5 Low-Key Coping Skills For When You Can’t Walk Away

Ever get stuck in a spot where your anxiety is sky-high, but you’re surrounded with no real exit strategy? Maybe you’re at a work meeting or a concert with friends and the chances of you being able to slip away are slim to none. Yeah, me too. The trapped feeling that is quick to follow only makes things worse and harder to handle. 

When it happens to me, it’s usually when I’m at work. My job can get pretty damn stressful at times and it takes all I have not to freak out. There are also times where it is calm and leaves me time to think. Sometimes when I think too much, my anxiety skyrockets but most times I still can’t walk away. 

Having a coping skill with you everywhere you go can be the best way to combat anxiety and it might be easier than you think. To have a coping skill with you doesn’t necessarily mean you have to physically have something with you and let’s not forget that not every coping skill will work for every person–everyone is different, requiring different things to calm them. 

That being said, here are five low-key coping skills to try next time you can’t step away…

Deep Breathing

This is a coping skill that is widely overlooked. Truth is, taking some deep breaths could be just what you need to keep yourself calm. Sometimes this is all I have at my disposal at work and while it definitely isn’t my first choice of coping skill, I make it work!

Deep breathing can help lower heart rate as well as relax the body’s muscles. Try following the inflating shape, syncing your breathing!

Fidget Cube

Fidget cubes are perfect for work meetings when you start getting restless but need to pay attention. They are discreet and can be used under a desk or table to keep from distracting others! I don’t currently have one of these but I really wish I did!

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is whimsical in nature due to its true variability. Different scents can trigger different responses. Carry a small spray or scent roller (or hand sanitizer in my case) of whatever scent gives you the relief you’re looking for! Some scents that promote relaxation and stress relief are lavender and eucalyptus. I, personally, carry eucalyptus spearmint hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works with me.

Neck Rolls

Built up stress and anxiety can contribute to muscle tension along with everyday activities such as driving or working on a computer. Taking a minute to stretch and roll your neck can help relieve that tension and even improve your mood once that tension is lifted a bit!

I find myself stretching out and rolling my neck a lot lately so it definitely wasn’t a surprise when I got a massage last week and the masseuse told me my neck and shoulders were extremely tense and full of knots. However, when I do stretch it feels better at least for a little bit. 

Slime/Putty

Slime may be a fun craft to do with kids, but I, a 25-year-old woman, love me some slime. In fact, I recently made some slime for myself with one of my best friends because she had bought a kit and we were bored! Now I use that slime all the time.

This is a coping skill that can help keep your hands busy and your mind focused on something other than what is around you. It can be made or bought in small batches so it has easy portability! I bought a mini one that I keep in my backpack!

Personally using four of these five coping skills, I am confident that they could work for others! All you have to do is give them a chance! The girls I work with use all of them, though they tend to tell me to shove it when I suggest they try deep breathing…

I’d love to hear what coping skills work for you, especially those for when you’re in a situation you can’t walk away from! Drop a comment below ↓ 

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie ♥ 

All About Mental Health Stigmas

The mental health sector has faced negativity from the beginning of time and, unfortunately, that negativity probably won’t go away any time soon. What people need to realize, though, is that mental health is a much bigger issue across the world. The World Health Organization and the WorldEconomic Forum reported that mental illness is the largest economic burden of all health issues worldwide. In 2010, $2.5 trillion was spent on mental health and it is projected to reach $6 trillion spent by 2030. That’s a shit ton of money. You would think that with all of that money being spent, people (especially employers) would put more emphasis on taking care of your mental health as well as their own.

Mental health stigmas can be separated into two categories; public and self. Public stigmas can often lead to self-stigmas within mental health patients.

Public Stigmas: come from negative beliefs about people with mental illness. This usually involves a negative emotional reaction or interaction. The mindset of the public stigma is that mental illness is something to be feared and contained.

Self-Stigmas: come from a person with a mental illness having negative beliefs about themselves. This often results in people with those negative beliefs not seeking proper treatment and ultimately getting worse.

Ways to Fight Mental Health Stigmas

  • Proper self-care: find what works for you. Running, binge-watch Netflix, volunteer…the possibilities are endless.
  • Proper treatment: there is no shame in asking for help. Finding the right course of treatment can make a world of difference, so sometimes patience is necessary.
  • Self-education: do your research! But also make sure you’re getting your information from the right places.
  • Be open and honest: mental health is not something to be tabooed. Helping to show that having a mental illness does not mean you can’t function in public will only aid in decreasing public stigmas.

The best way to change these stigmas is through education and training. It is common for some people to be scared of professional punishment at their workplace due to having a mental illness and they are unsure of how their boss might view it. For example, police departments are slowly starting to realize that more training on how to interact with people with a mental illness is necessary. In turn, police departments do not always consider how mental health could affect their officers. Most departments only mandate treatment once something bad has happened.

I was extremely fortunate to be a part of a team in Massachusetts working as a foster care caseworker that put self-care and mental health at the forefront of pretty much everything. Every time I went into supervision I would be asked what I was doing for my self-care. Our program director even set up outings for us which included activities like escape rooms or ending the day early to get food and drinks as a team.

When I left that job, it was very unexpected and quick due to the situation I was in. And by quick, I mean within a matter of days. I can not express how grateful I am to how my boss and co-workers responded. All they cared about was that I was safe and making the right decisions for my well being. The job I have now as a mental health worker (direct care staff) had me fill out a self-care card on my first day of orientation and asked that I have it with me while working. 

Don’t let anyone dull what sparkle you have by labelling you based on your mental health. You are more than that and deserve more than that!


Love always,
Caitie ❤

The Reality of Vicarious Trauma

Honestly, vicarious trauma sucks ass. Too many people think that vicarious trauma is a myth that people use as an excuse. Truth is, it’s real and it’s too easily overlooked by society. By definition, vicarious trauma is the result of continuous interaction with those who have experiences trauma and by association, highly stressful situations. If left alone, the effects of vicarious trauma can be dangerous.

Unfortunately, my job is about 85% stressful situations. I have chosen a career path that has me interacting with a lot of children who have dealt with way more shit than they ever deserved or should have experienced. I read their files and hear their stories and it breaks my heart. Then, to see the effect it has on the kids is even worse. I have interacted with countless children who have had and currently have self-harm behaviors and suicidal ideations. They want to die because of what happened to them. They ask to talk and try to process their feelings with me and other staff at times.

If that’s what they need, then I am happy to provide a set of ears for them. Most of the time, I am confident in my responses and do my best to put their minds at ease at least for a time until they can meet with their therapist. But sometimes, I just don’t know what to say. And that makes me feel absolutely horrible. If I don’t have anything to say to them, then what good am I? How can I be good at my job if I’m at a literal loss for words when the kids need me to say something that will help them not want to hurt themselves or end their lives. My own therapist tells me that it’s okay to not know what to say and to tell the kids that. Deep down I believe that, seeing as how I am not a licensed therapist. I didn’t endure the years of school and learning that requires. But on some level, I still feel worthless to the kids that I have no words for. I know they appreciate me just listening to them, but I wish there was more I could do for them. For now, I guess I’ll just have to keep reminding myself that I am doing the best I can.

There are a lot of signs and symptoms that can lead to the conclusion that someone is suffering from vicarious trauma. I’ve noticed several of them in myself over the years. If you notice them in someone around you, don’t be afraid to speak up and be supportive!

self-care

Physical

* Unusually tired, even after taking a rest

* Difficulty sleeping or over sleeping

* Irregular headaches or body aches

Emotional

* Increased anger and irritability

* Lasting feelings of grief and anxiety

*More easily distracted

Behavioral

* Increased isolation

* Increase or decrease in eating habits

* Avoiding work or other responsibilities

Burnout is a huge part of my job. My first weekend of work at the program I’m at now, an incident occurred with several girls that led to three staff quitting. Some people just aren’t able to handle the stress of the job and that’s okay. However, it’s frustrating when they all realize that at once and split, leaving the rest of us to figure it out. It ultimately leads to more stress on those of us who tough it out. The above symptoms and the associative stress is what leads to such a high burnout rate among mental health workers.

Unfortunately another part of my job includes physically restraining the kids when they become self-harmful or aggressive. The proper term is Emergency Safety Physical Intervention. No one enjoys doing this, but it necessary at times. The last week or so, one of my girls at work has been having a hard time with self-harm. We’ve had to intervene several times and it definitely takes a toll both physically and emotionally. The ESPIs can lead to vicarious trauma as well. It is extremely stressful to be holding a child who is screaming at you to just let them kill themselves. There have been several nights where I’d like to just throw in the towel and be done. But as much as I hate my job sometimes, I love it, too. It can be very rewarding when you see a kid make progress and eventually make it home or wherever their next step is. It definitely isn’t something I will do long-term; I wouldn’t be able to handle it. I think that’s part of where my dream of a nomadic and free lifestyle comes from.

My previous job as a foster care case worker in Massachusetts put a lot of emphasis on self-care. We even, at times, had whole meetings on the subject. Self care was hard for me while in Massachusetts. I dealt with the stress of my job during the day and went home to the stress of my fiancé at night. I literally never had a break. It usually doubled up with my ex texting me and calling me all day while I was at work to complain about one thing or another. I was burning out fast and everyone at my job took notice. No one really said anything because they weren’t sure how to help. I made two friends while working there who I know will be close friends for life. I talk to them regularly and they have been a huge part of me getting through leaving my ex and moving away.

Now that I don’t have that extra stress at home, I am able to focus more on myself and my own well being. I can come home and escape into one of my video games or take a long shower then relax with Albus without anything getting in the way. I think that, for sure, helps me be better at my job. I’ve talked a little about my main self-care components before and I plan on doing a bigger post about the topic in the future. It is something I take very seriously and preach to my girls on a daily basis. The biggest piece of advice I give them is that, from experience, it always gets worse before it gets better and that now is not forever. I have told every single one of my girls this and I have heard them repeating it to their parents and other kids in the program. I like to think I am making a difference in the lives of these girls and I truly hope that I am.

Everyone go home tonight and take some time for yourself. Sit for ten minutes and practice deep breathing. Go for a walk. Blast music and dance without a care. Do whatever works for you. You’re no help to anyone if you can’t take care of yourself.

Until next time…

Love always,

Caitie♥