Coping with Anxiety On The Go: Assemble a Coping Kit
Stress and anxiety can often arise unannounced. Sometimes you might be far from home, away from your support system, and in an unfamiliar place with new stimuli. Feeling anxious while away from home can be difficult because your safe space and coping tools may not be readily available to help you alleviate your symptoms. To be more prepared for handling stress and anxiety “on the go,” you can put together a coping kit that consists of easily portable coping tools that you can bring anywhere in case of an emergency.
What is a Coping Kit?
A coping kit is a collection of objects and activities that help keep you calm and grounded while experiencing stress or anxiety. The objects should be small and easily transportable so that you can always have them with you while you are away from home.
Benefits of a Coping Kit
Being away from home can be overwhelming, and overstimulation could lead to panic or anxiety. There are many different people, sounds, smells, and other things going on that you simply can’t predict or control outside of your own home. If you regularly experience situations where you feel overstimulated and anxious while out and about, then assembling a coping kit can be beneficial. It will give you tools to manage your symptoms so that you can continue to go about your day.
Benefits of a coping kit include:
- Quick relief from anxiety
- Easily portable to take anywhere
- Personalized to your specific needs
- Provides a healthy way to cope with anxiety
- Provides a simple plan to follow in case of emergencies
How to Assemble a Coping Kit
When choosing what to include in your coping kit it is important to consider the following questions:
1. Where do you travel?
Create a list of all of the places you regularly travel to and add to it whenever new locations come up. Knowing where you are going can help you prepare for what sort of stimuli you may be facing in that environment.
2. What do you do when you are away from home?
Think about the activities you do away from home and what coping tools would be appropriate during each activity.
3. What challenges do you face?
Everyone faces different obstacles while away from home, consider the unique challenges that you struggle with. Do you find loud noises make you anxious? Or maybe too many people around make you claustrophobic? Whatever your unique challenges may be, take inventory of them and write down the feelings you associate with each challenge. If you are unsure of what situations trigger your anxiety, then it may be helpful to talk to someone like a close friend, family member, or therapist to help you discover what your challenges are.
4. How do you cope with different sensory inputs?
Knowing how you react to certain sensory inputs can help you determine what objects will be helpful to include in your kit. Do certain smells help calm you down, or do you find smells make you nauseous? Do tastes gross you out, or do they help you focus? Figure out what sensory inputs to avoid and which ones will help keep you grounded.
Items To Consider for Your Coping Kit
Do certain smells help you feel calm? If so, think about your favorite smells and how you could include them in your coping kit. Some people find essential oils like lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, or lemongrass to be relaxing to smell. Consider if there are certain smells attached to a happy memory for you. For example, does the smell of pine trees remind you of a hike? Or maybe the smell of chocolate brings back fond childhood memories?
You can incorporate smells into your coping kit by including items like small candles, perfumes, rollerballs, or tea bags.
In the same ways that smells can bring us comfort or trigger happy memories, tastes can as well. You can pack little treats in your coping kit that will help ground you.
Ideas for tastes:
- Sweets, like hard candies, or cookies
- Healthy snacks like granola bars
- Chewing gum
- Lip Balm
- Water bottle
Just make sure that whatever food items you pack are shelf stable and won’t go bad if the temperature varies. Melted, or expired foods may not be very calming.
Things to Touch
Different textures to feel or items to fidget with can help provide relief when stressed. If you like to feel soft plush items, try including a square of fleece fabric or a small stuffed animal to bring you comfort.
If you need something to fidget with to help keep your mind from racing there are many items that you could use. Some popular fidget items include fidget spinners, bubble poppers, and clicking pens, or for a challenging activity to fidget with you could include a Rubik's cube.
Too many sounds happening all at the same time can become overwhelming for some people. If you find loud noises out in public to be a challenge, consider packing items like earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, or loop earplugs to help reduce the sounds around you.
Certain sounds or music can be calming to listen to. Create a playlist of songs that bring you joy and relaxation to have in case of emergency. Remember to download your coping playlist, just in case you are in an area with poor cellular reception.
Images can be a powerful tool to include in your coping kit. You can print off images of your favorite memories, or you can even create a slideshow on your phone of pictures that will make you feel better. Don’t forget to include a playlist of funny videos on your phone, laughter can be an effective tool to help reduce stress and anxiety.
Other items to consider
- Emergency cash, in case you need food or a drink
- Portable batteries to charge your phone on the go
- Reminder cards, to remind yourself to take deep breaths or practice any other self-soothing techniques you have learned
- Create an emergency plan–have a card with a few notes on what to do in an emergency, including important phone numbers to call for different situations
- A journal, or coloring book to provide a distraction
- Pre-written notes of encouragement from your friends and family
After you have determined what items are essential to include in your on-the-go coping kit, you will want to find some kind of container to keep all of these items together. You can use a box, tote, backpack, drawstring bag, or any other container that is easily transportable and fits the items you need.
While you are creating your coping kit, it is a great idea to invite your children, friends, or other loved ones to create one with you. Whether or not your loved one suffers from anxiety, a coping kit is a great tool for anyone to have! Most people get overstimulated from time to time, so not only will others benefit from having a coping kit, but it is also a great way to educate others and normalize taking care of mental health needs.
If you know of anyone else in your life that could benefit from assembling a coping kit, please share this guide with them. Sharing is caring, and educating others can help end the stigma associated with mental health.
It's time to feel better
We are here to help and we are in-network with most insurance providers. Call us for a free and confidential consultation.
If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.