By: Dani Kessel
As a person with anxiety and trauma disorders, I am constantly stressed, hypervigilant, on edge, scared. My brain is regularly running in circles and obsessing over insignificant things that I have no control over. In therapy, over the past decade, I’ve spent a lot of time learning techniques to challenge my irrational thoughts and let go of things I can’t control. I also have daily medications to help me manage my constant mental illness symptoms and pro re nata medications for when my brain gets too out of control. But one of the most important things I do to help myself through these difficult feelings is surrounding myself with relaxing items that keep me grounded.
These 9 items help me relax when I’m struggling.
Cuccio Somatology Yogahhh! Cooling Spot Therapy with Peppermint and Green Tea
A bottle of this cream came in my FabFitFun box quite a while back. The small bottle is tactilely and aesthetically pleasing. It has a pump that gives out the perfect small amount to use on your temples and the back of your neck. It feels amazing as it relaxes my muscles. The peppermint also smells so nice. Because it has essential oils, the scent is potent. When I combine it with deep, diaphragmatic breathing, it really settles me into my surroundings.
Piccadilly mermaid tail journal
I initially bought this journal from Michael’s just because it is in the color palette of the bisexual flag. But, it is now one of my favorites. The paper is heavyweight and smooth. It’s a really pleasant sound and feeling to flip through the pages. Writing in the journal calms my brain. I will likely buy this brand again once I need another journal because it is just so sensory-friendly.
When I’m feeling extremely down or when I am feeling under the weather, I put 2 chamomile tea bags in hot water with a little bit of honey. The smell and taste put me in a better mental space. Holding a hot mug eases my muscle tension. It is like taking a breath of fresh air with my whole body.
My rainbow teddy bear, Lila
Okay, don’t judge me. I sleep with Lila every night. In university, when we were living as roommates, my sister took me to build-a-bear to buy me a special bear. She knew I hadn’t ever had one before. I picked out the rainbow bear with sparkly purple paws and ears to rep my queer pride. I made a wish on the heart, filled it with semi-firm but still soft stuffing, and I’ve cherished Lila ever since. Holding onto Lila and squeezing her reminds me that my sister, one of my absolute best friends in the world, loves me.
Aromatherapy Associates London Deep Relax rollerball
Scent is very much my strongest, favorite, and most grounding sense. I swipe this rollerball on my wrists and sometimes my temples, then I let the essential oils work their magic. While they are taking effect, I take the time to do mindfulness practices and emotional check-ins. The combo really relaxes me and decreases my hypervigilance.
Maybe Swearing Will Help coloring book
This was bought as a gift for me before surgery. Since then, I have enjoyed coloring the pages bit by bit. It turns out, swearing does help! Especially when the swear words are colorful with fun designs!
A framed photo of my sisters and me
My sisters are my best friends. Seeing their faces reminds me that I am not alone. It reminds me that there are two wonderful, strong women who believe in me, love me, support me, want me to succeed, and accept me for who I am. My sisters put up with my hilarious shenanigans and my nerdy references. They put up with my terrible jokes. They go along with my bits, and we can have whole conversations comprised of pop culture quotes.
My Sherwood acoustic/electric guitar
Music is one of my genuine passions. Strumming the strings brings joy to my soul. The feeling of the vibrations. The pressure on my fingertips of the chord formations. The sweet, beautiful ringing of the sound. The guitar is what kept me grounded when I was in the mental ward a few years back. (They had one guitar that patients could check out during free time, lunch, and dinner.) Guitar kept me calm when things in my family were falling apart. And guitar has been an amazing tool throughout the quarantine.
The Squeeze aromatherapy dough
One of the best investments I ever made was purchasing The Squeeze’s aromatherapy dough in Lavender scent. It’s tactilely pleasing. Rather than feeling like sticky playdough, kneeling the dough feels more like playing with foam. It’s sustained moisture in the many months I have owned it. The lavender essential oils haven’t worn off; it’s still a strong, pleasant aroma. I would absolutely recommend buying this as a grounding tool for those prone to dissociation.
Various sets of fuzzy pyjamas
Due to my sensory processing issues, I love a good fuzzy pyjama set. It feels nice against my skin. It also doesn’t agitate my CRPS. Plus, there is no discomfort or pain from the fabric like when I wear other pyjama bottoms.
These items all bring me immense joy as they help relax me when life feels hectic and overwhelming. No matter how hard my anxiety, panic, depression, and PTSD ever become, I will always find ways to keep moving forward and search for items to help keep me grounded in my environment.
If you struggle to relax for any number of reasons, what are your go-to techniques? Do you find that certain items provide you with sensory delight? Are there calming scents you like to use in candles or essential oils? Let me know in the comments below!
I am always looking for new suggestions. ❤️
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