10 Frugal Gifts for People Who Suffer from Anxiety

A racing heart. Panting breaths. Tunnel vision.

Chances are, you’ve felt anxiety in your life, and you know how terrible it is. Many of our loved ones manage anxious thoughts and feelings every day.

But what if you could give a friend or loved one something to help soothe them? If you have someone who in your life suffers from anxiety, this gift guide is for you.

Last holiday season, I wrote a frugal gift guide for people who suffer from depression.

A lot of the gifts on this list overlap with that one, but feel free to check the depression post out for even more ideas!

Preface

I’d like to preface this gift guide by saying that whomever you’re giving gifts to, keep in mind whether the recipient will actually be able to use the gift. People who suffer from depression are easily overwhelmed. You want to offer them a present which won’t overwhelm them, and you definitely don’t want to have expectations that they will use the gift.

Presents don’t have to be expensive, but if they’re thoughtful, your loved one will appreciate them. If you can, do some research to figure out what your loved one likes and is into. Look into their social media posts and find out what he or she is posting about. That can give you a clue as to what your friend or loved one enjoys.

If you are a frugal person buying for a frugal person, the best gifts you can give are practical ones. Most frugal people are content with what they have, and don’t want to fill their houses with stuff they won’t use. So the best gifts you can give, aside from time, are consumables, like food, journals, or gift certificates to places they like.

With that in mind, here are 10 frugal gifts for people who suffer from anxiety:

1. Weighted Blanket

Imagine a situation where you’re antsy and distracted. Then imagine a full-body embrace. Imagine deep pressure enfolding your arms, your legs, your chest. Now imagine a calm passing over your frantic mind.

This is the soothing feeling of a weighted blanket.

Weighted blankets have been used by occupational therapists the world over to help calm their patients, both children and adults alike. Glass beads are partitioned out in pockets and sewn together in sections.

When picking out a weighted blanket, there are two rules of thumb to follow: the chin-to-feet rule, where you use a blanket that covers your whole body, and the 10% rule, where you use a blanket that is 10% of your body weight.

Keep these rules in mind when picking out a weighted blanket for your loved one, and you’ll be golden.

2. Essential Oil Diffuser

Aromatherapy has long been a practice to soothe people. Scents like lavender and pine have calming effects on the mind.

This is due to the fact that lavender has been linked to the same neuron receptors as powerful anti-anxiety medications. Calming scents, and lavender in particular, trigger your brain to produce more feel-good chemicals.

So why not get your loved one an essential oil diffuser? They’ll love it.

3. Worry Rings

A “worry item” is something you can hold in your hands to fidget with. Fidgeting is a natural habit that helps ground people who suffer from anxiety, so a worry item can be very useful.

A worry ring or spinner ring helps take your loved one’s mind off whatever’s distressing them. They will wear their ring and think of you every time they fidget.

4. Mini Zen Garden

Raking sand and setting up stones doesn’t sound like it will relieve anxiety.

But a miniature zen garden is perfect for creating a small environment where your loved one will have complete control over the patterns of the sand. A zen garden can be a very soothing activity for your friend or loved one.

5. Therapy

Everyone needs someone to talk to.

Depending on how your loved one feels about therapy, signing them up with a few virtual sessions with a licensed therapist may be a wonderful gift. Your giftee may benefit immensely from only a few sessions and be encouraged to continue.

But take care when giving this gift.

You must know your recipient well and be able to preempt their reaction. And don’t let the sessions be a surprise. Talk with the person before giving them therapy as a gift, so they know what your intentions are.

If you give therapy to the right person, a few sessions could really help them!

For a post on how to start seeing a therapist, click here.

6. Adult Coloring Book

Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore.

This soothing activity is now for adults in the form of adult coloring books, which show complex patterns of animals, words, and mandalas, among other pictures.

Give your loved one a box of crayons and an adult coloring book, and watch their face light up.

7. Journal

Journaling has been proven to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Give your loved one the gift of a journal this holiday season. A nice Moleskin is a bit on the pricey side, but Moleskin makes excellent notebooks with leather-bound covers.

If you want to make the journal very special to your recipient, purchase it ahead of the gifting and write a positive affirmation or quote on the bottom of each page.

8. Yoga Mat

Downward facing dog. Mountain pose. Warrior I.

These are all yoga poses, from a practice which has been proven to help with stress and anxiety.

Why not give your loved one a yoga mat, so they can enjoy a few virtual sessions of yoga? If you want to go all out, spring for a work out DVD or some sessions with a professional yogi.

Like therapy, only give yoga sessions/mats if you know your recipient well and expect that they would enjoy working out.

9. Bath Salts

One of the best birthday gifts I ever received was a gift basket from my sister containing lotions, soaps, and a set of organic, deliciously-scented bath salts.

The salts were an especially soothing gift for me, as I was able to soak my troubles away in a tub that left my skin soft and my mind calmed with the scents.

Give your loved one the gift of scented bath salts this holiday season. Everyone needs to be clean.

10. Mug of Hot Chocolate to Share

And finally, the last gift on this list but certainly not the least, is a mug of hot chocolate to share.

There are some pretty cute mugs out there, some of which are funny and others of which can be sweet. Purchase a mug and some instant, powdered hot chocolate–or DIY some of your own with a recipe you can find online.

And then offer to share some hot chocolate with your loved one. What your loved one needs most is the gift of your time.

Even during a global pandemic, you can still set aside some time to virtually share a cup of hot cocoa with your loved one, right? You may have to schedule the visit and you can’t exactly hug each other, but your loved one will appreciate seeing your smiling face and catching up with you.

Conclusion

Shopping for gifts for a person who suffers from anxiety isn’t difficult.

You simply have to think about what you think would soothe your friend or loved one the most. Be it a yoga or therapy session, a long soak in the tub, or time spent sharing a mug of hot chocolate, do some thinking about what gift your loved one will enjoy.

I wish you well in your journey.

What gifts are on your list this year?

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Do You Have Bipolar Disorder? You Can Still Thrive This Holiday Season

Bipolar? You can thrive this holiday season – Tips on how to manage mania and depression during the holidays.

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This post was previously featured on the International Bipolar Foundation website (ibpf.org), here.

The holidays strike fear into many hearts, especially those of us with mental illness. But they don’t have to. People with mental health conditions, including bipolar disorder, can thrive during the holiday season.

Don’t Neglect Basic Self-Care

You won’t be able to enjoy the season if you neglect basic self-care. This applies to whatever episode you’re in. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, get your heart rate up for 30 minutes, drink enough water, get outside, and socialize every day. These six suggestions are the basic tenants of self-care, first outlined by Sophie at WellandWealthy.org. If you often do all six, you will feel better.

But how do you manage that during the holidays, which can upset your daily routine? Planning. You can plan to bow out of conversations if you’re overwhelmed, plan times to take your medication, and plan for downtime by yourself to recharge your social batteries.

Also, don’t be afraid to communicate your needs. Figure out your needs ahead of significant social events and prepare yourself to ask for help. (For a post on how to communicate with your family during the holidays if you have a mental illness, click here.) And try to avoid alcohol, especially if you’re taking medication.

What to Do if You’re Manic

If you are manic during the holidays, you may feel like partying and socializing 24/7. But mania borrows energy from the future, so there’s a crash coming if you don’t manage your enthusiasm. You need to pace yourself, not only for your own sake, but for those around you who might not be able to handle your verve.

When you’re at a party, check in with someone you trust on a regular basis to see if your behavior is edging out of control. Set a timer on your phone every thirty minutes to take breaks outside the main party area. Use this time to take stock of what you’ve been doing at the party.

In addition to taking care of yourself at events, keep in mind that overspending frequently accompanies mania. Spending too much on gifts can be quicksand. Before you search for them, set a budget, and be vigilant about sticking to it. Limit presents to one per family member or loved one.

One of my manifestations of mania is crafting, so I get obsessed with painting, baking, and stitching stocking-stuffers and other gifts. Because I’m rushing through the projects, they always turn out sloppy. Once I’m no longer manic, that’s obvious to me (unfortunately, it’s also obvious to everyone else when they open the gifts). Don’t follow my lead; if you must make homemade gifts, limit yourself to one project at a time, and budget enough time to complete them well.

What to Do if You’re Depressed

If you’re depressed during the holiday season, don’t worry, you can pull through this. Most people with depression hide away from the world. But being around others can help. If you’ve been invited to parties, make an extra effort to go.

When going to a party, make sure to prepare yourself physically and mentally. Take a shower. Drink some water. Psych yourself up, and plan out what to say if you need to bow out of a conversation. Try to talk to at least two different people. Don’t stick your head in the ground like an ostrich, as tempting as that is.

If you’re spending this holiday season alone, cities and churches often host free holiday events that you can attend. Try volunteering at a food bank or animal shelter. Burn through your Netflix backlog. Drink non-alcoholic eggnog. And if you can afford a change of scenery, go!

Final Thoughts

Regardless of how your mental health issues present, there are plenty of strategies to help you thrive during the holidays. Don’t neglect your basic self-care, don’t isolate yourself, and do keep an eye on your budget and energy levels. You can do this.

Have Bipolar? You Can Thrive During This Holiday Season - Tips and tricks to manage mania and depression during the holidays

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How to Communicate with Family During the Holidays When You Have a Mental Illness

family photo2
A picture of a mother, father, and their three children peeking out between white frames, as a family photo. Credit to flickr.com user Louish Pixel. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

The holidays can be a source of great joy for many people. But the season of celebrations can also be fraught with tension, especially when families get together. But if you have a mental illness like bipolar disorder, then navigating the heated conversations at the dinner table can be triggering and difficult. Read on to find out how to communicate effectively with family during the holidays when you have a mental illness.

1. Know Your Limits

One of the most effective ways to communicate with difficult family members starts with you knowing yourself. Before you find yourself pushed to your limits, advocate for breaks for yourself. Excusing yourself for a brief walk or a breath of fresh air will do wonders for your disposition. There’s no shame in seeking time away to ground yourself. If you suffer from bipolar disorder, check out this post on common bipolar triggers and how to manage them to avoid falling into a depressive or manic episode.

2. Redirect the Conversation with Humor

When you find yourself facing people asking probing questions about anxiety-producing topics like your reproductive plans, try gently redirecting the conversation using humor. Don’t answer the question if you don’t feel like doing so, but do try to give the asker a witty (and possibly self-depricating) comment. This is easier said than done, of course, and if this puts more pressure on you, use the next tip instead.

3. Firmly Establish Conversational Boundaries

Some family members may have the unfortunate tendency to expound on their offensive political opinions to others, especially captive audiences around the dinner table. Don’t take the bait and argue with them. Instead, firmly establish conversational boundaries. Try saying something like, “Aunt Mildred, I understand that you feel that way. But I don’t want to talk about X, Y, or Z tonight. Let’s just enjoy the party, please.” If Aunt Mildred continues, then use tip one and gently extricate yourself from the conversation to take a break.

4. Enlist the Help of a Trusted Family Member

If you have a loving spouse or partner, or even a beloved family member you are close to, enlist his or her help in managing other more divisive people. Check in with your partner and ask them to check in with you every half hour or so during parties or other family gatherings. If needed, develop a signal between the two of you so he or she can rescue you from unpleasant conversations.

5. Lean on Existing Support Systems

If you are traveling and won’t be able to meet with your usual therapist or psychiatrist, then make sure to have crisis hotlines or warmlines programmed into your phone. If you’re bipolar, one national warmline provided by Nami Orange County can be called at 877-910-9276. Online support groups can help as well; try HealthfulChat’s room focused on bipolar disorder.

6. Avoid Alcohol

This isn’t a fun tip, but alcohol can add fuel to the fires of family conflict. Staying sober will reduce the chances of your saying something you regret. If you do choose to imbibe, then know your limits, and drink plenty of water to avoid having a hangover the next day.

7. Eat Properly and Get Plenty of Sleep

This tip is similar to tip 1: take care of yourself. Try to avoid sugar as much as possible, stick to your normal, healthy diet, and go to bed at reasonable hours. If you take care of your body, then you will be better equipped to handle family members who talk your ear off. Also, take your meds.

Final Thoughts

Communicating with your family during the holidays when you have a mental illness isn’t an insurmountable task. Just make sure to take care of yourself–removing yourself from conversations if necessary–avoid alcohol, get support, and establish firm boundaries.

You can do this.

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Bipolar? You Can Survive This Holiday Season, part II

This is part two of a two-part series.
Part I | Part II

In the first post in this series, I covered a little bit about how to survive the holiday series when you’re manic. To recap: avoid alcohol, don’t take on too many projects, and try to relax. Now we’ll take a look at…

What to Do if You’re Depressed

Take care of yourself. That’s the core of all the advice I can give on this topic, but it’s the hardest to follow when you’re drowning. But amidst all this merriment, the temptation to give in to your loneliness and hide away from the world will be powerful indeed.

So if you’re invited to parties, prepare to go to at least one. Eat one of your favorite foods beforehand. Shower. Drink a glass of water. Once there, avoid alcohol, especially if you’re on medications. If you’re intimidated, play with your kids until they wear you out. Then talk to the adults.

They’ll probably ask you about mundane things, like your work or your kids or your hobbies. They might comment about how they haven’t seen you much, or even inquire about that project you were so passionate about before.

Credited to flickr user sluzzelîn.  Used with permission.
Credited to flickr user sluzzelîn. Used with permission.

This kind of small talk is normal. It’s what we’re all trained to ask about. They’re not judging you for abandoning projects or even picking up on any guilt you may have about not being a “good enough” parent. They may not even realize that you’re forcing yourself to stand there.

So keep your answers brief and to the point:
“Yeah, I’ve been a bit out of it lately. How are you?”
“Sue turned five this year. They grow up so fast, don’t they? How are your kids doing?”

If you’re overwhelmed, bow out of these conversations. Or don’t; you can apologize later. Just get away. It’s okay to run. Find a corner of the house which you can designate as your own and hide there for ten minutes. Breathe. Then come out again, and have a glass of water before meeting anyone else.

If you’re spending this holiday season alone, I’m so sorry. Some options for you may include attending a local church service or atheistic/agnostic gathering. Cities frequently host free holiday events. If you have the time, volunteer at a food bank or animal shelter, or kick your feet up at home and play games. Eat comfort foods. And if you can afford a road trip, go!

Above all, do not let yourself remain isolated. Feeling alone in a crowd might be easier than being alone in a bedroom. Please keep in mind that while everyone may look joyous on the outside, it’s a seasonal thing. Like the flu. The New Year’s hangover will come soon enough.

How do stay afloat during the holidays?

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Bipolar? You Can Survive This Holiday Season, part I

This is part one of a two-part series.
Part I | Part II

I’m a little late for Thanksgiving, but I wanted to address what to do before Christmas and Kwanzaa sweep the land. For some, the holiday season is filled with joy and light, sweet treats, and time off. But for others, hasty decisions and loneliness reign supreme.

What to Do if You’re Manic

Credited to flickr user derekskey.  Used with permission.
Credited to flickr user derekskey. Used with permission.

When at get-togethers, try to steer clear of the alcohol, especially if you’re taking medication. If you’re partying with someone you trust, ask them to give you a signal if your behavior is out of control, but don’t let them be responsible for checking in on you for the entire gathering. Set a timer on your watch, and step outside–alone–every twenty minutes to regroup. Breathe. Have a glass of water. Take stock of what you’ve been doing at the party. Don’t pass any judgments. Just acknowledge it. Then go back inside.

Next, be wary of getting sucked into the gift-giving trap. Mania exacerbates spending, and what better excuse for racking up credit card charges than purchasing gifts for friends? Make a list of your friends, family, and co-workers. Rank the names by importance. Sketch out a basic set of “what they like” for each person. Then set a realistic budget accordingly. If you’re over-budget, then pare down your list your list and reorganize who gets what. Easy, right?

I’m a crafter, so of course I love to paint, bake, and stitch everything–including stocking stuffers–by hand. Each year I’ve ended up as a sobbing mess on the floor, so I’d recommend not following my lead. If you also have a love for DIY, plan one small, easy project for each person on your list–and start early. If you feel it’s not enough, supplement with candy or thoughtful trinkets.

Over all, try not to stress yourself out.  Gorgeous décor and intricately decorated cookies may be fun, but each project you take on tests your ability to manage everything else.

Stick around for my next post, where I’ll cover what to do if you’re depressed during the holiday season!

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How Privilege Affects Mental Healthcare

Like many people who celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m taking a hard look at what I should be grateful for. When I was young, my family was largely feast or famine. We survived multiple job losses, costly illnesses, and bankruptcies. In my teens, all seven of us lived in a trailer no bigger than 750 sq. ft. And I was always hungry.

Now, I am steeped in obscene amounts of privilege. I am white, and I hold two college degrees. Among other things, this means I have an easier time getting and taking medication. My nursing and Latin classes specifically enable me to understand medical terminology and the effects of medications on my body and brain. I am a very insistent advocate for my health.

I am also married to a partner with a steady, middle-class job, which means my anxiety about ending up homeless or going hungry now is largely irrational. We’ve only been married for five years, but he not only held my hand when I committed myself, but he puts up with my mood episodes today. We could still get divorced, as have so many others with bipolar. But we haven’t yet. We are very awkward when people ask about our married life, because we usually exist in a different bubble than they do.

Insurance Card
Credit to flickr photographer mtsofan. Used with permission.

My partner’s job has insurance. I can—and will—write a post on this benefit alone, because without it, I wouldn’t be writing this today. I’d be dead. My hospitalization four years ago cost $6638.61—and was completely covered. I was flabbergasted. We were newlyweds at the time, and would have been put into debt. Due to growing up having Medicaid or sometimes nothing at all, the feeling is still surreal.

Speaking of jobs, I am lucky enough to be self-employed while writing my book, which means I can have as many panic attacks as I need to have without getting fired.

I’ve been in therapy for years. I’ve also changed psychiatrists five times until I found one I liked. This process of doctor-finding is actually quite common, but we could afford the doctor’s visits, the pills, and the frequent blood draws to check for liver or thyroid damage, which means I was willing to invest in my health. And my nightly cocktail of medication—found through years of trial and error—actually works. There are side effects, of course, but as I understand it, they could be significantly worse.

And finally, I was able to keep my infant despite someone threatening to report me to Child Protective Services during my psychotic break.

Is my mental illness severe? Of course. But I am lucky, to an unrealistic extent. If I wasn’t covered by my partner’s insurance, I would have had go to work immediately after my breakdown to cover costs. If I hadn’t married him when I did, I would be living with my parents, homeless, or dead—and likely one of the latter. There are so many ifs, which terrifies me.

Mental stability—which should be a basic human right—is achieved only by those who can afford it.

Homeless and cold.
Credit to flickr photographer Ed Yourdon. Used with permission.

A disproportionate amount of the homeless are returning veterans, the mentally ill, or both. Would that more shelters could provide a secure environment and treatment for any atypical brain chemistries or traumas that they may have! I would happily part with my tax dollars to ensure that more people with schizophrenia have a chance to sleep in a warm bed rather than under a bridge. Ideally, they’d also have help moving on to more permanent housing and work.

The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas warm my heart, but not just because I’m looking forward to spending time with friends and family. The generous outpouring of help around this time is mind-boggling. But I feel I have a responsibility to use my privilege year-round to help others who are less fortunate. First, I’ll keep in mind how much I have.

What struggles have you survived? And what privileges may have helped you through them?

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