Back To Basics: Using Distress Kits for Simple Self-Care

Posted by: Anna Coutts on June 16, 2015 12:34 pm

Where’s your wellness toolbox? This was question that was recently posed to me while attending a Youth Engagement meeting. A few child and youth workers had created a smorgasbord of simple coping tools so the youth could create customized distress tolerance copy

I was heartened to see my push for putting such kits into practice at our residential programs was paying off. It was inspiring to see both the work the staff put into preparing the event and the youth’s delight in making the kits.

Then one of the staff prompted the clinical team to start making our kits. The suggestion threw the team off-guard. Our kits? Everyone seemed a bit puzzled by the suggestion. And in that moment, I was reminded just how few of us practice what we preach.

Sure, we all have self-care strategies we use, whether it’s yoga or traveling or personal therapy. Yet due to our busy work days, we often dismiss using the simple yet solid strategies we recommend to our clients. This applies not just to therapists as individuals, but mental health organizations in general.

Creating a distress kit is often one of the first things I do with my clients. Many therapists I know do something similar, and it makes sense: it’s a tried and true technique. Yet until attending that meeting, I can’t think of many therapists I know who have such a kit sitting in their office that’s meant for themselves and not for their clients.

Many therapists and agencies try to build in solutions to prevent burnout, such as having retreat or team-building days. While these solutions are wonderful self-care strategies that need to continue, often it takes time and money to implement them, creating barriers to reducing staff stress levels on a daily basis. So why not start simple?

The kit the workers pushed me to make now sits on my desk. It does not sit idle. Whether it’s coloring a mandela after a difficult session, playing with some Play Doh while on the phone with a frustrated parent or knitting a few stitches with my supervisor during lunch hour, having an actual kit keeps me from forgetting that I can avoid sweating the big stuff by enjoying the small stuff.

So if you’re looking for a way to improve your self-care routine, I encourage you to go back to basics. It works better than you think.


*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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