Am I prepared? Anytime I am watching a zombie apocalypse roll forth on television I question if my emergency preparedness supplies are sufficient. Would I survive or become a zombie? The ward emergency preparedness guy hides from me the week after an especially violent episode of The Walking Dead. To be fair, he has already helpfully referred me to the CDC guide to surviving zombies.
I don’t have any life experience in surviving disasters of the natural or zombie variety, but another kind of disaster rolls through my life routinely. Emotional earthquakes, fire, tsunami, tornado, or sometimes (on a slow news day) a muddy puddle are enough to knock me out. I am regularly afflicted with unwanted feelings of depression, anger, loneliness, betrayal, sadness, boredom, jealousy, or confusion. Some days I have no idea what I am feeling. I only know that bad stuff happens and keeps happening. Too often the tornado sets me down in my own emotional zombie apocalypse.
When faced with emotional disaster, my first response is to become a zombie. I was raised in a home without healthy models of how to express and positively cope with challenging emotions. My inclination is to eat my feelings while numbing out on a binge read or a mindless Facebook game. As I compare my response to family traditions of alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, or child abuse; being an emotional zombie doesn’t seem so bad. Unfortunately, the zombie life fails to bring me lasting relief and harms my health through impaired sleep and weight gain. The unwanted feelings remain and eventually demand attention. These are the times when I turn to my emotional 72 Hour Kit: The Comfort Box.
How prepared are you for the next emotional tsunami? Will you become a zombie? Read on to learn how you can get your very own Comfort Box!
How to Make a Comfort Box
Step 1. Get a box (or a bag, backpack or some other type of container). Fancy or plain, decorate it or don’t, but make sure it is large enough to contain what you will put inside. I am low on storage space so my comfort box only has index cards and sticky notes with directions and suggestions for comfort. If I had more room, my box would be large enough to contain some of my favorite comfort objects.
Step 2. Put some comfort in the box that you can turn to in lieu of zombie/maladaptive coping strategies. The comfort can take the form of real objects inside the box or suggestions and directions. Consider your different senses (Sight, sound, smell, etc…) and include a variety of comfort. You are the expert on what will bring you comfort.
Comfort Ideas (These are in my box. Copy, ignore, or adapt as best meets your needs.)
1. Do the Downward Dog yoga pose for 20 deep breaths.
2. Put some new affirmation graffiti on the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker.
3. Rip newspaper while naming things that really burn me up. Then trash or burn the shreds.
4. Wrap up in a fuzzy blanket and watch a favorite TED Talk.
5. Call or text a friend (I have a card for each go-to person).
6. Cuddle with a cat and tell them how I am feeling.
7. Read or You Tube some Chieko Okazaki.
8. Jump on trampoline while chanting 3 things that are great about me.
9. Use sidewalk chalk to write about why I am upset then wash it away.
10. Dance to a favorite song.
11. Rub my feet with great smelling lotion.
12. Name a feeling with each bite of Trader Jo’s dark chocolate caramel wedges.
13. Put on a sexy pair of underpants.
14. Read old birthday cards. Name the giver and say out loud how they’ve shown care or love for me.
15. Scream obscenities or nonsense words into a pillow.
16. Write a thank you card to someone else or just myself.
17. Have a cup of herbal tea and take a deep belly filling breath of air through the nose and out through the mouth before each sip of tea.
18. Look at photos from a favorite trip or event. Write some favorite memories evoked by the photos.
19. Pull some weeds in the garden and name something I want to eliminate from my life with each weed I dig up.
20. Get cozy and read a favorite book. Write down favorite quotes. Stop and feel as I read.
Did you notice Idea 12 includes chocolate? This could be a zombie choice for me. I have reduced the harm by making it one choice among many in my box. I have to draw a lot of cards to pull this one! I have also increased the mindfulness of this comfort act by connecting it to expressing feelings. Similarly, Idea 20 becomes a mindful choice as I write down quotes and check in with my feelings.
Finally, once you’ve made your box. Use it! Sunday I keep it holy by setting aside time to review the contents of my box and make additions. It is a chance to reflect on how much I have used or ignored the box during the week and make adjustments. Some days I still make zombie choices in response to stress, but sometimes a choice from the Comfort Box gives me the strength I need to survive my own zombie threat.
What brings you comfort?