I expect you have probably heard of a coping skills tool box before now. Definitely if you have been through he mental health system in one way or another. But maybe you’ve heard of it even if you don’t, as mental health seems to be all over the media at the moment.
It is something that I was first introduced to when I was very poorly in hospital. But I was not in any state at the time to really understand how useful it could really be. Had I been offered help in making one or had it fully explained and/or shown to me, perhaps, I would have created one much earlier than I did. I put my coping skills tool box together a few months ago – better late than never hey!
So what is a coping skills toolbox?
Well for those of you that don’t know, it quite literally does what it says on the tin – or box in this case.
It is a box full of things that can help you cope when life or situations get too much or in periods of distress. The idea is that you can use this box of tools to cope rather than use the destructive behaviours you might have been using in the past.
So what do you put in the box?
Firstly, It is recommended that you use things to awaken all of the 5 the senses. here are a few examples;
Smell – something like a scented candle
Sight – Photographs of loved ones or something that makes you smile
Taste – herbal tea or chocolate bar
Hear – your favourite music
Touch – stress ball
The idea is that you use what will work best for you.
Next, you will need items to take your mind off of the situation that is currently distressing you.
For example, Your favourite book, puzzles, crossword book, crafts, favourite film, the list is endless.
Something else I find really helpful is looking at positive quotes and inspirational stories. This really does work so well for me. It shifts my mind from being self destructive and negative to a much more positive and open one. If quotes aren’t your thing then how about funny stories or films?
Emotional awareness is another important part of the toolbox. You do want to shift your emotions, yes, but you don’t want to ignore them. You need to notice the emotions and find a way to record them that works best for you. Start journaling, paint, draw, scrapbook or even just write a list of the emotions you were feeling. this may help you to notice triggers for the future.
Another important aspect of coping is to practice Mindfulness. This has gotten so big over the past few years and it’s no surprise because it’s amazing! It’s all about staying in the present moment. Taking in whats around you, the wind in the trees, the traffic in the distance or watching a leaf fly past the window. The clothes on your skin, eating or drinking and really tasting and feeling. It really is so freeing! You could even try yoga or guided meditation, I do both but don’t put pressure on yourself, start small.
Lastly and most importantly, have a crisis plan in place.
I never had one until a couple of months ago I never really understood the real importance of one. But I had a period of being in a pretty ‘good’ place so I researched them and soon understood how important they are. I now have many printed off and have them in several important places, including my coping skills toolbox. (I have another blog that explains what exactly I have written so I wont go into that here.) But at the bare minimum what should be in your toolbox are;
Contact details of friends and family
CPN/Social worker number
Hospital out of hours number
Crisis team number
Of course if there is anything else that you want to add that will help you then of course add it in. It’s your box to help you cope. I used an old shoe box and recycled it using decopatch and other crafts but its completely up to you what you use and whether you chose to decorate it or not. Whats important is that you use it!
Make sure you put it in a place that you can easily access it when you need to. Don’t hide it in the back of the wardrobe behind the coats or you’ll never bother to reach for it.
I’d love to hear about your boxes and the things you use to help you cope in times of need. Let me know how they work for you.
Love Amy x