Today, I have the beautiful and brave Topaz Winters from Six Impossible Things with me. She’ll be telling you about her Anxiety Box, for when she needs a bit of comfort.
Anxiety is, for me, a beast that tends to strike in so many different fashions: panic attacks, or derealisation, or hyperacusis, or even simply a jittery feeling that refuses to go away. Each is equally unnerving and each infuriatingly diverse. It is a rather frustrating thing to realise that the technique you have developed to combat one manifestation of anxiety is virtually powerless against another.
And so I have developed a new solution – an all-purpose tool, if you will – to perhaps help myself, and all of us, with defeating the monster of anxiety in whatever form it takes.
I call it my Anxiety Box. (Capitalisation absolutely necessary, of course. ;))
It consists of items from each of the five senses, here to aid my quest against anxiety in all of its manifestations. Here is the toolbox:
Hear: childhood films & rain song
For me, the former is Mary Poppins – the staple of countless wintry evenings spent at my grandmother’s house, sipping homemade hot chocolate, singing along with the familiar music, marvelling at Julie Andrews’ simultaneous loveliness and complete badassery. (This, I believe, is the level I aspire to reach someday.) No matter the anxiety-induced situation, if I am shaken and hurting and in need of comfort, this film is the first I reach for.
The rain, too, has yet to disappoint me. One of my worst anxiety symptoms is hyperacusis – that is, ridiculously heightened hearing, to the point where even everyday sounds hurt to listen to – and rain is one of the only things that helps calm my ears down. I keep a three-hour long tape of a recorded thunderstorm in my box, and the same one on my iPod. It never fails to blur away the anxiety.
Smell: scented candles
This is, I have found, the most useful when it comes to derealisation – the strong, familiar scent of the candles helps ground me when things seem too unreal – but also, there is something beautifully comforting about opening my box to the waft of vanilla and cinnamon. Perhaps it is the subconscious connection between those scents and the comfort of the box, or perhaps I simply enjoy them as they are – but the candles add such a soft, sweet smell to a sharp-edged day.
Granted, chocolate is a fundamental aspect of life in general – but sometimes, whether it is after a particularly vicious panic attack or simply a restless, nervous moment, there is nothing that soothes so much as M&Ms melting on your tongue.
Touch: hand lotion & small teddy
Hand lotion is really more of a pampering thing than anything else – generally I am not so huge on expensive skincare, but I splurged on a small bottle of a nice brand, and it works wonders to make me feel lovely even when my nerves are raw and frayed. Especially when I don’t have as much time to invest in a longer self-care pursuit, hand lotion is a beautiful mini spa treatment.
And as for the teddy: sometimes I simply need something soft to hold. This small bear smells of vanilla (see scented candles) and has been tear-stained far too many times, but he remains steadfastly fuzzy and always available for a hug. What more could I ask for?
See: favourite books & glitter dancing & beautiful articles & love letters
I am an intensely visual person, which is likely why the fifth sense is the one my box is most devoted to. Currently it is only large enough to fit one thick book, though I have at times had two or three smaller ones as well. At the moment it’s Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl – the sort of book whose doors are always open when my soul is weary and in need of a place to rest.
Another trick – one that is deceptively simple but surprisingly effective – is my glitter jar, a sealed jar filled with water and purple glitter that I shake when things are falling apart. Something about watching the glitter dance in slow motion has such a beautifully calming effect.
I also collect gorgeous articles – clipped from my younger sister’s magazines or stolen from my father’s newspapers, snuck from the waiting room of my therapist’s office or scavenged from online. Whether they are fiction or from real life, op-eds or informational pieces, is just as irrelevant. I keep the ones that feel like coming home. A few favourites from various online sources: O Adjunct! My Adjunct! … My Relationship Was A Different Kind of Addiction … Ten Times I Knew I Loved You … Failing in Art and Life … 22 Habits That Will Make Your Life a Little More Peaceful Each Day.
And finally, the best for last: all of my love letters. I save every letter I’ve ever received, from friends and from family and from lovers and from those who fill the spaces in between. If there is one remedy for an anxiety-torn day, it’s these letters, these words people have penned only for me. In the moments fraught with anxiety, it is far too easy to forget how lucky I am to be so loved – but these letters ensure that a reminder is never out of reach.
p.s. to my lovely, strong friends with anxiety: what are your favourite methods for calming down? do you have a box? do share in the comments. I would love to exchange techniques. xx