So why do we often wait to seek mental health help until it’s too late? By that point, we’re drowning. It can feel nearly impossible to get out of bed, let alone consider what we can do to get better.
Just as we have a first aid kit for physical injuries, we need the same for mental health “injuries.” It doesn’t need to include physical supplies, though it could, if that works for you. But on a day when you’re feeling well, I would encourage you to start building your kit
A journal. I started by journaling consistently for about two months, writing several times a week. Now, I feel emotionally overwhelmed when I don’t write. I keep my journal close by and use it to spill my thoughts down on a piece of paper. Remember: it doesn’t have to make any sense. If you don’t feel like writing, you can also look at past entries to remind yourself of all the challenges you’ve overcome.
Tea. I believe we could all use more tea in our lives. Just make sure it isn’t caffeinated, which can make you feel anxious. I like a cup of chamomile tea or a hot chocolate if it’s a wintery day. Matcha lattes are also great for a boost. They contain an amino acid called L-theanine, which can make you feel calm and alert, rather than shaky and on edge.
Colouring book. Just like writing, sometimes our brains need a mindless task to stay present and forget about everything else. I always need to be active and doing something, so I’m terrible at meditation. Colouring in a book is my meditation – but instead of focusing on my breathing, I focus on the movement of my hand, colouring.
Essential oils. I absolutely love lighting a candle or turning on my diffuser after a particularly hard day. Smell is our strongest sense, which explains why essential oils have become so popular. A few sniffs can make you forget the tough week you’ve just experienced. You can also sprinkle a few drops in a bath for an extra relaxing evening.
Positive affirmations. Write down a positive affirmation to keep in your mental health kit. I struggle to memorize long passages, so I like to keep my affirmations short. My favourite is, “you are strong and you have an impact on people’s lives.” You may or may not relate to this, so I encourage you to create your own. This can take a while, so be patient with yourself, and keep trying new versions until you find one that feels right.
Loved ones. When you’re feeling unwell, it’s helpful to have a go-to friend or family member that you can call or text. But don’t be offended if they can’t talk to you immediately – and remember that they may also be going through a difficult time. I have my dog. She’s not the biggest fan of cuddling but can sense when I’m not well. I also have my sister and best friend in case I need to chat.
An object. Is there something that brings you joy for reasons you can’t really explain? When I’m feeling sad, I like to put on my tulle skirt. I can’t describe why, but it makes me happy, so I call it my “happy skirt.” Maybe your item is a stress ball, souvenir, photo, or anything at all. Pop that in your kit.
Exercise. Thankfully, I have a dog who needs to be walked at least three times a day. Whenever I’m feeling mentally unwell, I go out for a walk to get some fresh air and move my body. It refreshes me and also makes me happy to see my dog delighted.
Spend some time compiling your mental health kit while you’re feeling good, so it’s ready when you need some psychological first aid. Having it at an arm’s length will empower you to take that first step to feeling better.