A long time ago, I realized that certain objects helped me ground or de-stress. As long as I can remember, I have always had a squishy toy, a small bean bag, a beanie baby (they are good for something other than collecting dust!!), a lavender eye pillow (the sound of the insides swooshing as I rotate it around my hands is incredibly calming, as is the lavender scent), spinning rings, things to meticulously shred, Tangle toys, objects of various different textures (I tend to prefer smooth & soft, but sometimes I go for rougher things), things to peel, etc. Throughout college, I was known to hoard stress toys in my bag, at work, and in my dorm room. I still carry at least 1, if not 5, stress objects with me daily. Heck, even our wedding rings serve as stress objects (they are 3 interconnected rings that I can either take off to play with, or easily roll up and down my finger if I need my other hand for something like driving or writing). I try to keep most things unobtrusive, as I’m supposed to be an adult now, and carrying around a beanie baby just gets me a whole bunch of weird looks (I rarely carry anything I cannot fit in my pockets, and lately they happen to be “girly jean” pockets, so space is at a premium).
I realized I have a piece of jewelry that I use quite a bit, but had no concept of it until I wound up at The Center (a dedicated Trauma Psych unit in DC). They did a lot with creative expression and making tools to help ground. One of the things I made while there was a “grounding bracelet”. It’s pretty much a single enclosed loop of beads with an additional length of beads – long enough to wrap again around my wrist a second time. When I have it on, it looks like a double-stand beaded bracelet. If I need something to fidget with however, I can unwrap the long strand and play with it. It’s really easy to make, and has come in handy when I need a way to ground or calm myself. Some of the girls I had worked with in the past really liked the concept (though I never disclosed it’s purpose to them) of having something they could wear that they could also play with. I remember one night sitting down with a handful of them and everyone making a bracelet.
To make a grounding bracelet you will need: (see also here)
- thicker stretchy jewelry string
- beads of your choice (I used glass beads but you can use any beads you like)
- cut a length of jewelry string long enough to wrap around your wrist twice, plus about 3 inches (to allow for knots and a length to tuck under the loop when not in use)
- tie a temporary knot at one end and string your beads (can also loop the string back through the bead so it stays in place while you add the others). Make sure you do not string them too tight because it will make the next step difficult. I used a larger bead at the loose end help keep it in place when not in use (doesn’t slide out as easily. It is also a nice “focal bead” to fiddle with – slightly bumpy in texture for when I want to feel something a little more rough). I used a variety of shapes and colors, but kept to colors I find soothing. Some of the beads used to have a sand-blasted texture, but that has since worn off from too much fiddling.
- tie one end (without the large “end bead”) back onto the string so that you have the closed loop portion of the bracelet (once around your wrist). Make sure you tie a solid knot at both ends, but especially the loose end. Voila! You have a grounding bracelet!
To wear, simply slide the loop over your wrist, wrap the long portion around a second time, then tuck a length of it underneath the closed-loop portion of the bracelet. I found mine slips loose if I only tuck it under once, so I loop it back onto itself again and tuck under a second time. It looks just like any other piece of jewelry, but can double as a therapeutic tool when needed without advertising what it actually is.
I also made a keychain there with similar intent. It is a “tassel” of different glass beads attached to a larger bead on a silver ring. There are about 5 or 6 different strings, each with different colors, textures, and shapes of beads. I do not use it quite as often as the bracelet (it’s a bit bulky), but I carry it with me when I need extra choices for stress toys. If I have my backpack with me, my current selection offering of stress relief is: 3 different scented lotions, a squishy ball, a sandalwood scented travel candle, a squeezable ghost, a tangle toy, my stress keychain, my iPod, silly putty, and a glass heart given to me by my first ever therapist. When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, Beary, my stuffed bear, will make her way into the bag. If I only have pocket-space, then I take my heart, the candle, and my iPod. I have taken to wearing the bracelet daily regardless of space for other things to bring. It has come in very handy while shopping (holiday crowds can be crazy!), in therapy, and any other time I need help reducing anxiety. I even find myself playing with it randomly when there’s no anxiety or stress present. I’m really glad I was given the opportunity to make it.
Does anyone else have a “portable stress kit” they use? What’s in it? Do you find it helpful?