Do you have an emotional first aid kit?
I’m on leave next week and while I’m off, I’m having a rare week away by the sea. I’ve written before about how healing I find being at the beach, so I’m really looking forward to being able to see it out my window every day. As I’m starting to get things ready for packing, I find that as well as the normal clothes, toiletries etc., I’ve also got another small pile of things I want to take because they help me to stay grounded and regulate, something that I will need support with, even when I’m going somewhere lovely with people I really like. It’s one of the reasons I don’t go away much, as lots of change and uncertainty away from my usual structure can be challenging.
At least now I understand why I can struggle with transitions and change and because I know myself better, I am able to put things in place to help. I’ve started to think about it as my emotional first aid kit and it’s something I’ve been slowly building up for a while. At home it includes my yoga practice, lots of Lego (or any other current special interest), favourite audio books or podcasts, my weighted blanket, stim toys, my journal, and the tarot cards I use as prompts, cups of tea with shortbread biscuits and getting out in nature. It’s taken me a long time to reach a place of acceptance about my need for these things, but the more I worked through my own internalised ableism and accepted myself as I am the easier it has become. Now I’m in a place where putting together a portable kit feels like a very natural thing to do, I just need to figure out how to keep it small enough to fit in my bag!
I often talk to clients about the fact that there will always be things that feel harder depending on how our brains work and what we need, but that part of therapy is figuring out what those things are and what can help to lessen the impact of them when you have to (or want to) do them. I think of it as putting cushioning around the edges so that even if they do bump up against you in a difficult way, it doesn’t cause as much damage as it can. This includes the things that are in my first aid kit, but also knowing that if I’m very social I will need more rest afterwards and making sure I’m getting enough sleep and eating properly. To do this, we need to know not only who we are and what we need, but also to meet the knowledge of those needs with acceptance and compassion.
What would be in your emotional first aid kit?