Relapse Prevention: Build Your Emergency Kit

Part of any good relapse prevention plan should be some ideas for alternate behaviors or activities for when you feel the urges to engage in ED behaviors. Over the years, I've come to realize that this list isn't always enough. When I'm really struggling with urges, some of the suggestions on the list can seem asinine--feel like purging? Knit a scarf. There ya go.--and sometimes you would be happy to knit a scarf if only you had some yarn and a pattern. But you don't.

Enter the Emergency Kit.

My kit is an old shoebox that I decoupaged in treatment and inside I keep my list of alternate behaviors, and I also keep some supplies for these alternate behaviors. Some of these supplies include a bottle of bubbles, a skein of funky yarn, a rubber ducky, some meaningful mementos, phone numbers of friends/family, and a $5 Starbucks gift card. I also have a really hard jigsaw puzzle, but that's in my closet, not the box. When I'm really wanting to act out on the eating disorder, it's all well and good to think that standing on the back deck and blowing bubbles would make you feel better, but you also need to know where those bubbles are and (this is just as important) have them available for easy access. At these times, I have minimal frustration tolerance, and rooting through drawers and boxes is not going to be helpful. Hence the Emergency Kit. Everything is all together and easily accessible.

My list of alternate behaviors includes the following:

  • crochet
  • blogging
  • sudoku
  • reading
  • heavy-duty cleaning
  • snuggling with Aria
  • listening to my iPod
  • taking a shower
  • looking at travel websites
  • lighting candles
  • take a nap
  • deep breathing
These alternate behaviors are also alternates for other less-than-helpful behaviors, such as marinating in my own anxiety and that depressive perseveration. The list originally came from the distress tolerance module of dialectical behavioral therapy that I worked on in treatment. I initially targeted it towards ED behaviors, but I found it helpful in pretty much any situation. I've added to it over the years, and crossed out a few items.

Ditto for the emergency kit. I have a few items I'd like to add, such as Silly Putty, Play-Doh, and Legos. But the contents have remained remarkably stable over the years (this either means I picked good items or I'm frighteningly consistent).

The other key factor is to actually use your emergency kit. I used to tell myself that this wasn't a real emergency and I should save the yarn, bubbles, whatever, for an actual emergency. I've had to tell myself, over and over, that any thoughts of turning to my emergency kit are an actual emergency. I wasted my money if all the stuff does is sit there and collect dust.

What sorts of items do you want to include in your emergency kit? Share your responses in the comments!

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Melissa said...

This is a great idea and I think that having it all together and prepared is key when you're resisting a behaviour and need something close to hand that helps.

I didn't have a recovery kit, as such, but I had some recovery items that I linked in my head with getting better and safety, and also those that I used as a distraction or coping activity. I brought them all during my active recovery so that any ED associations were removed, and they included:

My favourite TV show boxset; soft pyjamas; a su du ku book; card-making things; a special motivation notebook; photos of people I cared about and special memories; shells; a cuddly bear from my Mum; and some little cards with my main reasons to recover written on them.

For me, just the association with recovery helped as much as the activity itself.

Anonymous said...

Good idea this Emergency Kit! Thanks for it! Each of us has some preferences. I need, I must include people inside my emergency box (it is allways open) Photos of good memories and photos of people I love are in my box. But remembering my full recovery many years ago, my Emergency Kit does not really fit in a box. It includes people, also no name people. Sitting outside just looking people was good. But at the top of the emergency kit: given part of my time to people who need me. Having the pleasure of doing good things for unknown people. To be useful to others. Now I recognized that probably it was the main key to my cure.

Anonymous said...

I love this idea.... and have heard it before, but I really have trouble utilizing it.
If I feel like restricting, these activities are usually what I do instead of eating, which is more detrimental....
For dealing with anxiety after a meal, they work really well though!

Amy said...

That whole saving it for a worse time? Sometimes that's what helps me through a rough spot. The imaginary future scenario where things really are just unmanageable, which would make the current situation not as bad and thus I am able to tough it out. (I mean, that's kind of reductive and doesn't mean the bad situation becomes a cakewalk, but you know.)

Unknown said...

Great....Applause to your post,thanks a lot.We will also teach you stress management relaxation techniques.
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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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