BY JESSICA REDWINE
Feeling anxious? Overwhelmed? Stressed out? You’re not alone.
Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States. In this day and age, 40 million Americans deal with some form of anxiety, with almost 7 million suffering from the more debilitating Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
According to therapists, one of the most effective ways to reduce anxiety and depression is mindfulness. Mindfulness involves focusing on immediate surroundings and body cues to calm strong emotions. But mindfulness takes practice, and time, which is something few people have in our busy world. But there is a solution! A coping skills toolbox.
This toolbox gained popularity on the internet several years ago and is just starting to come into the mainstream for mental health. It focuses on centering one's attention inward and finding something beyond the anxiety and depression to pay attention to. It contains items that will calm you down in periods of distress.
Put the box somewhere easily accessible, and in a container that fits your personal style. Arts and crafts stores are a great source for containers such as this. In addition, add to the coping skills toolbox as time goes on. You can customize it to your preferences, and every person’s toolbox will be different.
So, what should you have in your coping skills toolbox?
1. Sense Focus to comfort yourself through the five senses.
2. Distractions to take your mind away from the stressor.
3. Opposite Action to do something opposite of the negative emotion.
4. Emotional Awareness to identify and track negative feelings.
5. Focused Mindfulness to bring calm.
6. Crisis plan if coping skills are not enough.
When you’re in the grip of strong emotions, go to your toolbox. Use an immediate distraction of your choice to calm your mind and bring the cause of your emotions more clearly in to focus. Use as many tools as necessary to calm your mind. It the feelings do not go away, reach out to your resources in your crisis plan.
Remember, you are not alone. Many people in America suffer from mental illness in silence. And as awareness of anxiety and depression grows, so too do the resources available for those who suffer. Reach out. Find your resources.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255