By CRISTINA JANNEY
The Wonder Women League is trying to help children suffering from anxiety with its latest project — self-soothing boxes.
Lori Hertel, therapist at Serenity Psychological Services, said she has seen a trend upward in anxiety among children even before the pandemic.
Strife within families including financial strain, divorce, fighting and even violence, can all be contributing factor, Hertel, who is a WWL member, said.
The pandemic has worsened the problems.
A self-soothing box contains different items that engage all the senses and grounds the user so they can effectively manage anxiety.
WWL volunteers met on Tuesday to pack the boxes, which contain scented silly putty, bubbles, stress ball, fidget spinner, mini puzzle cube, small hand lotion, pinwheel, Play-Doh, chewing gum, suckers, peppermints, bubble wrap, journal and colored pencils.
The boxes will also include inserts about stress and useful websites to visit and other information about mental health.
The items help connect anxiety sufferers with their senses — sight, sound, taste, touch, and hearing, which can help reduce stress.
"If they are angry or mad, they use their five senses, and it can help them in whatever situation they are at whether it is school or at home. It is based on the five senses because that is something we always have with us," Terri Braun, recovery worker at High Plains Mental Health, said.
Items in the box are meant to be used as tools to distract the child from worrisome thoughts or feelings.
Items such as the bubbles and the pinwheel help promote deep breathing.
Braun said even using the journal and pencils included in the box to draw circles can help children relax.
Braun said adults could easily put together a similar kit for themselves or their own children, specializing the items to fit their personal needs.
Braun an adult or child does not need to be to point of needing professional counseling to benefit from some of the stress reliving techniques the boxes can offer.
Both Hertel and Braun said their mental health centers are also seeing more adults suffering from anxiety.
A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics showed 36 percent of Americans are feeling more anxious about life now compared to eight percent last year.
"This is a time we all need to take care of ourselves," Braun said. "We are all in this together."
Hertel offered several symptoms to watch for that might indicate your child may need to receive professional help for anxiety.
This can include isolation, poor performance at school, pulling hair out, hoarding and compulsivity.
"I think it is a really tremendous thing they are doing," Hertel said. "We welcome them in our agency very much."
The WWL also recently made a $1,000 donation to the ARC Park project. The group also supported the recent RealityU Project, which helps high school students learn to make wise financial decisions.
WWL also will be sending Thanksgiving baskets to the residents of long-term care homes in the community. Staff at these facilities will also receive "thank you" baskets form the league.
WWL continuing projects include Matthew's Gift, which is project that gives care packages to people who have loved ones who are transferred out of HaysMed for critical care, and Project Suitcase, which gives bags with pajamas, small toys and hygiene items to children who are being placed in foster care.
The Wonder Women League is a branch of United Way of Ellis County and is comprised of women donating to the WWL above and beyond their annual United Way contribution. WWL donations are used for the health and betterment of children, family, community and neighborhood. For more information on the league or to join, click here.
Editor's note: Cristina Janney is a member of the WWL.