When I first started seeing Dr. H, she suggested that I prepare an emotional toolbox for when times get hard. When I’m in the middle of a panic attack or severe depressive episode, it’s hard to think of things I can do to calm myself down. I kind of just mentally flail around and freak out even more because I don’t know what to do with myself.
If you’ve ever had a panic attack or a severe depression attack, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t had either, I hope you never do. But I digress.
Today, I’d like to share with you the “tools” in my emotional toolbox in the hopes that it might be able to help you out, too. Please feel free to borrow some of my tools (you don’t even have to return them!) if you feel like they would help you.
My Emotional Toolbox.
This is my number one go-to for relaxation. For those of you who don’t know what ASMR is, please click here to learn more about it. Basically, it’s when people do specific actions to trigger this tingling feeling in the back of your neck and down your spine. I’ve been thinking of making an entire post about ASMR, so stay tuned for that if you’re interested.
- Breathing exercises
This is also something Dr. H taught me. You put your hands palms down on your thighs and slowly lift up your fingertips as you inhale. You hold the breath for a few seconds and then lower your fingers back down as you exhale. This is kind of a visualization exercise in addition to a breathing exercise; you’re focusing on your breath, but you can also see your hands moving with your breath. It’s really relaxing. I like to do this in the midst of panic attacks, when I can feel one coming on, or when I’m just more anxious than usual.
This one is specific to people who pick. I like to pick at the skin around my fingernails as well as bite the chapped skin on my lips. As part of my self-care routine, I’ve started trying to keep chapstick and lotion on me at all times (I actually have both in my purse right now). Something that’s important to me when I’m buying lotion is the scent; I have to really love the smell or I won’t feel as inclined to use it. When I was shopping for my “anti-picking lotion,” I ended up spending a little bit more on a name brand lotion because I couldn’t find a store brand lotion that smelled good enough. That’s one of the only things I can justify splurging on.
This doubles as a preventative measure and something to do when I’m having a higher level of anxiety. I like to have a nice, clean atmosphere around me, and it bothers me a lot when things are cluttered. Sometimes, the kitchen will get dirty, and my husband will tell me that the “heebie jeebies” are gone once he’s done cleaning it. Cleaning helps in a couple ways: it makes me feel better about myself because I’m being productive, and it helps calm me down because my surroundings are more serene. It helps a lot with my depression, too, because I don’t feel so worthless and lazy after I’ve cleaned or organized something.
I grouped these two together because I tend to do them in tandem. Yoga is super meditative for me, and it relaxes me a lot. I’ve written a post before about yoga, so be sure to check that out if you’re interested. Meditation itself is also very serene because it helps me empty my mind when it’s too busy. It’s nice to just sit on the floor, close my eyes, and “zone out” for a while.
I really love to listen to classical music when I’m stressed out, especially at work. I can’t really listen to ASMR for a long period of time when I’m at work because it relaxes me too much and makes me sleepy. But classical music calms me down without making me tired. I have an entire playlist on Spotify just dedicated to classical and other instrumental music. If you haven’t tried this before, I highly recommend it!
I love art anyway, but it really helps me out when I’m feeling extra depressed or anxious. My favorite form of art is writing, so I tend to write out my feelings when I’m having trouble with them. That’s a lot of why I love this blog; I can share my feelings and (I hope) help others deal with their feelings by sharing mine. Art in general, though really soothes me. In addition to writing, I like to draw and paint. This is similar to cleaning/organizing in that it makes me feel better about myself because I can see that I made something.
- Find one thing for each sense
This one is especially helpful when you need to feel a little more grounded and present. The idea is to find one thing that you can see, one thing that you can smell, one thing that you can taste, one thing that you can touch, and one thing that you hear. Seeing, hearing, and touching are usually pretty easy. Smelling and tasting, however, can prove to be a bit of a challenge depending on where you are. If you’re not in a place where you can access something that smells or tastes good, you can visualize a place. I like to visualize a beach where I can see the horizon, smell and taste the salt in the air, hear the waves crashing on the shore, and feel the cool water on my feet. Something like that works just as well!
- Body scan and progressive relaxation
This one is also really good for grounding yourself and bringing yourself back into the present moment. You start from the tips of your toes (or the top of your head) and gradually move through your body, relaxing each muscle as you go. This helps release tension from your body and helps send signals to your brain that it’s okay to relax. This is especially useful for panic attacks.
And there you have it. I really hope you enjoyed this little peek into my emotional toolbox, and I hope some of these tools help you, too. Like I said before, please feel free to borrow (and keep) and of these tools that you like or think would help you.