Navigating the stresses of daily life is no walk in the park. Whether at work or home, our minds are constantly fighting off feelings of anxiety, fear and stress. Learning how to overcome these attacks and take control of our emotions can seem impossible at times, but there are a few simple techniques you can embrace to make it a little bit easier.
Last year, Storage King partnered with Young Minds, the UK’s leading mental health organisation for youth, to help them raise awareness and provide support for all those in need. As part of this campaign, the Young Minds team shared one of their go-to anxiety-relief techniques: a self-soothe box. Discover what a self-soothe box is, how you can make one, and the impact it can have on an anxious mind.
What is a self-soothe box, exactly?
A self-soothe box is a personalised box filled with serotonin-boosting items that help calm, relax and ground an anxious mind in the present. These items can be anything that makes you feel relaxed and at peace, whether that be psychedelic fidget spinners or soothing essential oils.
When feeling anxious, stressed out or extremely low, you can open this box and distract your mind with positive sensations or drift into a happy memory that pulls you out of a negative headspace. Self-soothe boxes are not only used by people with diagnosed mental illnesses, but are for anyone who struggles with their emotional wellbeing and could do with an extra lift in the day.
How to build a self-soothe box
It is very simple to make a self-soothe box. For the box, you can use any form of storage you have around the house; a shoe box, plastic container, or even an old makeup bag. When choosing a box, make sure that it's big enough to store all your items, as well as strong and durable so that you can take it along on trips or days out.
The next step is to make your box your own. As your little personal place of refuge, it should look the part. Many people decorate the exterior with calming colours like blue, green and violet. You could also add a few fun stickers, photos or quirky doodles — if it puts a smile on your face, put it on your box!
What to include in your self-soothe box
With your box radiating peace and happiness, it’s time to sprinkle some joy within. There's no rule as to what you should or shouldn’t include in your self-soothe box, but generally, incorporating an item for each of the 5 senses—touch, smell, taste, sight and hearing—is a good place to start.
Having an item you can play with is a great distraction for the mind. Some like to use fidget spinners, Rubix cubes or Gameboys to keep their hands and minds busy, while others like to massage a stress ball or clump of playdough in their palms to release pent-up stress and ease tension in the muscles. You could also include an eye mask, soothing creams or other products for the skin.
Scents can have a powerful effect on the nervous system, decreasing stress and boosting happy hormones. Some of the more popular scents for anxiety are lavender, sandalwood, bergamot, rosemary, eucalyptus and sweet orange. You can include a candle, room spray or essential oil in one of these scents and breathe it in when feeling anxious or stressed.
Taste is another effective way to draw your attention away from negative emotions. You can have a stash of calming teas like chamomile or a bar of chocolate in your box to relax and perk up your mood. Some people also like to chew on sour sweets, popping candy or bubble gum for a delicious distraction.
We inject our bodies with a dose of serotonin every time we see something funny online or sweet on the street. Adding something visual to your box that has the same effect is a great way to conjure happy thoughts and banish the bad ones. Inspirational quotes, photos of loved ones, drawings or affirmation cards all provide pleasant memories and positive energy.
A good song can get you out of the worst funk and elevate your mood in seconds. You could create your own playlist with your top 20 peaceful tracks, or invest in a sound app and play some relaxing gong sounds, whale noises or the ebb and flow of waves through earphones. If you prefer peace and quiet, having a pair of earplugs in your box will help you calm the chaos and find grounding.
While there is no panacea for anxiety, creating a self-soothe box is the first step to taking control of your emotions and improving your wellbeing. Visit Young Minds for more tips on coping with anxiety, or get involved and join the movement to end the mental health crisis for young people.