Sometimes adding a positive sensation to our body can help to calm us. The following is a guide to developing an emotional first aid kit based on your own preferences and responses to sensations. Your first aid kit is a work in progress. You may find yourself adding to it over time and maybe even replacing things when your tastes change or you become more in tune with your tastes. When you are beginning to feel ‘off’ or ‘upset’ or ‘anxious’ or ‘sad’ or any other negative emotion, you can pull something out of your kit as a first response to these feelings. See if it can improve your mood. If you are not getting the response you are looking for with one item, add another from another sense.
A first aid kit is not a cure. It is not meant to resolve any relationship issues, social issues, or life challenges, but it might give you some energy to carry on.
You can develop a physical scrap book or a folder on your computer (or both) of images that evoke various positive emotions, eg. peacefulness, joy, excitement, wellbeing, etc.
- Collect images that represent these things to you and sort them into different categories or pages, according to how they make you feel. You may not have a name for how the image makes you feel, you might just like it! Pull out your scrap book or open up your image file whenever you need something positive to look at. Notice the colours that come up repeatedly and see if there are ways to add those colours to your surroundings, eg. a paint colour on a wall, a throw pillow or blanket, etc.
- Notice colours and images around you when you are out and about, and pay attention to ones that spark something positive in you. You may want to take a picture of it or look for something similar to add to your visual collection.
- You could also go to a paint store and look at paint chips and bring some home to add to your scrap book.
- You could go to the library to look at art books to see what feels positive, for a visual date with yourself.
Spend a day, or more, noticing the smells around you and noting which ones you like and which ones you don’t. Some people are very sensitive to smells and others hardly ever notice them.
- If you don’t notice smells that often, you may want to go into a natural cosmetics or health store and test out some of their cosmetic products or candles or food to see what kind of smells you like for an olfactory date with yourself.
- You may also want to go through your spice cupboard and do some smelling there. For others, scents can be overwhelming and cause headaches, so just pay attention to what is around you.
- You can go for a ‘smell’ walk as a date with yourself and take notes of what you smell.
- Find ways to add the smells you like to your home or to have as an option, eg. cinnamon boiling in water, a vanilla candle, coffee, or an essential oil of some kind.
Make a list of tastes that you enjoy. Consider all areas of the taste spectrum, sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, etc. When choosing a taste as a mood improver, try to limit yourself to a taste (eg. a spoonful of ice cream, not a bucket;) Or you may consider adding that taste to your next meal.
- On each grocery trip, you may want to purchase one new item that you’ve never tried (try to vary this, in each department, eg. one week a new fruit, the next week a new type of meat or fish, the following week a deli cheese, etc.) in order to expand your knowledge of your palette.
- You may also find reading others’ descriptions of taste inspiring. Read a well written cook book, a food blog, or a restaurant reviews.
Pay attention to textures. Start with your clothing. Note what you choose to wear when you want to relax and see if you can repeat those fabrics in clothing for other times, including work, etc.
- If sleep is a problem, check out the type of sheets you have and their content, for e.g. cotton/polyester percentages and thread count. You may want to try something else (higher thread count = smoother feeling sheets). Note where clothing is tight and loose and how comfortable this is.
- Experiment with different sensation (eg. a bowl of cool sand, a bowl of jello, hot or cold pads, blankets for sitting with, fluffy vs silky). A bath provides a different sensation, pay attention to temperature and additives (oily, bubbly, etc.) and how this feels.
- Consider adding a decorative item to your home with a unique texture for you to touch, once you know what textures you like.
Note environmental sounds, you may want to check YOUtube for soundscapes of various environments (cities, ocean, fields, forest, etc.) to see what you enjoy.
- Note the sounds around you. Are there pleasant sounds that you can re-create? (running water, sparrows, etc.).
- Make yourself some playlists of soundscapes and some of songs for various moods, ie. ‘pick me up’ playlist, or a ‘calm me down’ playlist. Have playlists available for when you need a new sensation to help with a mood.
- Try moving to the sound.
- Turn off all your lights, turn up the sound, lay down and just inhale it.
Once you’ve got a solid kit with resources for every sense. Pay attention to your emotions. Check out this Emotions wheel to be more accurate about the feeling that you are experiencing. After applying first aid, check to see if you’re feelings have changed. Seeing feelings change throughout the course of a day can remind you that no feelings last forever and that things can get better.
Having an awareness of what influences your mood on a body or somatic level will make you more aware of where various emotions might be coming from and help you to avoid blaming something or someone who might have nothing to do with your feelings.
I’d love to hear about your ideas for thing to add to an emotional first aid kit. Please comment!
For more about emotions see How to Make a First Aid Kit for Your Emotions – Part I
For connections/community see What do Adults do for Fun?
Also check out Mental Illness – A Relationship Story
You might also want to read Why go to counselling?
Check out What do Adults do for Fun?
You might also enjoy Lonely? Let’s Move Closer
Also see Advice About Going to Therapy