Portable Comfort: How to Carry Comfort With You

by Cheryl Rainfield, 2001, 2022

There are times when we are out in the world and need a little–or a lot–of extra comfort. Times when we are nervous or scared, feeling vulnerable or unsure of ourselves, or just aren’t feeling confident. A new job, a speech we have to give, a new situation, a group where we don’t feel welcome, or just being stressed out can leave us needing comfort. And, for survivors, facing something triggering, frightening, or painful can also be hard. It’s times like those that portable comfort can come in handy.

Portable comfort means bringing something with you on purpose that helps you to feel comforted, and reminds you that you are safe and loved. There are many different ways of bringing comfort with you–and they don’t all have to be obvious.

It can also help to include things that use all your senses to help you ground: your vision, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. A quick way to ground is the 5-4-3-2-1 technique: find 5 things you can see; 4 things you can touch; 3 things you can hear; 2 things you can smell; and 1 thing you can taste. Try to notice the shapes and colours, texture and temperature, volume, sweet or salty etc. Really noticing them can ground you, which can help you feel safer and comforted. Playing with a small fidget toy can also help ground you and make you feel safer.

I take portable comfort with me whenever I leave the house. I have things already placed in my backpack, the pockets of my coat, and sometimes even my jeans, so if I forget to bring something extra with me, I already have something with me. And I always wear the same necklace; it’s always with me.

If you have time before you leave for the day, it’s a good idea to associate whatever good feeling you want to remind yourself of (comfort, safety, love, strength) with the object. To do this, take a moment and remember when you felt comforted, safe, or loved. Hold that feeling to you. Now imagine that good feeling flowing into the object. Tell yourself that whenever you see or feel or notice that object in your day, you will be reminded of that good feeling, and feel it again.

Here are a few ways you can take some portable comfort along with you:

    • Carry things in your pockets.
      Things that you put in your pockets are usually better if they’re small. You might carry something like:
        • a small stone (a stone from the water, or a polished stone such as an amethyst),
        • a small pewter figure or object,
        • a picture with a backing on it, or one that is laminated or plasticized (like a picture in a key chain),
        • a small squishy toy,
        • a small fidget toy,
        • a piece of cloth or handkerchief scented with an essential oil that makes you feel good (for smell),
        • lip balm with an essential oil like peppermint for both taste and smell,
      • a note from someone you love, etc.
    • Wear a necklace that makes you feel strong or good or happy.
      The necklace can go under your shirt–no one else has to see it–and when you feel it against your skin you can be reminded of safety (or whatever positive feeling you have associated with it). Or you can wear it outside your shirt, and every time you see it, remember what it means to you. The necklace might be one that someone special gave you, or one that you picked out and were drawn to. You might pick a necklace with:
        • a stone that you like the colour or properties of;
        • an image that makes you feel good or has special meaning to you;
        • a locket with a picture of someone you love, who loves you back;
        • a shell or natural object that reminds you of someplace you’ve been where you feel safe;
        • a small vial that you can fill with calming essential oil or an aromatherapy necklace;
      • a pouch that you can put a stone in or something small that makes you feel good, etc.
    • Bring along a comfort bag.
      Comfort bags are bags (small, medium, and large sized) that contain all sorts of things that make you feel good and safe. I have numerous comfort bags, mostly little ones that I can put inside my backpack on different days, according to what I’m feeling. A comfort bag might contain:
        • some natural hand cream, facial lotion, or oil that has a smell that makes you feel good (smell and touch);
        • a pen and paper or mini notepad to write with (so you can write out what’s upsetting you, or write out things that make you feel good, doodle, etc);
        • a stone to hold, rub, and look at (touch and sight);
        • a card from someone you love;
        • a music player and music that calms you (hearing);
        • a book that makes you feel good;
        • some small toys that make you smile, or help you feel loved or strong such as a superhero figure;
        • a small pewter object or worry stone (touch and sight);
        • Calm Strips or Soothe Stickers (textured stickers you can rub or pick at for touch and sight);
        • a small fidget toy: a fidget spinner, a spinner ring, a worry stone, a stretchy mini noodle, a wire toy, a squishy/stress ball, a bubble pop toy (though those can be loud), a flippy necklace or bracelet (where you flip or spin the beads), a fidget cube, a small infinity cube, Aaron’s Thinking Putty or Silly Putty, etc.
        • a vial of essential oil that is calming (lavender, chamomile, rose), that makes you feel good, or that just smells good to you (scent);
        • a small stuffie–or even a big one (touch and sight);
        • a small object that has some weight to it to help you feel more grounded, like a boji stone, a mini sand-filled fabric toy like a frog, etc.
        • mints or gum (taste and scent);
        • an essential oil roll on (scent);
        • a little bottle of bubbles;
        • a comfort book (mentioned later in this article);
      • and any of the things mentioned in this article, or anything small that makes you feel good.

      Basically, you want to try to get something that makes you feel good from each category: smell, touch, sound, taste, sight. For more information and a great article on comfort bags, see here.

    • Wear an article of clothing that makes you feel strong or comforted.
      The clothing doesn’t have to be something other people see; you can wear a t-shirt, sparkly undershirt, or a favourite pair of socks or underwear beneath your clothes. Or you can put on that favourite shirt or pair of pants, and every time you look down at them, feel good. I often wear a Superman or Wonder Woman tight-fitting T-shirt or undershirt beneath my outfit or superhero socks if I know I’ll be anxious.
    • Bring a MP3 player or playlist on your phone.
      Put together a mixture of music that you find soothing or uplifting, or that makes you feel strong, and bring that with you. Or you might want to bring along a tape made by your therapist, friend, lover, or yourself, that tells you the messages you need to hear, or your favorite audiobook. You can also take along a relaxation, meditation, or hypnotherapy recording.
    • Take some small snacks or food you can fit into your bag, purse, or backpack.
      Food can be both a comfort, and a help in balancing how you feel. If you go too long without food and your blood sugar drops, you may not even notice or connect that you’re feeling lousy because you haven’t eaten–but it can happen. It helps to bring something you can just nibble on when you get hungry. You might want to pack:
        • something sweet from your childhood that makes you feel good–like a certain gum or candy or chocolate (low glycemic naturally, with stevia or erythritol, is even better);
        • fruit–an apple, orange, grapefruit, or banana;
        • cut up cheese, a protein, granola, or good-fat bar, or trail mix;
        • crackers;
        • cut up veggies;
      • a bottle of water or juice.
    • Bring along a comfort book.
      A comfort book is something you create for yourself, by pasting or drawing things onto the pages, and writing feel-good messages next to them. It’s a small notebook or sketchbook filled with things that make you feel good:
        • a letter from a friend;
        • photos of people you love;
        • images that make you feel good (you can make colour photocopies of a few pages out of a book, or scan them);
      • little cartoons that make you smile, etc.

      For feel-good messages, you can write:

        • affirmations,
        • loving messages about yourself,
        • things that you like about yourself,
        • things that people you care about like about you,
      • or anything you need to hear when you’re feeling vulnerable or frightened (like reminding yourself that you’re safe).
    • Bring a good-things-about-me booklet.
      A Good-Things-About-Me booklet is a little notebook that you write good things about yourself in. It can be very hard to write good things about yourself, especially if you don’t believe them, but writing good things and reading them can help you believe them. You might also want to think about the good things other people have said about you, and see if you’d like to include those, too. Or you might want to ask a friend, therapist, or lover to write out some things you can include. Write as many things as you can in the notebook–and keep adding to it.
    • Bring some small vials or roll-ons of essential oils, or some smell that makes you feel good, such as a lavender sachet.
      Smell is one of our most powerful senses. Something that smells good to us can lift our spirits. Think of a warm cinnamon bun, or a freshly cut orange. Essential oils have properties that can help ease depression, lift spirits, and soothe the soul (when used in conjunction with other things). They are especially nice because they are natural, and, in my experience, they really do help.You might want to use these oils to:
        • lift your spirits: orange, ylang ylang, bergamot (or any citrus essential oil)
        • calm and soothe: lavender, chamomile, rose, jasmine
      • increase confidence: bergamot, grapefruit, jasmine
      • comfort: I find Do-Terra’s Hope to be incredibly soothing and comforting. It comes as a roll-on.

      Other ways you can bring smells:

        • Bring a tiny toy that has a smell that makes you feel good. For instance, if play doh is a good smell for you, there are tiny tubs of play doh for sale in many toy stores. Do you like the smell of crayons? Bring one along. It’s okay if it breaks; you’re bringing it for the smell. How about a scratch and sniff sticker? A tiny doll that’s scented? Whatever smells good to you, bring that along.
      • Bring a lip balm, or a tiny bottle or plastic baggie of a skin care product that makes you feel safe or happy or good when you smell it. (You can use an old pill bottle or essential oil bottle or lip balm container.) Like the smell of sunscreen, and it’s not summer? Bring it along. Like the scent of baby powder? A perfume or face cream that someone you love uses? Bring a tiny bit along…or scent a tissue or handkerchief with a few drops. There’s nothing silly in making yourself feel good.
  • Carry a small tincture or homeopathic remedy.
    You might want to tuck a small tincture or homeopathic remedy into your pocket or bag. Bach remedies is one such brand of tinctures. Rescue Remedy is the most well-known remedy for vulnerability, panic attacks, etc. Many survivors swear by it. Homeopathic remedies can also be effective. For me, Argentum nitricum works really well for panic and terror. You might want to think about what feeling you need help with–panic, fear, depression, pain, loneliness, feeling unequal–and then search out the appropriate tincture. Try it out for a few weeks, and see if it helps you.

Carrying around some form of comfort, and having it available right when you need it can help ease anxiety and stress, and give you reassurance when you need it. I’ve found that just knowing I have a comfort bag with me is sometimes enough–and other times, I am grateful I have it with me to dip into. You might want to try carrying around some comfort, and see if it makes a difference in your life.

Written by Cheryl Rainfield, award-winning author of SCARS, STAINED, and HUNTED

If you like this article, you may post it on your website or use it in your print publication, as long as you provide a link back to my site (http://www.CherylRainfield.com), and credit me. I’d also really like to know where you put my article, but you don’t have to let me know in order to use it.