Calm Boxes – What are they? What to put in them? How do they help?
by Lorraine Young
As some of you who are close to me know, I have recently gone back into CBT for my mental health after a long break. One of the first tasks I was set was to create an ’emergency box’ which is often also called a calm box, happy box, CBT box or many other things. To summarise, a calm box is used to help those who have depression, struggle with harmful behaviours and many other issues. They are usually a box filled with a variety of items to help distract, soothe and relax someone. I`ll go into more detail on how they can help at the end.
WHAT GOES IN THE BOX
When I was set this task, it took me a while to work out what to include in my calm box. I had a few ideas but was totally stuck. I decided to look online (as we do!) and I asked the Chewigem V.I.C group for ideas too. So, here is a list of items I have in my box or like the idea of! Some are from the group and some are from my own ideas but hopefully, there will be a few options you may like for yourself or a loved one. I should also probably add you’ll need a box of some kind, I use a storage box, about the size of a shoebox. Some people buy them as I did and some people get creative and design their own.
These can be photos of friends and family, pets, random animals (I do love the odd dog photo!), places you like, memories or just things which make you smile. These help you have positive memories, think about how much you mean to people and smile too.
Notes, Cards and Letters
If you’re anything like me, I love a handwritten note. I always keep cards and notes from people and I have quite a few in my box. Some are from my boyfriend, old teachers, friends and I have a note from my favourite actor who I met this year. These once again can bring back great memories and make you realise how loved you are by people around you.
Of course! Keep your favourite Chewigem at hand. When I’m in a low state, I like fairly mild chews but sometimes if I’m angry or tense I like tougher ones. I have a Hexichew in mine as it has a variety of thicknesses on it and is great to squeeze too.
I love music and podcasts, having headphones is a great visual prompt to listen to something which helps you escapee and distract your mind from bad thoughts and feelings or any cravings. You could even include an MP3 player if you have one, but many of us now have music on our phones. Maybe make a few playlists for your moods so you can find the right songs immediately.
Fidget and Stim Toys
These are great to relieve anxiety and chances are you already know the beef it’s of these. I have a tangle in mine as they are always my go-to in any situation.
Your Favourite Smell
The sensory system can impact on your mood greatly. Are aware. The scent can be one with memories attached or just your favourite. I have lavender in mine. You could use a rollerball oil or other essential oil, a candle, incense, hand cream (my sensory nightmare though I know many love it with the added hand massage aspect) or body spray.
Sensory again, there is a theme here! I have my Kiki Comforter in mine and I often grab my fluffy blanket but many people use soft fabrics they like, fluffy socks or scarves. Whatever textures calm you down.
Your Favourite Snack or Drink
For some people, having your favourite chocolate bar or other snacks may cheer you up a bit! I have a few herbal tea bags in mine as I have a few which calm me down, and some hard sweets as they give you something to focus on which helps with grounding too.
Colouring Books or Activity Books
These are great distractions. I have a mini calm colouring book and some fine liners in mine but also a kids colouring book with larger pens as sometimes I can’t focus enough to use a delicately patterned colouring book but a large image of a dog with giant felt tips feel more therapeutic!
For some of us, reading is helpful as a distraction and a way to cheer you up. I have two in mine. The first is Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. It’s an incredible book about anxiety and depression and always helps me through rough times. The second is The Curious Incident of the Dog In The Nighttime. It is a book I know very well and is a comfort to me.
This is great for some people, it’s a herbal remedy to help with nerves and I know many people who find this helpful.
Baths can be relaxing for many people and these are super fun. Get your favourite scent or colour for a personal experience.
There are probably many more things to add but I would be here forever!
A calm box can be beneficial in many ways. But in no way am I saying this is a way to solve everything. They simply offer a bit of help in those moments when you can`t cope. I use mine when I need a distraction from difficult thoughts or to help me ‘sit through’ low moments. Sometimes when we’re low, the distractions we usually use may not feel like an option or be helpful. A calm box just helps those moments pass in a more comfortable environment so they pass whilst you’re taking care of yourself. Some people use them in anxiety attacks, after meltdowns or when they can`t sleep. There are endless ways to use them!
I hope you found this helpful and will start putting a calm box together for yourself or whoever may be in need. These times will pass and you’re getting stronger and stronger every day.