A Few of My Favorite Tools

Is it even possible to post right now without mentioning the elephant in the room? Or is it the elephant that’s keeping us in our rooms? Of course, I’m referring to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, and the stay at home/quarantine orders that are impacting us all as a global community.

One surprising blessing I’ve noticed in my own life is, even though this is definitely triggering my anxiety symptoms, it’s also been a good time to dig into my self-care and self-soothing toolbox again and remember what I’ve learned over the past year. Not just that, but I’ve also tried to share some of the skills I’m using with friends and family. I was commenting to my husband that one of the positives I’m ch*oosing to see in this whole situation is that hopefully more of society will have a better understanding of what it’s like to live with anxiety.

In that vein, I thought it could be a good time to share some of my favorite grounding, re-centering, and coping skills that have helped me get past numerous anxiety and panic attacks. Hopefully we can use this time to all share what helps us and maybe learn a few new things. Nearly all of the tools I’m sharing are great for anywhere, anytime.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash.com

1)   Belly Breaths. We’ve all heard a deep breath can be helpful, but it’s important to breathe deeply in a certain way. I try to fully fill my lungs, breathing in through my nose, and then slowly out through my mouth. A way to tell if you’re doing a “belly” breath is put one hand on your chest, one on your stomach/belly, and take a deep breath. Your belly hand should go out farther than your chest hand. And how to tell if you have the pacing right? Well, there are online/app animations that help with timing, but if you breathe in as though you’re smelling flowers, and breathe out as though you’re trying to blow bubbles, you’re probably going in the right direction.

2)   5,4,3,2,1. This is a great sensory grounding exercise. Find 5 things/colors you can see, 4 things/textures you can touch, 3 sounds you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

3)   Sensory soothing. I have a self-soothe kit that I built when I was in my IOP last year. I’ll probably do another post soon on it, but the main point of it is to have a kit (preferably sized so you can keep with you more often than not), that has pleasant, calming, or anchoring items in it for each of your senses.

Image by Susan Holt Simpson on Unsplash.com

4)   ABC game. This one is a great go-to. Most of us know this game already – pick a theme, and find a word that starts with each letter of the alphabet related to that theme. The point here is to occupy your mind to help interrupt the cycle of ruminating thoughts.

Some theme suggestions:

  • Foods (usually pretty easy – I rarely use this one)
  • Colors
  • Cities
  • International places
  • Disney intellectual properties
  • Pixar
  • Movies (to increase difficulty, restrict to a given era or genre)
  • Musical artists (to increase difficulty, restrict to a given era or type)
  • Song titles
  • Websites
  • Brand names
  • Book titles
  • Biblical/faith-related words
  • Animals (to increase difficulty, restrict to a type of animal, ie: fish)

What are some of your favorite coping tools and skills?

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