THE EMOTIONAL FIRST AID KIT


Have you ever experienced emotional pain so intense that it became physically crippling?  Just kidding, I know everyone has gone through this at some point in their lives. Thanks Life, you're a real friend. And its true that some of us experience this more often than others due to neurological predisposition, situational events, or even culture... so, how do we deal? I asked myself this question when I woke up after a horrific night of crisis induced mental/emotional/physical meltdowns and wondered how to clean up the residual aftermath. I deferred to my training in mental health and forced myself to look at what I would suggest to someone at in a work environment. Isn't it odd how easy it is to help others, but difficult it is to apply it to ourselves? I know that it will benefit me to look at the nuts and bolts of an emotional first aid kit and I have a sneaking suspicion it applies to us all...

Take a shower. There is something both physically cleansing and emotionally releasing about this. It reboots your body, nerves, and brain. Try this first. I find it makes the rest of the list easier to accomplish.

Talk about it. This is crucial coping mechanism is balked at much too often. Expressing the way we feel to someone else allows us the release of emotional responsibility that we inflict on ourselves as well as the physical release of the energy we store up while dealing with our issues. Find a friend, family member, professional or another person of choice to rely on. If you can't think of anyone who can do this, utilize one of the hotline numbers below. [P.S. I want each and every one of you to know that if you need an empathetic and listening ear, you are more than welcome to email me. Sometimes we just need someone to understand and validate where we are coming from.]

Get out of your house. Sometimes the fresh air and change of scenery helps calm the mind.

Exercise. Not only is it an antidepressant, but it also physically releases energy that we pent up inside of us. Every time we go through a daily trauma (from harsh weather to a confrontation at work) we internalize that fight or flight energy. It literally sits inside of us, building up forever and ever. Exercise is a healthy way to unchain some of that.

Structure. When we are in crisis, we revert back to our toddler mentality. Its true! Our mental capacity reverts back to that similar to a two year old's which means that we need to care for ourselves more than usual. Children function well with structure and so it's important to create that for ourselves. Sometimes we need someone to say "Okay, so lets make a plan" and then help you decide what you are going to do next, next, and next (for example: I'm going to drive home, take a shower, eat some salad for dinner, and go to bed.) Other times, we can do this for ourselves. It is helpful to write it out so that its tangible and you can revisit it in moments of stress. I like to make a "planner type list" where I write the hours and what I will accomplish within them.

Hug Yourself. It sounds silly, but try it. In moments of trauma, wrap your arms around your shoulders and squeeze. Let yourself be comforted by this. It helps. A lot.

Create. Another form of expression that we all utilize. Being creative doesn't mean you need to paint or sculpt something, it just means that you put your energy into something that you make therefore feeling a sense of accomplishment at a release of energy. It could be anything at all. Dancing to music, playing an instrument, making a friendship bracelet, redecorating the kitchen, tying a bow on your kitten... Do you have suggestions of other ways to be creative that seem unconventional? I'd love to hear them.

If you are experiencing a mental/emotional/physical breakdown and you are struggling to function, my suggestion would be to look at this black and white typed list and do every single thing listed above whether you feel like you can or not. We are resilient, us humans and I think we underestimate our ability to survive even though things might feel like death.

I must include that if you cannot cope enough to follow the above list that you call a hotline or go to your local crisis center. Even if you don't feel suicidal, but just out of control, I would challenge you to call a crisis or suicide line. They will be able to help you from there. If you don't know how to locate your nearest crisis center email me! I would be happy to help you do some research in your area.  This also goes for my international readers. While these hotlines are for the US, it would be my pleasure to help you find a crisis line or crisis center for where you live. Its always good to know these things... even if its "just in case".

National Hopeline Network (Crisis Hotline)
1-800-SUICIDE
1-800-784-2433

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK
1-800-273-8255

Suicide and Crisis Hotline and Adolescent Crisis Intervention and Counseling Nineline
1-800-999-999

Adolescent Suicide Hotline
1-800-621-4000

Suicide Prevention - The Trevor HelpLine
(Specializing in gay and lesbian youth suicide prevention)
1-800-850-8078

Mental Health Crisis Hotline
In crisis? Call: 1-800-273-TALK

If you have gone through a recent critical situation, and are fearful that it might happen again, there are a few things that you can do that will help you cope throughout your day to day life:

Find a group. Though people normally recoil at the thought of going to a group or meeting, there are all kinds of options that can really help. SMART meetings are a non-religious coping group that can help with individual issues. These are free, and everywhere. You also might contemplate support groups. One-on-one therapy is the guy that I find most helpful and if you need assistance finding a counselor or therapist and don't know where to start there is a hotline for that!

Help Finding a Therapist
1-800-THERAPIST
1-800-843-7274

Reach out. Reach out to family or friends or behavioral health professionals. This is critical.

Find meaning. Find something that holds meaning to you and volunteer in that area. This could be anything that you choose. There is something about helping a cause and also grounding your intentions that is therapeutic for all.

Restructure your daysRoutine helps us when we are fighting to function. If you have trouble at night, create a routine that you vow to follow. What you will do, when, how, and what time you will go to bed. This also applies to days and work weeks.

NetworkReach out more than you normally do. Find people that are supportive and positive. Incorporate them into your daily life.

I'm hoping this helps and also that I'm able to follow my own advice. If you have any other suggestions, or resources that you would like to share I think it would be wonderful to build a guide below! Lets make this a post and place that we can come back to in moments of need. Share your thoughts and recommendations, why dontcha.

20 comments

  1. This is a wonderful resource, Jes.
    I had a rough day yesterday, and was feeling really out of control over my life. On my walk home I swung past the community centre up the road from me, and signed up for their gym. After I had cooked a tasty and nutritious dinner, I took the time to look up some new tunes on 8Tracks, and did some intense housework. As someone who grew up in a household lost to clinical depression, I am intimately aware of how our physical surroundings make us feel. I have fought against clutter, but sometimes I lose the battle. Everything feels so much calmer in my head, when my house feels calm and clean as well. Lately, I have been repeating a mantra of "happy and healthy", understanding that the two go together, and that I must work at them both to properly achieve either (and maintain it!). It hasn't been easy, and I am largely on my own (except for the blogosphere, and my medium-distance-lover), but it feels good to assert my control over the aspects of my life that really are up to me.
    So here's to happy and healthy.

    --Erin

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    1. Erin, I am doing exactly what you listed above today:) Grocery shopping, picked up some new cds, signed up for kickboxing classes, and house cleaning.

      Heres to happy and healthy. Cheers.

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  2. I always find writing, taking a walk, and being productive helps me. If i just allow the sadness or anxiety to consume me + just sit around all say, I end up feeling worse. Writing for me has always given me a sense of release + a walk or anything that gets me moving helps release some built up anxiety and negative energy. - - Love the redesign, too!

    - tianna :)

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    1. I completely agree. I took a walk last night and it helped. I also love going to Target or a bookstore... for some reason they lift me up! <3

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  3. This is such a great resource, thanks so much. Getting out of the house can help so much. I've had problems with depression since my teens and I've found getting out for a walk during the day, especially when the days are short, makes a massive difference to my state of mind.

    Just for any UK readers, here are a couple of organisations who can help

    Samaritans on 08457 909090 (ROI: 1850609090)
    SupportLine on 01708 765200
    Mind on 0300 123 3393
    Threshold Women's Health Initiative on 0845 3000 911
    or even NHS Direct on 0845 4647 (England & Wales) or NHS24 on 08454 242424 (Scotland)

    xo



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    1. Alice, THANK YOU so much for posting those resources!!! I appreciate you:)

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  4. When I lost my beloved little pup, it's exactly those things that brought me back to life (showering, getting out, talking, structure, etc...). This is really a fantastic resource, thanks for sharing :)

    Strive to Thrive,
    Nic
    www.Thriving-Wives.com

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    1. Its amazing how the little things can change our whole state of being, right?!?!

      xoxo

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  5. I keep falling in love with every new post you write - "this is my favourite" then a few days later "NO THIS IS MY FAVOURITE!"
    you're a very caring human being to take the time to write this out for people, even if it might only reach out to a few who actually need it. And even as a resource to look back on incase we ever find ourselves feeling a little out of control. Great tips too - especially creating. I find it really hard to motivate myself to do anything when I'm in a slump but once I do - it helps make things better. My mood coincides directly with my creative practices - super creative? Good mood! Good mood? Super creative! It's quite the cycle.

    Thankyou.

    xo
    http://kittysnooks.blogspot.ca/

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    1. Thank you Katia:) I know that not everyone is affected by crippling mental issues, but for those of us that are... it's nice to hear similar stories from others. Working in mental health, and reading around the blogosphere I find myself realizing how little we talk about the real brain issues that a documents quarter of the world faces! (I know its more that 1/4 but we're getting closer to being more open about it...) I write about it because I feel that the more exposure it has, the more possibility of others identifying and expressing their needs which in turn changes lives.

      Long winded, oops.

      Anyhow, thank you. And its fascinating how your good mood inspires creativity! Its quite the opposite for others!

      xo

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  6. Thank for sharing this, Jes. Couldn't have said it better myself.

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  7. Exercise and organizing are two I blow off a lot, but when I actually get around to it they make me feel awesome. When I'm feeling really blah I like to make myself cupcakes :3

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    1. Have you seen Bridesmaids? My favorite scene is where she bakes herself one gorgeous cupcake as a therapy session:)

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  8. This is a great post, one I'm sure I will be referring back to when I get stressed out!

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  9. Jes,
    Thank you so much for this post. I've been having a rough couple of days, and you have managed to hit the nail right on the head. Actually, your list is pretty much a play by play of my last two days. I love your heart in your blog, and admire how you have no reservations talking about issues that matter to you. Thank you for reminding me that there are other people out there dealing with some of the same things as I am.
    -Megan

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    1. Megan, thanks so much for letting me know:) This is the exact reason I write things like this<3

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  10. Thank you for this excellent post. It's full of great resources, so I'll definitely be saving it. I completely agree with starting with a shower. Sometimes you don't even realize how much stress you're holding in your body until you warm it up and relax a little bit in the shower.

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    1. Its amazing how physically and emotionally relaxing it is!!!

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  11. Thanks so much for this amazing post. I got hopeful just reading it and Im not currently going through anything.

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