Poor nails - with anxiety they are often bitten, picked or pulled.By rubbing in nail cream we are trying to replace the negative behaviour with a way of nourishing ourselves. Choose one with a smell you like as this will also bring in that sense which can help with feeling grounded.
Stuffed animal: This is not only great for squeezing for comfort, but also can really help as focal point for breathing. Lie down, put the stuffed toy on your stomach and concentrate on making it rise and fall with your breath. Another option would be a soft pillow but definitely not as cute.
Bubble wrap: There is something quite therapeutic about popping the bubbles on the wrap. It is also something that you can do while engaging in other tasks, and provides an outlet or distraction for the nervous energy. Cheap and easy to access, cut into small squares and keep in your bag for when needed.
Journal: Writing is an incredibly good outlet for emotions. It can be words, doodles or patterns- it just creates a place to express some of the internal distress. Keep this close to your bed especially if you notice the anxiety increase at night. An alternate to writing would be to have a rating scale to measure how you are out of ten- keeping a record allows you to see that even though it doesn’t feel like it in the moment, anxiety does ebb and flow.
This are my top choices, some will work for you, and some may not (Some of these items even sit in my office, freely available for clients or even myself to use). It’s always valuable to hear what works for others so please let me know in the comments or on the Facebook page if you have any helpful suggestions for the other readers.