Content Note: descriptions of anxiety and panic attacks
One moment, I can feel perfectly okay. Then the next, my heart will begin to race and the room will close in around me as I break out into a cold sweat. Panic attacks can be unpredictable, which is why it is absolutely vital to always be prepared for one. In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to think how to stop the oncoming storm that is a panic attack. It is all too easy to feel helpless in those moments, like nothing could possibly ease the terror and tension. However, in my calmer moments, I know what calms me down when everything feels like it’s falling apart.
That’s why a self-care box is so important. Think of it like a first-aid or disaster kit. You compile the items you will need to help ease your panic attack ahead of time, and then when a panic attack does occur, there is less stress and confusion over what you should do to help yourself. Also, a self-care box can be helpful in relieving regular day-to-day anxiety.
Here’s how I made mine:
1. Get a box or container
I recommend getting a box that’s a pretty decent size, depending on what you plan on putting in it. You want to make sure that everything fits. Optional: either get a cute-looking box or decorate it! My self-care box is a purple Pusheen box. It’s so cute that it makes me smile, and that helps make me calm down a little.
2. Add a journal and something to write with
It has been proven that writing about your emotions can help ease the symptoms of anxiety and help you gain more control over your emotions. This may not be helpful in the middle of a panic attack, but it can certain help you recover after the worst parts have passed. Writing about the attack may help you identify what triggered it and help you plan how to avoid it next time.
3. Add a coloring book and colored pencils/crayons/pens
Coloring in a coloring book can greatly reduce feelings of anxiety and fear because they calm our amygdala, the part of our brains that cause us to feel fear in the first place. They also help focus on on a positive task instead of focusing on our panic. By keeping a coloring book in your self-care box, you have something on hand to do when you feel your anxiety creeping up. They may even prevent an anxiety attack before they even start.
4. Add something to squeeze or squish
I keep Play-Doh, a stress ball, and a Squishy Panda in my self-care box to squeeze and squish when I feel anxious. I find having something slightly physical to do helps keep my mind off of my anxiety and focuses me on something else. Having something to squeeze seems to relieve some of the tension I feel during the worst parts of my panic attacks.
5. Add something to chew on
I keep a chewy necklace in my self-care box to gnaw on when I feel extremely anxious, but you could also keep a pack of gum or some type of snack in your self-care box if chewy jewelry isn’t your thing. Chewing on something helps reduce anxiety by stimulating the vagus nerve, which is responsible for lowering heart rate. By lowering your heart rate, you’ll start to feel calmer and less panicked.
Lastly…Add whatever else you think would be helpful!
Anxiety and panic attacks can be debilitating, but with the proper preparation, you can reduce the lasting impact they have on your life. Hopefully your own self-care boxes will have the same positive impact on you all as mine has for me.
Question of the Day: What would you put in your self-care box? Let me know in the comments!