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Self-care is a bit of a buzzword these days. Most of us don't do enough of it, or else we don't pay enough mindful attention to it. We matter, and we deserve it!
When things start to go into crisis mode because of what's going on in our lives, it's not always easy to think of self-care at all, much less be able to generate ideas of things to try. Our automatic reactions may be to reach for unhealthy coping strategies, like a bottle of liquor or a bag of potato chips. That's where the power of coping ahead of time can really come in handy. Assembling a self-care box will give you a sort of mental health first aid kit that you can pull it when you need it. It will contain a selection of tools that you can draw on to help you get through difficult times.
Pleasant Sensory Stimuli
Engaging our five senses is an important grounding strategy to help bring us into the present moment and away from the busy-ness in our heads.
Smell: Ideas for this include essential oils, scented hand creams, or scented candles. Lavender can be particularly relaxing. I have a relaxing blend of lavender and a few other essential oils in a topical roll-on formula that I use on my temples when I'm stressed.
Touch: This could be something cozy like a stuffed animal, fuzzy socks, or a favourite blanket.
Sight: Some pretty crystals would work, or the photos as described in the next section. If you're artistic, you could put together something like a collage of your dream tropical getaways.
Sound: You can have something in your self-care box that creates sound, like a wind chime, or you can write out playlists of songs that will help with anxiety, sadness, or other intense emotions.
Taste: This could be your favorite candy, or some nice herbal tea. Chamomile is particularly relaxing.
This could be photos of beloved pets, enjoyable holidays, or times in your life when things were going pretty darn good. These can help you shift your focus away from whatever it is that is triggering you at the moment. For me, childhood was a happy time, so that's the focus for the photos in my self-care box.
Alternatively, you could collage images of dream places you'd like to live or vacation.
This could be messages you've written for yourself, notes from loved ones, or favourite inspirational quotes. They can be written out simply in a list, or take some more artistic form like decorative note cards.
Have a supply of treats to give you an at-home spa experience. This could be a face mask, bath products, skin care items, or a gorgeous nail polish or eyeshadow color. Anything to take your mind off of what's stressing you out and allow you a little getaway from the everyday. Doing a little at-home spa helps to slow things down and counteract the busy buzz of your thoughts.
Relaxation and Distraction
Have some things to help focus nervous energy. A stress ball of fidget spinner could work well. The stuffed animal that satisfies your touch sense as mentioned above can also be a target for hugging and squeezing.
You could have a mini jigsaw puzzle, crossword puzzles, or a mandala colouring book. Activities like these keep your mind focused on a routine task so there's less energy left to devote to the stressor.
If you have DVDs then a favourite movie or tv series could go in your box. Otherwise, you could include a list of your favourite fun things to watch. Personally, my favourite episodes of Seinfeld can distract me from almost anything.
There's no right or wrong when it comes to putting together a self-care box. It can be contained in a pretty box, or it can be shoved into a plastic bag. What matters is what's in it, not the package itself. You might want to have a larger one to use at home as well as a mini version that can take with you on the go. The most important thing is figuring out what soothes you and assembling enough tools in your toolbox, so that when a crisis hits, chances are there will be at least one or two tools that will prove useful in that moment.