Cabal Therapy #3: Crisis Kit – A Mental Health Column

Magic: the Gathering provides players a sense of community bigger than any other card game. From Friday Night Magic at your Local Game Store (far and away the most popular night in most shops!) to Magic Fests and Grand Prix events (not to mention the biggest unofficial tournament circuit run by Star City Games) there are numerous opportunities to connect with other people who share your common interest. At the larger of these events, you’ll be sharing a room with hundreds, if not thousands of people. While some view this as an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, crowds at these events could possibly be problematic for others. In a moment like this, strong emotions and reactions can surface. What triggers one person may not trigger another, and how one reacts can vary depending on the person. Just attending  a crowded event can be a very stressful time and can often leave the individual feeling overwhelmed. The goal of this article is to help you put together a Crisis Kit for use when you find your anxiety levels peaking at a tournament or FNM.

Crisis Kit – Essentials

A man rides fervently through the forest with a supply horse in tow - a crisis kit
Intrepid Provisioner by Lius Lasahido

But what is a Crisis Kit? A Crisis Kit is a bag you take to an event that contains items that are useful or helpful in reducing anxiety, with the aim of de-escalating a triggering moment through grounding techniques. A Crisis Kit should have at least one item for each of the 5 senses. The contents of a Crisis Kit is unique to each individual, however below will be a basic list to get you started on creating your own Crisis Kit.

Something to Listen to (Sound)

Headphones can be very useful in a Crisis Kit. Large events or tournaments can be extremely loud. Packing your headphones can be helpful in blocking out the background noise with music. They can either be normal, everyday headphones or noise cancelling. They’re also useful if you need some alone time, which can be difficult in such a crowded event space – they are a good way to signal that you’re taking a break away from conversation.

Something to Fidget With (Touch)

Fidget items are great ways to keep your hands busy and your mind preoccupied. Fidgets can be anything you want: a pen to click, a fidget cube, a hair tie, etc. As a Magic player myself, I personally like to grab a small stack of bulk and shuffle the cards or riffle through them. Some people find it relaxing to brush their hair, and others still enjoy doing some exercise or stretching. 

Something Fragrant (Smell)

Smell can be a comforting thing. It can remind you of a fond memory or soothe you. Packing something that smells nice is just another way to ground yourself in a moment where you feel stressed or overwhelmed. One of my favorite smells, for example, is ground coffee, or a nice bar of soap.

Something to Eat/Drink (Taste)

This is something targeted at those who go to tournaments rather than your LGS (as most LGS’ have drinks and snacks for sale at reasonable prices). MagicFest and Opens usually have an area where you can purchase food but prices can be high. By including water, you can hydrate yourself without shelling out cash. Hydration is important. Packing your favorite snack can feed you, but also soothe you. Packing and snacking on something you like is another good way to ground yourself. Eating mindfully can also be used as a grounding exercise (i.e. slowly eating chocolate, letting the food dissolve in your mouth, paying attention to the texture of the food, or the feeling of the soda you’re drinking).

Something to Look at (Sight)

The last of the five senses! Looking at something soothing can be incredibly helpful in calming your mind. This can be anything: a picture of a loved one, your favorite MTG art, etc. You can also do a quick exercise when feeling overwhelmed, by identifying all of the banners or rally points in a room to give yourself a sense of space.

Crisis Kit – Bonus Items

A bouyant, almost under-water feeling cityscape sprawls with glowing foilage
Forest by Yeong-Hao Han

Phone Charger

While this is something you already packed for your tournament or event, having a spare charger in your Crisis Kit can be a useful tool in case you lose or forget your main charger. This can be used to charge your phone or help someone else out.

Notebook & Pen

While you may already have this packed for your life total, another notebook and pen can be great in your Crisis Kit. In your notebook, you can doodle, write affirmations, or journal about your experience. The act of writing or drawing can be therapeutic and can channel your feelings in a healthy way.

Stayfresh Wipes/Tissues

These are great for after food, or for wiping away any grease or stickiness at a table. They’re also handy for hygiene reasons – some LGS’ aren’t as well equipped as others.


If you have to take any prescription medication, remember to pack them. There’s nothing worse than missing a dose and stressing about it. Also, you can pack things like anti-histamines or painkillers in case you need them.

In Closing

While these are all good things to pack in your Crisis Kit, you don’t have to limit yourself here. Anything you feel that can calm you is a great thing to put in a kit, and if you’re going to a longer tournament, try thinking of what you might pack on a holiday or camping trip.

A quick note – while I think Crisis Kits are great tools to utilize in stressful or triggering moments, they are no substitute for seeing a mental health professional. Hopefully this article has helped you create a kit that fits your needs – now you’re ready to tackle any Magic event that you will face in the future!


We’d like to thank Chase for another solid guest article. If you’d like to thank her too, or offer some feedback of your own, feel free to check her out on Twitter @ManaCurves. Be sure to read Part 1 & Part 2, too. Thanks for reading – Kristen

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