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  • Writer's pictureSteph

What’s in my toolkit (part 2)

Updated: Mar 5

Assorted tools and spare parts on a workbench

Last month, I wrote about the changes I made to my environment in order to feel more relaxed and manage my anxiety.

In this post, I’ll be looking at the mental side of things, the inner work that is constantly going on in the background. Let’s start with something fundamental like…


Box breathing, more specifically. This is a technique where you breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for four, breathe out for four, then hold your breath again for four. It’s a pretty basic method to calm yourself, it doesn’t require any equipment and can be done anywhere. That makes it a technique that’s often featured in introductions to mindfulness and meditation. Unsurprising there are plenty of apps that can guide you through the process as well. I find it helpful to do some box breathing when I feel my anxiety levels rise, for example before I jump into an unknown or uncomfortable situation.

Time outside

After developing social anxiety as part of the lockdowns, my default mode was to stay inside. When I was particularly busy or stressed, I might not make it past the bin shed for weeks. Finding the courage to venture out again was a pretty long and hard process, so a part of me is always anxious that I might fall back into old patterns. That’s why I make myself leave the house at least once a day to go for a walk. No matter how long or short, it makes a difference to my mood. Weather is no consideration at this point and I’ve come to appreciate a windy day (makes me feel alive) or muddy shoes (okay, it’s more about the fact that I did not slip and make a spectacle of myself).


This is about being in the moment while I do things that would usually make my mind wander - into anxiety and worry territory, more often than not. Washing the dishes has sometimes led to a bout of rumination and a mood change for the worse. I tend to be in my head a lot anyway, so I am trying to connect more with my surroundings these days. That means savouring a cup of tea or a meal instead of mindlessly ingesting this while watching TV. Really taking in my surroundings when going for a walk, actively listening for birdsong or even traffic noise. And while I haven’t had a meltdown in a long time, it’s still calming to shake a glitter jar and watch the chaos settle.


This might feel a little woo-woo to some people, but affirmations is just a fancy term for having some canned responses when the critical voice in my head gets too distracting. I used to get bogged down thinking that I cannot do this, that I do not know what to do about that. Those thoughts don’t play in a constant loop any longer, but they do surface from time to time. And when they do, I’m ready. As soon as I think “I don’t know what to do!!!”, I follow up with “but I will figure it out”. Just like that, I am reminding myself that it’s okay to not know and that it doesn’t mean I won’t know in the future. I have all the tools and resources to work out a solution. I might not be there yet, but I’m on my way.


Duh! They say a good coach is coaching, coached, and coachable - but even if I were not a coach myself, I would seek out this experience for myself. I’ve received a lot of coaching as part of my training and I will never not be amazed by the luxury of having the space to think things through in partnership with a coach. To be able to voice what’s going on for me, knowing that my coach won’t judge me, is huge. Contrary to venting to a friend or family member, I don’t have to consider how my thoughts and feelings might affect them. My coach doesn’t have a personal agenda. Is it a privilege to pay someone to listen to me? For sure. And I’m grateful that I am in a position to afford that.

Whatever you are using, it’s a good idea to be prepared. That means practising meditation or mindfulness when your head isn’t spinning and potentially preparing some sort of physical toolkit with resources you can fall back on.

What techniques and habits do you have in your toolkit?


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