How many of us have felt moments of deep despair, pain, or grief? In these moments where it feels like the sun has stopped shining forever, we can sometimes feel completely absorbed by the waves of our emotional turbulence. I’m willing to bet we have all felt a variation of this at one point in time or another.
There have been days (even weeks at some points) in my past that I was unable to get out of bed or leave my room. Needless to say, I wasn’t taking care of myself at all during these depressive states. I felt intensely suicidal – so much so that it was the only thing I could think about. I hardly ate or slept.
When I was seemingly stuck in these lows, it would have been so immensely helpful if I knew the concept of emotional first aid and had a kit on hand.
Psychologist Guy Winch’s book Emotional First Aid, discusses how we treat physical injuries and illnesses but seem to all but neglect our mental-emotional wounds. The book contains many applicable strategies to implementing this practice when we experience emotional distress.
For those or us who are unsure where to start with this, I suggest putting together an emotional first aid kit for the times when it feels as if life is beating you to a bloody pulp. You can then crack out this personalized box of comfort when you feel like you’re in the pits of hell or if you’ve simply had a bad day.
Not everyone will want the same things in their emotional first aid kit – we are have subjective interests and preferences. What a magical thing it is to be unique in all the Universe, beloved.
One thing I do strongly suggest doing in creating your kit is to incorporate things that stimulate all five senses. This will be one tool for immersing ourselves in the present moment, especially for those of us who have anxious tendencies. (To learn more about anxiety, check out my post 6 Things You Need To Know About Anxiety.)
1. Get Or Make A Kit Container
If you make your own kit or decorate it, bonus points!
I suggest you take some time to customize your kit in whatever way is pleasing to you. This can be painting your name on the box, jazzing it up with stickers, writing a small uplifting message or quote on it, or bedazzling the crap out of it. Whatever gets that warm fuzzy feeling in you going.
Sometimes when we’re in emotionally choppy waters, the simple act of seeing a personalized kit made by past you for future you can immensely touching. There’s a sense of overwhelming love when someone has done something so special for us, especially when that someone is us! Especially if we take into consideration that at our darkest hours, what we need most is usually self love.
2. Feel Good Playlist
Craft this playlist with songs that you know will cheer you up no matter what. Soulful, dancey, classical, upbeat, funky – add whatever music you consider to be a personal mood booster.
Music has an incredible ability to bring us into present moment awareness. We tune in with our senses and often our hearts as well when we have chosen music that resonates with us. I discuss the importance of music selection and how this can influence our mood and mindset in my post 7 Therapy Alternative For The Creative Mind.
When we are using music as a coping mechanism, as in this case of curating an emotional first aid kit, we must choose songs that are in alignment with what we consider to be healing to us. In this circumstance, we want to avoid music that we know will bring us down rather than up.
For example, some of the songs that lift me up and inspire me without fail is Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now, El’s Superhero, Joan Armatrading’s I’m Lucky, Michael Jackson’s Man In The Mirror, and The Beatles’ Let It Be. Feel free to give these a listen and see if they strike a chord with you!
3. Something That Smells Relaxing
Rustle up some essential oils, bubble bath, incense, lotion, candles, or a jar of your dog’s farts for your kit if that tickles your fancy.
When I’m feeling especially emotionally charged, the smell of lavender and eucalyptus tends to alleviate some of the anxiety and stress. Slathering myself in some awesome smelling lotion also makes me feel really cared for (not to mention silky smooth). Things like bubble bath and lotion not only stimulate the sense of smell, but also touch – which can make them doubly as powerful!
Remember friends, scent is intricately tied to memory, so select your scents accordingly. A scented candle may trigger feelings of nostalgia of happier times, which can be a good reminder that better things await the other side of the darkness, or it can potentially cause you to sink deeper into the pain, especially if you’re dealing with loss.
As always, your own discernment regarding what works and doesn’t is key here! Only you know how things will affect you.
4. Your Favorite Healthy Snack
Having something light to munch on can be comforting to many of us. In childhood, we may have had a favorite grandparent that comforted us with snacks or beverages as a way to show love and care. We can show ourselves this same care and even take it a step beyond by recognizing that Nature put medicine in the food.
Why healthy you ask? Processed foods have been shown to negatively impact mood, especially for those of us who experience ongoing mental health challenges. Not surprisingly, healthy foods help to boost mood and can help with mental clarity.
So grab something like dried fruit, nuts, seeds, or if like me your appetite disappears when emotionally distressed, an assortment of mints and herbal teas. Although many of these are processed to some degree, they’re a much better alternative to chips or candy.
If you want to learn more about healthy eating, check out my post 7 Tips For How To Start Eating Healthy.
5. Photos That Inspire You
This can be photos of your dream travel destination, animals, clips of quotes, photos of your happiest times, family and friends, memes that hit your funny bone, or anything else you damn well please!
By incorporating images of what we love, we remind ourselves that better, brighter things await when we have gone through the darkness. We remember that these feelings will not last forever – they are only temporary even if they feel like they’re here to stay in the moment.
We look ahead to things we are looking forward to and review memories that have made us feel happy and whole in the path. The point here is to show us that although it may not feel like it in this moment, we are capable of feeling good, and to possibly trigger that feeling within us with this kit. If we can feel that way once, we can certainly feel it again!
6. A Journal
I cannot tell you how immensely helpful it can be to word vomit all the things that are taking up space in your mind. It feels a lot like an emotional enema – you get out all the crap! It’s truly amazing how much lighter you can feel after writing about all the things that are hurting you.
But like an enema (maybe? I’ve never actually had one but I’m assuming here), journaling about the pain you’re feeling and releasing the intrusive thoughts rattling around in your mind can be unpleasant during the process.
For me personally, I feel like a weight has been lifted once I’ve expressed these emotions, rather than keeping them trapped, swirling around inside me. The energy (emotions = energy in motion) needs to go somewhere. It’s either going to eat away at you from the inside because you are attempting to suppress them, or you can allow them to flow through you by expressing how you feel.
7. A Letter Written To You By You
We all need words of gentle encouragement from time to time. And who knows better what you need to hear than you?
As you sit down to write this letter, first make sure you’re in a space of unconditional love. (For more on this, check out my post 5 Tips To Master Self Love.) Then we can start to envision our most painful times. Try to really bring yourself back into that period in your life without letting yourself get sucked into it. We want to simply observe, not become trapped in the emotions.
What does that hurting version of you need to hear? What would help soothe his or her soul? What reminders would be particularly helpful and healing for this version of yourself to read?
I have written a letter like this to myself that I still read from time to time when I need a gentle reminder of my worth. There have been times where it felt like reading my own letter helped to save my life. Feel free to use any aspects of it that work for you! Make sure you also add some parts that are personally tailored to your needs specifically.
8. Something Cozy
This can be anything that makes you feel safe and comfortable. Think warm socks, your favorite comfy T-shirt, a light blanket, or maybe a plush toy.
The sense we are trying to stimulate here is touch, so if these options are not to your liking, feel free to substitute something else. You could try slime in a jar, a stress ball, or a fidget spinner, just to name a few options.
The point of this is to make ourselves feel nurtured and protected. Having a comfort item or piece of clothing that makes us feel cozy can help us to feel more safe and connect us to a sense of inner wellbeing.
9. A Friend Or Several You Can Reach Out To
Take your dearest and most supportive friend, shrink them down to size, and stick them in your box! I jest, I jest.
Have this discussion with your friend before you assign them to this important role in your life. Offer to do the same in return for them if they would like it. A lot of us may hesitate to ask someone this for fear of judgment or rejection. Try to remember that how they choose to respond is their decision and honesty is the best policy in these matters.
If your friend is open minded to it, ask them to write you a short note to encourage you to reach out that you can include in your kit. Then do the same for them if they would like!
For those of us who have very little support in our lives, there are support groups we can attend either in person or online. If you desperately need someone to talk to and are thinking about hurting yourself, please please please reach out to your suicide hotlines. Many options are now available like calling, texting, chatbox – and all for free.
There is no shame in recognizing when you need help. None. Zero. Zip. We ALL need help from time to time and this is okay. It is human. In my darkest times when I had no one to turn to or felt the people in my life wouldn’t understand if I tried to talk about it, I have utilized these options.
It often helps immensely just to know that we are not alone, though it may feel in the moment as though we are the only ones who feel this way.
Remember, the darkness doesn’t last forever, and we often come through it to the other side stronger than before! When we are in these states, we must cut ourselves some slack and do whatever feels good to us in those moments, without judgment and resistance as much as humanly possible.
Using this emotional first aid kit may feel strange at first, and can feel foreign if we are not accustomed to caring for ourselves in this way. So many of us are used to pushing forward and kicking ourselves in the butt! But it is when we accept ourselves as we are right now, no conditions clauses or expectations, that we begin to feel better.
Give yourself the same love and care you’d give to a loved one. Knowing we are loved, especially by our own selves, can make an enormous difference. Be gentle with yourselves, beloved.
If you know someone who may need this post, share it! What will you include in your emotional first aid kit?
Feature Image: First Aid Kit by DLG Images is licensed under CC by 2.0; Source