Best For You

Self-soothe boxes have lots of different names – you might have heard them being called coping, safety, or hope boxes.

These boxes won’t fix everything – and they aren’t supposed to. They can, however, help when things feel especially overwhelming.

A photo of items from a self-soothe box laid out on a table: a stress ball with a smiley face, a pair of headphones, a photo of a cat, some colourful felt-tipped pens, a tangle fidget toy, a crossword puzzle, and a teabag. There’s a piece of paper in the middle, with computer-added text that says ‘How to make a self-soothe box’.

When you’re struggling or feel distressed, it can be hard to think clearly about what you can do and remember what helps. A self-soothe box exists to help you get to a calmer place so you can think about your options and choose a healthier way of coping.

You’ll need a box, bag, or container to hold your helpful items. What you choose to fill your box with is up to you. People often find it helpful to have items that relate to different senses, as well as some things to help them distract themselves.

Try to stay curious as you start to plan and create your box. Keep an open mind and explore different options to see which work for best you.


When things feel overwhelming, some people find it helpful to have visual reminders of people, places, pets, and memories that are important to them.

You could include:

  • Photos of people, pets, or happy memories
  • Writing about happy memories or occasions
  • A letter to yourself that you’ve written when you’re in a calmer, happier place
  • Notes or messages from people you care about
  • Positive quotes, affirmations, or song lyrics that are meaningful for you
  • A glitter jar (you can find instructions for making a glitter jar on the CBBC website)

‘Positive affirmations can be so powerful if you find out what will be meaningful for you,’ says Dr Ritu Mitra, Consultant Psychiatrist. ‘For example, you could include something like ‘My challenges help me grow’’.


Make it easier for yourself to find sounds that soothe or calm you by putting things in your box in advance.

You could include:

  • Some headphones (if you keep a pair in your box, you won’t have to search for them)
  • A link to a playlist of music that makes you feel happy, calm, or relaxed
  • A link to a video that makes you feel happy, calm, or relaxed, like a seaside scene
  • Ear plugs if you find noise overwhelming

There’s loads of scientific research and explanations about how and why touch can calm people down, but you don’t need to understand the science to try it for yourself.

You could include:

  • Fidget toys (there are loads available, so you could try a couple of different types)
  • Playdough or clay (or you could make your own salt dough)
  • Something soft (a soft toy, blanket, or pair of fluffy socks)
  • A hand or face mask
  • Temporary tattoos

Different people find different scents calming – you could use a scent you associate with a calm place or try to find something new.

You could include:

  • Hand cream or moisturiser
  • Essential oil (do some research if you have pets, as some are harmful)
  • Room spray
  • Perfume or cologne

We know that people sometimes get into a cycle where their breathing makes them feel anxious, and then that anxiety makes it tricky for them to breathe as calmly as they normally would. If this happens to you, you could include some things in your box to help.

You could include:

Get in the flow

Sometimes, when things feel overwhelming, people find it calming or relaxing to give their brain something else to do. This might be especially helpful if you find yourself worrying about things over and over again.

You could include:

  • Colouring book or sheet (don’t forget to include some pens or pencils too)
  • A simple craft (you could include a kit or try something like origami)
  • A puzzle book (choose your favourite type of puzzle, from crosswords to sudoku)
  • A pen and a notepad
  • Nail varnish
  • Playing cards (you could learn to play clock solitaire or spider solitaire as they’re games for one player)

‘Getting in the flow with an activity or some exercise can be an effective distraction technique,’ says Dr Mitra.


It isn’t always easy to reach out when you don’t feel great. Make it easier for yourself by creating a list of people and organisations you can contact to add to your box.

You could include:

  • Names of friends or family you can contact (and their phone numbers)
  • Information about different organisations – check out the ‘Get help now’ page for some ideas

Let us know what’s in your box by emailing or sharing on social media @BestForYouNHS – we’d love to hear your ideas and share some pictures of your boxes and kits.