#MHMon Guest Post: The Bug-Out Bag

This post was shared with permission by the author from as part of a series on mental health and creativity. Many thanks to Elizabeth Brown-Shook! If you would like to read the entire post it can be found here.

 5 Things I Keep in My Extreme Stress Kit

by Elizabeth Brown-Shook

Being a stay-at-home mom is no joke.  I spend half my day running.  We start at (or around; mostly around) 7 AM, running my eight-year-old to her school, which, by the way, is across town.  Then we come back across town to a block from our house, where we drop my son off at school.  Finally, I drop the three-year-old at Head Start.  I have to physically take her into school and sign her in.   Only at that point do I finally, finally, get some time to myself.  If I’m lucky enough to not have an appointment or other errands to run, I come home, and that’s when I write.  I make a cup of coffee, I sit down, and I journal.  I do all my journaling at

Many days, I do have an appointment or other errands to run, though, so I bring with me something that can help me manage the stresses of the day.  I was first inspired to create my Extreme Stress Kit when I saw an episode of Grey’s Anatomy from Season 9, where Dr. Yang was still working at the Mayo Clinic with Feeney from Boy Meets World, and the two of them were treating a pair of doomsday preppers.  They had what they called a “bug-out bag,” in which I’m assuming they put doomsday prepping items such as food, water, extra clothes, etc. (I don’t know, I’m not a doomsday prepper…I can barely think past tonight’s dinner.)  But when I’m extremely stressed, what I do could most definitely be termed “bugging out,” so in my house, my extreme stress kit is affectionately known as my “bug-out bag,” not to be confused with the similar bag geared toward doomsday preppers.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.  The only known treatment for borderline personality disorder, in addition to  medication and talk therapy, is a type of group therapy known as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).  I have been through two courses of DBT in my life, and it has four modules, one of them being Distress Tolerance.  When a distressing event (one that would have normally led BPD sufferers to engage in self-destructive behaviors in the past) occurs, we do three things: Distract, Self-Soothe, and IMPROVE the moment (DBT has lots of acronyms).  In this post, I’ll be discussing the first two components of managing extreme stress, distracting and self-soothing.  For information on IMPROVE the moment, visit this resource from


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