Self-soothing kit

17 December 2020

Anxiety, extreme worry, and fear are normal reactions to stressful situations. It can be overwhelming when your heart starts pounding, your palms get sweaty, and your thoughts start racing, and while you may know many coping skills to ease these symptoms, they can be difficult to remember in the moment. A self-soothing kit is a tool you can use to help decrease anxiety when it strikes.

What is a self-soothing kit?

A self-soothing kit is a small box or bag that contains items that engage your senses to assist in grounding you and making you more mindful of the present moment. Symptoms of anxiety tend to subside when you can be fully engaged in the present moment. It is advisable to make a small self-soothing kit so it is easy to take it with you to different settings, especially settings that are anxiety-provoking. This kit will focus on your five senses.

What should be in your self-soothing kit?

  • Touch – a distraction for your hands. Choose items that are satisfying to touch, and easy to put force into, relieve some stress, and encourage your muscles to relax. The act of writing forces you to focus (a good thing when you’re trying to calm your racing heart) and organise your thoughts.

Example: Play dough, fidget spinners, or stress ball, textured material key rings, playing an instrument, weighted blanket, knitting, collaging, ice or heating pad, and stuffed animal. Others are journals, colouring in books, word searches, crosswords, or mad libs

  • Smell – a stimulating scent that you personally find soothing or even comforting. A simple scented candle is perfect as it can make you feel more present.
  • Do: Breath in the scent slowly to steady your breathing, like a breathing exercise. Simply be present with the scent. Pay attention to the scent itself.
  • Don’t: Breathe in quickly, or overwhelm the environment with the scent.

Example: essential oils (peppermint for grounding, and lavender or rose for relaxation and tranquillity), scented candles, baby powder, incense sticks, room spray

  • Hearing – a calming or relaxing audio that can serve as an aid to your brain to switch modes from an anxious to a relaxed state.

Examples: feel good or calming music, audiobooks, raindrops, or whale sounds

  • Taste – different foods have different neurochemical properties that may affect mood or functioning. This is not ‘eating your feelings’ or using food for comfort. Instead of eating junk food to make yourself feel better, try sucking on hard candy or sipping a cup of soothing herbal tea. A throat lozenge is useful in assisting with breathing.

Example: water, hard candy, tea, chewing gum, lozenges

  • Sight – images or places that are associated with peace and tranquillity. Having visual aids like an old family photo, vacation pictures, or an affirmation card may influence your mind-body connection and calm you. You could also use the technique of imagery and imagine yourself surrounded by a peaceful environment. Simple daily tasks of watching the sunrise or sunset can be effective in assisting you to slow down.

Examples: positive affirmations/memory photos. Like ‘COPE Therapy’ on Facebook for some motivating messages – new messages posted on Mondays!

If you’d like to understand more about anxiety, click here.

Written by:

Zaheera Gangat, Occupational Therapist, Akeso Alberton