DIY Coping Kit

Disclaimer: This is a coping kit, not a self-care kit. For the most part, the idea of self-care has been taken over by the beauty industry and influencer market. With a self-care boujee trend on the rise, the coping kit is meant to be used when a person is experiencing a panic or anxiety attack or reliving moments of trauma caused by triggers.

This coping kit is designed to be a low-budget or even a no-budget assortment. When a person is experiencing an anxiety attack or reliving moments of trauma, research has shown that focusing on the five senses will help calm oneself. Thus, the bulk of the materials in the coping kit is based on the five senses and other resources. 

Step 1: A Box

The first step is to obtain a shoebox, giftbox, jar, basket, an unused package, or any container. If you have art materials, then I encourage you to take the opportunity and express yourself creatively using the outside of the box. You will place all the following items in the container. 

Step 2: Touch

As someone who deals with anxiety, I’ve noticed that having something to touch during uncomfortable or difficult moments helps calm my nerves. Examples of things to touch include, but are not limited to, a rock or pebble, a stuffed animal, a pet (though I don’t recommend putting this one in a box), a favorite gift, or anything under the sun. The key is to be able to describe the object. I use a marbleized pebble and describe the texture: is it hard, rough, soft, smooth, lumpy? Is it cold, warm, hot? Does it fit in the palm of your hand? Is it fluffy? The objective is to try and focus on the item you’re touching in order to calm down. 

Step 3: Smell

The sense of smell, which is often overlooked, can be powerful. I love the scent of pine cones, perhaps for its connection to the holidays; nonetheless, it brings my thoughts to a happy place. The sensation of smell could be a bundle of things, such as a car freshener, fruits (oranges have a strong smell), mint or peppermint, candles, fragrances (perfume or cologne), etc. The purpose of smell is not necessary to describe it, though that may help calm oneself, but rather focus on the importance of memories behind the scent. 

Step 4: Hear

When I first pondered sound as a sensation for coping mechanisms, I was at a roadblock. I couldn’t possibly change the sound around me to comfort my anxiety. However, a therapist revealed a neat trick: create a playlist. On my Spotify account, I made a “When Life is Shit” playlist. I will admit the songs are in the realm of feeling heartbroken and misunderstood (cringe). But that’s the point! My playlist will sound very different from what you create because what soothes me in a time of stress and anxiety will be different from what helps you. If you don’t have access to Spotify, creating a list of songs is just as effective! 

Step 5: Sight

Although I don’t use many materials to serve my sight while using my coping kit, it’s a great way to distract yourself from upcoming or ongoing problems. A colleague of mine mentioned they use a snowglobe given to them by their grandfather. A peer said they use a medal they won for a highschool soccer championship. It could be anything, perhaps a family/friends/pet photo; the object doesn’t necessarily have to hold a unique/memorable event; it could just be for the use of distracting yourself from the moment. 

Step 6: Taste

The taste sensation may be the trickiest material to collect and store in a box, considering its usage. For some, and I apologize for the cliche-ness of it, it may be emergency ice cream in the fridge. For others, it may be food from their culture/heritage. It could be something bland, salty, sweet, cold, warm, food, or drink. For me, it’s chicha- a Peruvian drink best served cold. 

Step 7: Others

If time permits, creating letters to your future self works excellent! It’s an intimate way to connect your thoughts and feelings at the moment to a grounding atmosphere from the past. Letters with the similar title of “Open When…” and create as many or as little as you please. Topics such as when you’re sad, experiencing heartbreak, during finals week, when triggers come up, when you can’t sleep, when there’s too much to do, when you don’t feel in control, when you feel lost, etc. 

Distractions like games also get the job done. These could range from apps on your phone to cardboard games, puzzles, crossword puzzles, scrabble, word search, etc. Although distractions are great for situations, you should not dismiss the emotions you feel that lead up to using materials from the coping kit. 

Lastly, having someone in your corner. Albeit you can’t stuff a person in a box, but having the contact information of someone you trust and confide in during a time of stress or anxiety can improve your mood. The purpose is not to have them solve your problems, but venting and ranting work just as well. Even crying by yourself or to another person is a form of self-comfort and release of emotions. 

Final Thoughts

I am exhausted from seeing the same coping mechanism on Instagram posts, stories, and the explore page. The coping kit is a personalized list of objects and resources that work for you. These could also be used as methods to destress. As college students, I hope this coping kit comes in handy during finals week and whenever life tries to overwhelm you.