Molly Pace opens up about the benefits of a comfort blanket, in whatever form that takes, as an underrated and surprisingly effective relief from stress and fear.
I am 22 and I have a comfort blanket. This blue fluffy blanket epitomises comfort and safety to me and, without it, I would not have survived so many ‘down days’, hangovers, and most definitely would not have completed my dissertation on time. This might sound silly to you but I can assure you, wrapping myself in my “fluffy” instantly makes everything seem that little bit better. Anxiety and stress are dampened by the soft surrounds in which I can hide from the world. Anyway, I could go on all day about how much I rely on my fluffy, but this article isn’t about me and my comfort blanket, this is about you and yours.
Your comfort blanket probably isn’t as literal as mine. Maybe it’s that huge "grandad" jumper, a cuddly toy, a song, a person, a workout, some sex or a classic bar of chocolate. That thing you can rely on to make your day that little bit better when life throws an unexpected handful of shit at you. With the high-stress environment of university, we arguably reach for these comforts more than the average person. As exam time approaches, I encourage you to reflect on your comfort blanket, and assess whether it could be causing more harm than good. Also I urge you to remember that it is in no way a sign of weakness to have something that will put you in a better mood. All too often we make ourselves suffer in stress, anxiety or depression because we are concerned about the stigma of being reliant on something, or someone that makes us feel better.
Regarding the case of knowing that your metaphorical comfort blanket is drink, drugs or exercise, it is vital to acknowledge that, whilst these things may offer the perfect comfort in the moment, they can easily backfire. I have been there. Alcohol as the anxiety comfort blanket that gets you out and up on the dancefloor but renders your anxiety and depression heightened the next day. Exercise melting the stress away is empowering, if you can keep that balance right. However, if over-exercising becomes an issue it can result in long term injury, meaning you lose your comfort blanket until your body heals. With these it is important to bear in mind the fine line between a comfort blanket and a detrimental coping mechanism. If it improves how you feel, enhances your positivity, and doesn’t leave you feeling worse or ill afterwards then kudos you have a perfect comfort blanket. If you cannot leave the house without it, or you rely or obsess about your comfort blanket then perhaps it’s time to consider finding something new to turn to in difficult times. Maybe try a grandad jumper, a great song, or a new flavour of tea that warms your soul.
The majority of us were brought up with comfort blanket when we were younger, so it is no surprise that we reach out to other modes of comfort in tough times when we are older. Overall it is important to realise that it is completely okay to still have one in adulthood, so long as it doesn't hurt your health. Okay, I get that maybe it’s not socially acceptable for me to take my fluffy blanket to the library with me, but no one can stop me going home and wrapping myself up like a sushi roll in my blanket. In exam time, why not try accepting that it is completely and absolutely okay not to be okay? If you need it just reach out for that comfort blanket (whether that's a grandad jumper, cuddly scarf, workout, chocolate bar or hug from a friend), wrap yourself in it and allow yourself to be made strong by something that helps, instead of depriving yourself for fear of seeming weak.