Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Make Yourself a Coping Kit

Everyone struggles at one time or another, whether you have chronic pain or chronic illness, or not.  I work part time as a psychiatric occupational therapist.  Among the things I do is teach stress management and other coping related groups. In my groups, I like to have some kind of activity, a game or craft project related to my topic.  This makes it more interesting, and gives my patients something to take home to remember the topic information easier.

One project I like to do sometimes I called a 'coping kit'.   There are a variety of ways this can be done, I am going to tell you about two ideas.  The first one is the way I do it at work.  I give each person an envelope, a label that says 'coping kit' to glue on the front, and I have a variety of stickers and colored pencils to decorate the envelope.  I put out colored strips of paper, and tell them to take as many as they want.  On each strip of paper, they are to write one thing they can do that will help them feel better.  We discuss ideas beforehand, I tell them what I have in my sample coping kit, and then I have them share their ideas with each other when they are done.

The reason for a coping kit is that, as you may have experienced, when you are really down or in pain, it can be very hard to think clearly.  Having a coping kit to refer to can be very helpful.   To identify what to put in your coping kit, think about what has helped you in the past, what do you enjoy doing that is readily accessible, what have you heard about that you would like to try, etc.  Make as many slips as you want, the more ideas you come up with, the more options you will have when you need it.  You can brainstorm over several days, and ask others for input.  Some ideas to get you started are:  take a bubble bath; drink a cup of hot chocolate or tea; take a walk; listen to a favorite CD and sing along; watch reruns of a favorite TV show or movie; read a good book; pray; write in my journal; call my sister (be specific with your ideas- identify who you will call or talk to, rather than just saying 'talk to someone').

The other type of coping kit is actual items, not just slips of paper with ideas.  Get a shoebox or other similarly sized box.  If you want to, cover it with contact paper, wrapping paper, aluminum foil, or plain paper you can decorate.  Inside the box you can put all kinds of things that make you feel better.  Ideas include nice smelling hand lotion; teabags; a book of puzzles and a pencil; drawing paper and colored pencils; a favorite small stuffed animal; a kaleidoscope or snow globe; a magazine; packets of bubble bath; cozy socks.  You can include strips of paper with more ideas for which you don't have actual items.  (For instance, you don't want to put your favorite CD in the box, and your sister won't fit.)  For both of these types of coping kits, think about what your particular issues are, and think of things that address your issues, along with things that help you fell good in general.      

The shoebox coping kit can be a nice preparation for yourself if you are going to have surgery.  Open it up at the hospital, or when you get home, and you have all kinds of little presents for yourself.  You can make one to give a sick friend.  It can be a fun outing to go shopping for coping kit items.

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