Do you know what to include in your own self-soothe box?
I created what I assumed was a self-soothe box during my teen years. Looking back, it was more of a self-harm box, the opposite of what I should have been reaching for. At the time self-injury was a safer way for me to release my deep-felt pain and emotions, but certainly not a suggested ongoing method. Today I want to talk about creating a totally harmless self-soothe box. No self-harm, no dangerous tactics. Just some joyful ways to soothe your soul.
What is the purpose of a self-soothing box?
A self-soothe box is a box, bag or collection of some description that you can make yourself or buy online. It often contains things that help ground you in times of crisis and heightened emotions. These items will make you feel relaxed, will help reduce symptoms of panic and help distract you from potentially harming yourself or someone else.
If you struggle with anxiety, depression, panic, eating disorders etc a self-soothe box can be a great way to manage the negative aspects of these issues. During my time in an eating disorder recovery clinic, creating a self-soothe box was highly recommended for before and after mealtimes. Especially at the beginning of my recovery journey. It’s something I’ve carried through to my life as a long-term recovering anorexic. While the items and methods may have changed depending on my fascination at the time, the soothing aspects haven’t.
When working with a therapist and OT I was introduced to the importance of sensory items. Not just for children, sensory items can work wonders for teenagers and adults alike. Even the elderly can benefit from them. Have you ever walked through a home store and melted at the feeling of a cosy blanket? Or squeezed a squishy stress ball during a particularly bad day in the office? Do you shy away from items with spines or do you like the feeling of individual textures on your skin? These are all sensory and what we like is a very individual feeling. Adding them to your self-soothe box can work wonders and encourage using the senses as a way to manage mental or even physical distress.
Creating your own self-soothe box.
When it comes to creating your own self-soothe box, it’s largely a personal preference. However, there are some general rules to follow in regards to our five main senses.
Essential oils, candles, diffusers, perfume, roll-on, lavender-scented pillow mist. Scent can be anything that inspires positive memories, feelings of comfort and relaxation. I personally love roll-on scents for on-the-go purposes and scented candles for in-house use. My husband recently bought us a diffuser with comfortable lighting and safely confined salt rocks for extra relaxation in the bedroom and office.
*If you have animals or children, it’s important to ensure that wax, essential oils and yes, even salt rocks, are kept out of reach. Also, ensure you’re careful when lighting scented candles and that none are left unattended or in a place where they may cause a fire.
This is a very personal thing depending on the type of music you like. Some might find relaxation music or white noise relaxing, while others may prefer nostalgic pop-punk tunes to raise their spirits. Whatever you choose to listen to, you can create a playlist on Spotify for yourself in times of need. Alternatively, you can take it back a few years and burn yourself a CD or even create a mix tape if you have the means.
One thing many may not consider is audiobooks or even podcasts as a means of self-soothing. There are many options out there and I’ve found myself using my favourite true crime podcasts to act as a distraction in the past. Team these up with painting, drawing or playing video games and you have a win-win all around.
You could add some mindful colouring books along with colouring pencils or pens. Even if you don’t have room to fit a full book, you can easily download colouring pages online for free and print them out. Or, what about photographs that bring back happy memories? Positive quotes or affirmations have also been proven to help boost our mood and inspire us to keep going in difficult times.
Another excellent method of self-soothing is to ‘tattoo’ yourself using felt-tip pens or fine liners. I often used to draw and write on my non-dominant hand as a way to reduce the urge to self-injure. It was also a fun way to get lost in creating something out of the box.
Finally, why not add some memory items like a teddy bear or blanket made from the clothing of lost loved ones? While this may instil feelings of grief, they can often act as a comfort for many.
While this may be difficult for those going through eating disorder recovery, there are things you can add to engage your taste buds. Quite often, herbal teas are added to a self-soothing box because they can help people to relax. I’ve also heard of people keeping a small bottle of water in their box to help remind them to hydrate. While it may not be very exciting, hydration is an essential part of soothing.
But, if you’re happy doing so, you can add chocolates, gum, sweets or even candy lolly-pops to your box. Particularly the sour kind which can be great to distract from emotional distress!
Touch is possibly one of the most important parts of a self-soothing box and can include anything from fidget items to a cuddly teddy. I personally use putty or blue-tac as a soothing method as it’s easily transported. I’m most anxious when I’m driving, so I keep putty stuck to the steering wheel of my car so I can play with it while I drive. Not only does this help me when stuck in traffic or on a long stretch of the motorway, but it helped me give up smoking!
But what you add to your self-soothing box is completely up to you. You could invest in the currently popular ‘pop’ toys which seem to be in every discount store. Or you could buy yourself a weighted cuddly toy or blanket. While these items may not fit into your box, they can be kept near at hand for use when and if you need them.
What could you include in your self-soothe box?
- A colouring book and some pencils or felt-tips pens.
- Paint by numbers.
- Photographs that bring back happy memories.
- Perfumes, scented candles, essential oils etc.
- Mist sprays.
- Fidget items such as stress balls, spinners etc.
- Relaxing music or music that helps remind you of happier times.
- Sometimes you may prefer music you can scream and sing along to. Self-soothing is as much about releasing emotions as it is about soothing them.
- Sweets, chocolate or food which makes you feel better.
- Emergency numbers and contact information.
- Positive quotes and affirmations.
- A journal and some pens so that you can write down how you’re feeling.
- A sketchbook if you want to draw your feelings.
Have you any other ideas for your own self-soothe box?
Is there anything else you can think to add? We’d love to hear from you in the comments! Who knows!? Your recommendations might help someone else with building their own self-soothe box!