I have seen tool kits ranging from soul-soothing (School of Awake by Kidada Jones) to snow days to writer’s kits (mine will be posted soon) to conventions and conferences. This tool kit for mental health is simply an offshoot of that concept. As with anything so personal, what you put in it will be individual and…personal. This is to give you an idea of where to start, how to assess your needs, and to encourage its use when you need it. It might be ‘break in case of emergency’ or it might be an everyday item to alleviate the anxiety of something stressful happening or it might be a comfort item, something that is always there, but is never used, like a pack of tissues or an extra sweater.
One thing to remember is that even people without mental illness or mental health diagnosis that need treatment still get low and tired of their status quo. They also need a change of pace, so the challenge for us is to remember that this isn’t weird or strange; it’s something we all should be doing to facilitate better mental health in the long run.
The tool kit/grab bag is not a substitution for professional medical care and treatment, and please believe: your mental health is equally important as your physical health. You can’t have one without the other.
This tool kit/grab bag also isn’t permission to run away or follow through on suicidal ideation. It is not in place of treatment; it is in addition to. Treatment should absolutely be continued. Take your meds.l See your therapist. Continue whatever you and your health care provider have determined is best for you. This is a part of recovery and a responsible way to take your treatment to the next step, and in your own hands and control – living with your mental health.
Meds and therapy are the yin and yang of recovery. They are the first items in your tool kit.
This would be a good time to remind everyone that when I refer to tool kit, it isn’t necessarily stuff, although much of it can be in addition. It is the coping you do. Light a candle. Watch television. Put on a special playlist. However, having a bag to grab and go works in many instances also.
If you’re packing a kit, some useful items for carrying are: tote bags, Ziploc bags in gallon size, a large cosmetic bag, one of those multi-pocketed kangaroo pouches that are meant to travel from purse to purse (see the photo below). All of these are big enough to carry your things, but small enough to toss into a large tote, briefcase or backpack.
Some things to include in your kit:
– Energy snack: granola bar, bottle of water, hard candy, mints or gum.
– a $20 bill (just in case)
– Journal or notebook & pen or your preferred writing instrument – pencil, mechanical pencil, gel pen, fountain pen, quill, whatever will strike your fancy.
– Local map (again, just in case)
– MP3 player with ear buds. Noise cancelling is you’re sensitive to sensory overload.
– If you’re a person who likes makeup, throw in a spare lipstick. You’d be amazed at how a small thing like that can help, even just a little (if you’re into that sort of thing).
– If you like photography, I’d suggest a camera, but most phones are equal in quality.
– While you have your smartphone out, peruse an inspirational Instagram.
– Talisman: worry stone, religious or secular object that you find comforting, whatever works for you; something for fidgety fingers (see the photo above).
– Sweater. It never fails: if it’s not cold out, it will be cold inside.
– Avoid cable news – there is nothing that can’t wait for you to catch up on for thirty minutes or more. I gave up political TV for two years, and my blood pressure dropped drastically and my stress levels along with it.
– Window shop if that’s your thing.
– Coffee shop if that’s your thing.
– Combine both and go to Cracker Barrel. LOL
Add (or subtract) whatever works for you. If you have any suggestions, comment below.