Confession time: I took very little from my time in dialectical behavior therapy (also known as DBT). The evidence-based form of therapy is meant to teach you skills that improve mindfulness and keep you calm in moments of dysregulation. While many people hail DBT as an effective method of therapy, it just didn’t work for me.
But there is one technique that’s stuck, and that’s the ice water technique, which calls for dunking your face in a bowl of cold water to fight feelings of anxiety and stress. If that sounds too unpleasant (or messy) for you, there are so many other ways to apply the concept to everyday life.
“The cold sensation tells our body to relax when we are having a panic attack or feeling stressed,” explains Lori Davis, Psy. D., a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical School. “Whether we hold an ice cube, take a cold shower, or dunk our face in a bowl of icy water, we feel an intense sensation other than anxiety. This kicks off a series of reactions in our nervous system, which makes us feel calmer and grounded.”
What’s so rad about coldness as an anti-anxiety technique is that it works quickly and effectively, says Dr. Davis. So much so that she often suggests patients carry a bottle of cold water to any activities that may make them feel anxious.
Intrigued? Same. With record-setting (not in a good way) heatwaves lighting up the country, you might need an assist beyond the sink or bottle. Enter these 9 products, which are my go-to picks to instantly soothe a nervous mind.
Cooling Face Roller
Forking over nearly $70 for an ice roller sounds a bit like highway robbery, but stick with us. This is, without a doubt, the cutest, sturdiest, and coldest ice roller on the market. And we’ve tried many. Unlike cheaper iterations, it features an aluminum roller that gets cold fast and stays that way for hours. Everything about this ice roller is thoughtfully designed—from the weighty material to the ergodynamic thumb imprint that keeps your hand from cramping up.
Dr. Davis is a fan, too: “The roller may decrease puffiness, particularly under our eyes, and improve blood flow to the face, which can make us look temporarily rejuvenated. This is a mood booster,” she says. “The use of the roller also serves as a facial massage, which helps to relax the muscles in the face. The repetitive motion of using the roller like a self-soothing toy can also be calming.” Bonus tip: Take slow, deep breaths while using the face roller, she adds.
Thermal Waves Wrist Band
Embr Wave 2, $299
For jitter relief on the go, the Embr Wave wristband delivers calibrated cooling (or warming) sensations—or, more scientifically, dynamic thermal waveforms—at the touch of a button. (That part sits on the underside of your wrist.)
This type of “personal comfort system” (PCS) works because “cooling stimuli on local parts of the body have the ability to affect the entire body’s thermal sensation,” according to a 2020 study published in Building and Environment that examined the effects of the Embr Wave. This device, the study found, can “statistically improve whole-body thermal sensation, comfort, and pleasantness.”
The wristband is a discreet, stylish way to help you stay in the moment and keep your cool no matter the circumstance. It was created to soothe hot flashes for the menopausal set—another 2021 study published in Behavioral Sleep Medicine verified it does, in fact, accomplish that—but should get the job done in any situations where you’re suddenly hot.
By syncing it to a corresponding app, you can even personalize the experience and track your usage to identify patterns. This can provide some great data to work through with a therapist.
Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels, $45.40 for 16 pairs
No matter the occasion, we love an eye mask. Not enough sleep? Depuffing eye gels. Craving a midday moment of self-care? There’s an eye patch for that. Prepping for a big event? Slap on a mask and let it double-time as a stencil for winged-out eye makeup.
But we particularly like these Skyn Iceland stickers after an anxiety-induced crying sensation. In 10 minutes, they reduce puff with antioxidant-rich ginkgo biloba, and help regulate our nervous system with a burst of coolness. By the time we peel off the gels, our eyes and our mood are revitalized—ready to face whatever the day may bring.
JISULIFE Portable Neck Fan, $28.85
Okay, so it’s not exactly subtle, but neither is a panic attack. This portable neck fan offers hands-free relief with three different speed settings that envelop you in a soft wind—unlike traditional neck fans that deliver uneven cooling by blowing directly into the face. Best of all, the bladeless design means you don’t have to worry about getting your hair tangled up in it.
It’s designed to mimic the appearance of headphones for conspicuous use in public, and though it’s certainly better-looking than other neck fans, it is a bit visually cumbersome. Still, the fan is sleeker than most. On setting 1, the motor stays pretty quiet, and the entire thing weighs in at just half a pound or so. Also available in blue, green, and white.
Milk Makeup Cooling Water, $31.22
While this gel stick is marketed for undereyes—it features caffeine and seawater to target dehydration and puffiness—it can be used anywhere on the face or body. We like to apply it at the nape of our neck and on our wrists.
The stick packaging makes for a mess-free solution, and the small size means it fits in virtually any purse—just knowing it’s there can provide a bit of relief when an unexpected bout of anxiety creeps up. And since it’s under 3 ounces, it’s TSA-approved for fighting travel anxiety.
Aluan Handheld Mini Fan, $14.99
So you’re not into the neck fan, fine. Try this personal fan instead. We’ve been carrying one for years during summertime, and to our absolute delight, it’s seemingly started to catch on, becoming somewhat of an actual trend this year.
What makes it stand out in the universe of portable fans? Its slim design, powerful motor, and dual-level wind settings. For reference, it’s smaller than an iPhone 8, weighs 68 grams (less than 0.2 pounds), and features a USB-rechargeable battery that lasts for hours. Available in six additional colors.
Jelly Face Mask
We’re all about a hard-working beauty product that won’t wreck our easily offended skin. This transparent green jelly was designed specifically for sensitive skin, without potentially irritating ingredients including parabens and silicones.
Soothing cucumber extract and anti-inflammatory willow bark help take down heat and redness. Plus, you can feel the gel change form as it dries down—and there’s something extra comforting about the morphing sensation.
It’s designed to be washed off, but was also like using a lighter layer as a primer or overnight for a cooling treat that won’t leave skin red and angry.
Head Peace, $58
While technically meant to provide relief from pregnancy headaches, this head wrap works whether you’ve got run-of-the-mill headaches or anxiety, or you just happen to sweat a lot. Cleverly disguised as a chic headband, the Head Peace features hidden, removable ice-pack inserts that you keep in the freezer until needed. (It comes with extra packs so you can swap icy cold ones in and out.)
We pull out this clever little number when we start feeling overwhelmed while working from home; the hands-free wrap helps stop our negative feelings from spiraling. You can even wear it on Zoom or out in public—as far as anyone knows, you’re just rocking your favorite headband. It can also hide any sparse spots on the hairline if you have trichotillomania.
Hot Flash Face Mist
Stripes, a new skin and bodycare line from actress Naomi Watts, features a tight lineup of products formulated with perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms in mind. This cooling face mist provides relief from hot flashes, but it works just as well to redirect anxious or upsetting thoughts. A combination of hyaluronic acid, squalane, and edelweiss leaf extract hydrate and calm, while aloe vera soothes and cools.
Cryo Face Mask
We like to keep this reusable mask on hand for an oddly specific scenario: the dreaded morning-after-drinking hangxiety (i.e., hangover-induced anxiety). Studies—and personal experience—have shown that alcohol can cause spikes in anxiety due to a host of psychological and physiological reasons, including increased cortisol levels and feelings of regret and worry. (And a 2023 study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine found that hangover-sensitive drinkers had significantly higher levels of anxiety than hangover-resistant peeps.)
It can also leave skin looking tired and puffy, which may further fuel those negative feelings. That’s where this silicone, strap-on, cryo-recovery mask comes in.
Simply pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes when you wake up, and wear it for 10. It contains two kinds of cooling beads: 1) gel beads around the face, and 2) metal beads above the brows, placed to hit acupressure points. You’ll look—and feel—seriously refreshed.