Cuddle baskets and comfort boxes

“Cuddle baskets” or “comfort boxes” are a way of managing days when you feel lower or in more pain than is usual for you.    You can put them together yourself, at home, over a period of time or as an afternoon’s project.

The idea is to gather together small things that bring you comfort and help manage your pain or low feelings, so you can get the box out on a difficult day and make use of them.  The things you choose will be personal to you, but I have included some examples and links to examples further down the page.

Putting together your box is best done in advance, while you feel good and motivated – this will mean it is easier for you to identify your “good things” and have the ability to gather them together.  It is also a good idea to try including things which do not require a lot of energy or time to set up, as that might make it difficult for you to enjoy them when you need them.

You may want to put your things in a plain shoebox, an attractive basket or even treat yourself to a nice wooden lockbox or similar – it’s up to you!

If you find it difficult to think of things to include off the top of your head, you could ask your friends or relatives to help – you might even be able to make up boxes together.  You could set reminders to take special note of things you enjoy while in the moment – if it strikes you that “hey, I really enjoy this!”, could you include what you are doing in your box?

Examples of things you might like to include in your box (try to include all your senses!):

  • Warm slippers
  • Colouring books and good-quality pencils
  • A sachet of soup powder
  • Bath products
  • A book
  • A bar of chocolate
  • A small craft kit (such as cross-stitch, or a felt animal kit)
  • Something with your favourite fragrance
  • Photographs of a cheerful event
  • A favourite CD

Below are some blogs from people who have made these boxes.  What’s going in yours?

http://themighty.com/2015/11/the-29-things-i-put-in-my-fibromyalgia-cuddle-basket/#/ixzz3sTl95aOb

http://bridgetofthenorth.com/2012/09/04/comfort-box-a-little-box-of-you-support-and-self-help-when-you-need-it-most/

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/mobile/emergency.htm

http://thursdaygroupbook.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/making-comfort-box.html

https://forums.superbetter.com/showthread.php?2928-Comfort-Box-first-aid-kit-for-anxiety

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression which appears over winter, affecting about 3% of people in the UK according to the Royal College of Psychiatrists.  It seems to be linked to a lower amount of sunlight, but it is not clear exactly how and why some people are affected more than others.  Some people have suggested that humans once hibernated, and this might be a cause!

 

SAD has many of the same symptoms as clinical depression – including persistent low mood, lethargy/sleepiness and a feeling of disconnection or lack of interest in activities you normally enjoy.  You may find you are sleeping and eating more (particularly carbohydrates), and being ill more often. It is also common to find it more difficult to think clearly or manage stress well.

 

If you think you have SAD, it is a good idea to see your GP in the first instance.

 

Your GP may offer you medication or lifestyle advice to ease symptoms.  Some people find that making sure to get as much natural sunlight as possible eases symptoms, or use daylight-simulating lightbulbs or light boxes at home.  Eating well, taking appropriate exercise and maintaining social links all seem to help.

 

As always, good self care can not only ease symptoms in themselves but also help you feel more in control.  It is an important aspect of a healthy lifestyle but one that is often brushed aside – some people feel guilty or self-indulgent for prioritising it.  However, good self care not only helps us to feel better but it also means we are more able to help others.  Nurturing of yourself is just as important as (if not more important than) being able to nurture others!

 

Some people benefit from counselling to tackle SAD – if you would like to make an appointment with me for this, please contact me.

 

You might also seek advice from The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association or try the MoodGYM online CBT program.

Weather and mood

Walking around enjoying today’s warm sunlight, I wondered if weather has an effect on mood.  Certainly Seasonal Affective Disorder exists, but a blog on that might be more appropriate for autumn.

So does sunlight affect mood?  It seems that the jury is still out.  Some research suggests that it makes little difference, and some studies say that more sunlight leads to elevated mood (especially in people who have depression).  A short review of some of the different studies is also here.  I think it can be hard to tease out the effect weather has, because it is difficult to isolate it amongst all the other factors – such as location, economy, culture etc.

It is interesting that studies have mentioned how much it varies between people – it could be that some people are naturally affected more by weather than others.  It also appears that low levels of vitamin D (produced by exposing skin to sunlight) might be linked to depression.  I sincerely hope that everyone who does feel the benefit of sunlight, or thinks they might, has the opportunity to get some.  Cancer Research UK have tips on how to enjoy the sunshine safely.