Written by Laura D'Amico
You’ve probably heard by now that 1 in 5 individuals live with mental illness. The fact that you’ve probably come across that statistic gives me a lot of hope, because ten years ago that probably wouldn’t have been the case. You probably know that among the most prevalent mental illnesses are anxiety disorders, and you may even live with one yourself.
As one of the 1 in 5, I’ve learned how important it is to be prepared for the onset of anxiety. Silent anxiety attacks (although normally unnoticeable to the people around me) are a very real part of my life, so I’ve come up with what I like to call my tool kit. It’s a collection of tangible and non-tangible items that help me through the day constantly, and I’m so excited to share them with you with the hope that you’ll be able to build your own tool kit!
A quick trip to your local toy store is the first step here, so get ready to feel like the happiest child in the world again. Having things to fidget with reduces the restlessness that often comes along with anxiety. Fidgets also stop me from picking my skin and nails, so if you have similar tendencies this is for you!
When deciding what to buy, think about what makes you feel calm. Do you like to squeeze? Pull? Rotate? There are so many options! My go-to items are this snapping, crunchable plastic chain and silly putty.
A creative outlet
Everybody has a favourite creative outlet, and mine happens to be writing. If I have a bag with me, my journal is always inside. Channeling negative or anxious emotions into poetry or on-paper rants is incredibly liberating. Sometimes I’ll even write the simple words “I am okay”, and I’ll feel some sort of relief. When I don’t have my journal with me, the notes section of my phone works wonders.
If you have any quotes or verses that bring you comfort, keep them with you in whatever capacity you can. Thanks again, notes app!
I, personally have a few Bible verses that bring me a lot of comfort. I recently discovered the You Version Bible app which has been super helpful! You can categorize verses by colours and labels, so I have this entire arsenal of verses that comfort me in anxious times right in my phone. There are also thousands of reading plans, including a wide variety of plans related to finding comfort while living with mental illness. Technology rocks.
Portable self-care items
Self-care all day, every day. Sometimes finding a piece of calm means caring for yourself physically, and knowing that you can feel prepared. I always have lip balm, hand cream, and hair elastics with me. I mean always. It seems like a really trivial thing, but knowing that I’m prepared in that tiny capacity means it’s something I don’t have to worry about.
Breathing and grounding exercises
It’s so important to have a repertoire of calming routines. These aren’t things you can think up in a moment of panic, so having them in your mind (or on a piece of paper) in advance is incredibly helpful.
My favourite breathing exercise is called square breathing. You breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and then wait for four seconds before starting again. There are hundreds of breathing exercises out there, but this one calms me for long enough to collect my thoughts. If you live with an anxiety disorder, you already know how amazing that is.
Grounding exercises remind you of where you are when your head is spinning too fast to place yourself in the moment. Ask yourself what you feel physically, what you smell, what you see, what you hear, and what you taste. What are your senses telling you? Placing yourself back in the moment allows you to put everything back into perspective.
A playlist and a pair of headphones
Playlists have been an important part of my life since I was probably 13 or 14 years old. Music is super important to me, so I have playlists for every mood, as well as a playlist for the songs I love the most at any given time. One of my mood playlists is entitled “strength”, and it’s made up of songs that comfort and uplift me. Since I have my phone with me all the time, it’s easy to plug in a pair of headphones and listen whenever I need to. Having a playlist ready to go in advance is a game-changer in dark moments.
Your meds (if applicable)
Have your medication with you at all times. You never want to be caught in a situation where you’re stuck without them. Don’t forget the importance of taking care of yourself.