5 Things I Keep in My Extreme Stress Kit

by Elizabeth Brown-Shook

Being a stay-at-home mom is no joke.  I spend half my day running.  We start at (or around; mostly around) 7 AM, running my eight-year-old to her school, which, by the way, is across town.  Then we come back across town to a block from our house, where we drop my son off at school.  Finally, I drop the three-year-old at Head Start.  I have to physically take her into school and sign her in.   Only at that point do I finally, finally, get some time to myself.  If I’m lucky enough to not have an appointment or other errands to run, I come home, and that’s when I write.  I make a cup of coffee, I sit down, and I journal.  I do all my journaling at 750words.com.

Many days, I do have an appointment or other errands to run, though, so I bring with me something that can help me manage the stresses of the day.  I was first inspired to create my Extreme Stress Kit when I saw an episode of Grey’s Anatomy from Season 9, where Dr. Yang was still working at the Mayo Clinic with Feeney from Boy Meets World, and the two of them were treating a pair of doomsday preppers.  They had what they called a “bug-out bag,” in which I’m assuming they put doomsday prepping items such as food, water, extra clothes, etc. (I don’t know, I’m not a doomsday prepper…I can barely think past tonight’s dinner.)  But when I’m extremely stressed, what I do could most definitely be termed “bugging out,” so in my house, my extreme stress kit is affectionately known as my “bug-out bag,” not to be confused with the similar bag geared toward doomsday preppers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  The only known treatment for borderline personality disorder, in addition to  medication and talk therapy, is a type of group therapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  I have been through two courses of DBT in my life, and it has four modules, one of them being Distress Tolerance.  When a distressing event (one that would have normally led BPD sufferers to engage in self-destructive behaviors in the past) occurs, we do three things: Distract, Self-Soothe, and IMPROVE the moment (DBT has lots of acronyms).  In this post, I’ll be discussing the first two components of managing extreme stress, distracting and self-soothing.  For information on IMPROVE the moment, visit this resource from DBTselfhelp.com.

My two favorite things to distract myself are coloring and blowing bubbles.  Supplies to do this are the first two things I keep in my Extreme Stress Kit.  I always make sure I have a coloring book (luckily adult coloring books are all the rage these days) and a package of colored pencils in my bag.  Coloring actually forces me to concentrate only on the present moment, and bubbles are only present for a short moment before they pop.  Instead of catastrophizing about how the stressful event is going to impact my future, these two activities force me to be mindful of the present.  Extremely helpful.

The next part of distress tolerance is to self-soothe. DBT protocol indicates using the five senses to soothe yourself. There are three things I carry in my Extreme Stress Kit that I use for self-soothing.

First, a super-soft purple blanket with peace signs and hearts. You can see this either on my Facebook page or Twitter feed (it’s the same picture of me with it wrapped around me; it was taken on a day that I was having a minor surgical procedure). This was a Christmas gift to me from my eight-year-old daughter. I love it. There’s a scene in the movie “Home” where the leader of the Boov (an alien race), Captain Smek, asks for his “stress blankie,” which turns out to be a roll of bubble wrap. My super-soft purple blanket with peace signs and hearts is affectionately known as my “stress blankie,” and when I know I might be in a super-stressful situation, I make sure I stick my stress blankie into my Extreme Stress Kit. It indulges two of my senses; sight, because purple is my favorite color, and touch, because it is so soft!

The next thing I keep in my Extreme Stress Kit is a bottle of the Stress Away essential oil blend from Young Living. My good friend Shelley got me hooked on Young Living oils a little over two years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Stress Away, an essential oil blend exclusive to Young Living, includes copaiba, lime, cedarwood, vanilla, ocotea, and lavender oils. I never leave the house without it. Also, diffused with some extra lavender, these two always ensure a rest*full night’s sleep for me. I use this oil both aromatically and topically, on my wrists and the back of my neck.  If you have questions about Young Living, don’t hesitate to ask.

Finally, I always make sure I have my phone and its charger. If I’m anywhere with a decent wi-fi connection, I can listen to Pandora or Amazon Music, pull up soothing music videos on YouTube, or watch Netflix.

I would love to hear what kinds of things you might include in your own Extreme Stress Kit. Please comment below, on my Facebook page, or hit me up on Twitter @succulentdiva.

And, of course, if you are interested in DBT or think you might have borderline personality disorder, please seek the assistance of a qualified mental health professional.