Have you recently felt a tightness or pressure in your chest?
Have you randomly found yourself suddenly taking a deep breath, wondering how long you were holding your breath for?
Those feelings, along with clenching your jaw, headaches, a racing heart, and stomach aches, all and more are symptoms of anxiety.
A couple weeks ago I wrote about how to make anxiety work for you and not against you. It’s so important to learn coping strategies to ensure that its YOU managing your mind and not your mind managing you.
There was a period of 10 years straight where I had debilitating anxiety. It was so bad that I would break down in a panic attack over the thought of leaving the home, even to go on a simple trip to the grocery store.
Over the years I learned various ways to cope when facing a challenge that intimidates me… utilizing these coping strategies allows me to face each challenge with greater ease and I can more quickly bypass the panic attack and live a more normal life— the anxiety no longer holds me back.
One strategy was keeping an ‘Anxiety Rescue Kit’ in my purse. In this rescue kit lived items that trigger one of the five senses, which helped refocus my mind away from the endless loops of negative thinking and panic.
“Research in psychology on mindfulness suggests that this formula is, in fact, effective at bringing your attention back to the present moment and calming yourself in the here and now. Remember, no matter how out of control you may feel in the moment, you can always come back to your senses.”– Tara Well Ph.D. – Psychology Today – “Staying Grounded in a Time of Anxiety“
5 Items to Include In Your Anxiety Rescue Kit
Select a handful of items that can fit comfortably in a makeup bag. Slip your anxiety kit into your purse or bag to carry with you wherever you go. That way you can quickly reach in and use any of the items with to distract yourself from the worries overwhelming your mind and body.
- Video – on your phone pull up a video in your camera roll or something cute or funny on YouTube…
- Book – on your phone (or in your bag) refer to a favorite book or current book you’re reading…
- Notebook – Affirmations. I would recommend keeping a small notebook in your kit to have pre-written affirmations to remind yourself how you want to feel. These could be short phrases like “I am strong”, “I am safe”… I’ve written an article on how affirmations work that you can reference for ideas of what to write down in this notebook.
- Sun – If it’s daytime and you’re near a window, look out towards the sun and close your eyes as you let the warmth of the light hit your face. Slowly, breathe in… and breathe out. Do this 5 times. Through slow deep breaths, if you can help yourself fall asleep with your face towards the sun, this will help you pass the time until your attention is needed elsewhere.
- Identify 5 things you see –
“Working backward from 5, use your senses to list things you notice around you. For example, you might start by listing five things you hear, then four things you see, then three things you can touch from where you’re sitting, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste…. Make an effort to notice the little things you might not always pay attention to, such as the color of the flecks in the carpet or the hum of your computer.”– Timothy J. Legg Ph.D. CRNP – Healthline – “30 Grounding Techniques to Quiet Distressing Thoughts“
- Aroma Therapy – Essential Oils or Lotion
“Lavender is one of the most popular aromatherapy oils. According to 2012 research, lavender aromatherapy is thought to calm anxiety by impacting the limbic system, the part of the brain that controls emotions.”– Debra Rose Wilson, Ph.D. MSN RN – Healthline – “18 Essential Oils for Anxiety“
“A small 2019 clinical trial investigated the efficacy of ashwagandha for stress and anxiety.– Rose Wilson, Ph.D. MSN RN – Medical News Today – “9 Herbs for Anxiety“
The 8-week study involved 58 participants with perceived stress. Each participant randomly received one of three treatments: Ashwagandha extract at doses of either 250 milligrams (mg) per day or 600 mg per day, or a placebo.
The participants who took ashwagandha showed less of the stress hormone cortisol than those in the placebo group. They also experienced improved sleep quality.”
“This sense plays a critical role, yet goes under-recognized. When children go to counseling, most times they will have a set of different tactile objects, such as sand or Playdough. Playing with these helps the nervous system find a sense of calmness. Skin is the largest organ, and the calming stimulus registers quickly and appropriately upon contact.”– Amy Hung – PsychCentral – “Using the Five Senses for Anxiety Relief“
- Fidget Cube
- Elastic Band
Keep in mind as you touch & feel the items:
Are the things you touch soft or hard? Heavy or light? Warm or cool? Focus on the texture and color of each item.
What does it feel like at first? How long does it take to start melting? How does the sensation change when the ice begins to melt?
- Candy – challenge yourself to make a small piece of hard candy last as long as possible… intentionally notice the flavor, the change in shape as you suck on it….
- Drink Ice Water
“The body is stressed by a hostile factor — in this case, icy water — that stimulates a healing response in the body and can lead to lower levels of anxiety”– Benjamin Foley – CNBC – “10 things you can do this morning to heal your anxiety“
- Music Playlist – create a playlist on YouTube, or your music service of choice, with calming music… [ example of Relaxing Music – I listened to this while I wrote this article 🙂 ]
“Research confirms these personal experiences with music. Current findings indicate that music around 60 beats per minute can cause the brain to synchronize with the beat causing alpha brainwaves… A slower tempo can quiet your mind and relax your muscles, making you feel soothed while releasing the stress of the day. Music is effective for relaxation and stress management.”– University of Nevada, Reno “Releasing Stress Through The Power of Music“
- List of conversation starters… (example of helpful cards you could keep with you)
“Being able to start a conversation is a proven method of patient management and helps reduce anxiety and pain through distraction. According to some studies, pain can be reduced by up to 25% by distraction alone…For children especially, research has shown that interactive distraction is far better at managing pain and anxiety than passive distraction or other forms of passing the time.”– Jamie Davis, RN, EMT – JEMS (‘Journal of Emergency Medical Services’) “10 Conversation Starters for Alternative Pain & Anxiety Management“
- Audio Book –
“Perhaps another reason for the appeal of audio books is that they can help to boost mood. Those of us prone to anxiety and depression understand from bitter experience the negative spin cycle of thoughts that accompanies both mental states. Slowing these thoughts enough to read can be hard, if not impossible. Whereas audio does this for you. For those who find it difficult to quieten their inner demons, listening to someone else read aloud can help by replacing negative thoughts with something else. “– Psychology Today “How Can Audio Books Boost Mental Health?“
If the idea of this Anxiety Rescue Kit has been helpful for you, please share this idea with a friend! 💚