So one thing we know in the therapy world is that people need coping skills to manage stress. In DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy), we encourage clients to make a self soothe kit, which is literally a box/bag/container that holds items or reminders of coping skills they can use that specifically tune into their 5 senses as a method for managing their emotions (instead of resorting to problematic or addictive behavioral patterns). Our world is really good at doing this for babies (pacifier, blankie, nightlight, music, patting their back, warm milk…etc); however, as children age, we take all those things away “because you’re too old for that stuff”…and we give a tablet in return! It’s no wonder we have a generation (or two) of young people that don’t tolerate distress well!
Here is an example of (one of) my self soothe kit(s):
What you see for each sense (and many overlap):
- Sight – glitter jar, stone, flame from candle
- Smell – candle, essential oil
- Taste – tea, gum, snack item
- Touch – molded cross, chap stick, lotion, warmth of tea
- Hearing – earbuds (music or guided meditation)
I mentioned that this is “one of” my self soothe kits as I have learned it is wise to always have self soothing items on hand in all settings; therefore my car, my purse, and my office all contain variations. Kits can be as small as a snack-sized Ziploc baggie or as big as a shopping tote. The idea is to have it readily accessible wherever and whenever you might need it. It is not very helpful to wish you had a stick of gum or to have the motivation to listen to a meditation but not be able to find your earbuds.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The prompting for this post was actually that I came across this great blog: http://www.hipsobriety.com/home/2015/10/20/how-to-build-a-sobriety-toolbox
The writer describes a similar strategy for making a “sobriety toolbox” that she can turn to whenever she is having problematic urges/cravings. I was eager to hear some of her ideas as they included coping skills outside the 5 senses. I also love that she honors the fact that her problem behavior was a coping skill and she didn’t immediately BAN it or judge herself for turning to it, rather she kept trying to “binge” on healthier coping ideas and positively reinforce herself for that…thus making the addictive behavior less effective.
Some of my favorite ideas that she included were:
- Specific links to breathing and meditations that she has tried and benefited from. The challenge here is that you have to be WILLING to try new things.
- Specific bedtime/calming tea blends.
- A mix of dance music (because be honest…you have a sad playlist don’t you…why not have a HAPPY playlist??!)
- Amy Cuddy power poses (pretty sure I wrote a blog on these…)
- Post-It note mantras/self-encouragement collection.
Try it out!