By Holly Coccimiglio
As summer gets closer and closer, switching our winter coats for shorts and T-shirts can be a great mental health boost that signifies the coming months that will be spent outside with family, friends and loved ones. But, even in the warmest of weather, our nerves and worries can still cast a rainy cloud over our days sometimes. When this happens, the most important thing to do is not to wish our mental challenges away, but to know how to manage them in a healthy way.
The easiest way to do this is to come up with a set of activities, items, and resources that support your mental health and help you feel your best. This is where the idea of a mental health “toolbox” comes into play; think of it as a theoretical kit to open up when you’re feeling like you’re going through a rough patch. The kit can include anything and everything that makes you feel brighter on dark days and, because all of our individual minds and bodies are so different, everyone’s box will be unique. (We’re using the word ‘box’ as a helpful way to describe where all of these items might come together, but your mental health toolkit could be a written list of things that help you as well).
Today, we’re going to dive into why creating a mental health toolbox can boost your mental health and coping abilities, and talk a bit about how to put one together for yourself.
Can Mental Health Really Be Fixed With a Few Items?
Like we said, this type of toolkit doesn’t have to be a physical box with a bunch of items in it. Many of your coping strategies might not be physical items at all, and might be activities like biking or taking a walk instead, which is perfectly fine.
Whatever you choose to include in your list or box of wellness strategies and items, it’s key to think hard about why they help you out of a mental rut. Essentially, it’s not the toolkit itself that helps you on your wellness journey, but the items inside of it that come together to satisfy a certain step toward feeling more confident. Self-care of any kind can help you develop a greater sense of self-worth and guide you in overcoming obstacles that might come your way.
Self-care isn’t a one-and-done activity; it involves taking small steps everyday to work toward living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, both inside and out. Honouring yourself and your personal needs through self-care is crucial to being your best self, and having a toolkit of things that you know help you overcome hardships can provide great amounts of comfort and reassurance in tough times. Whether your toolkit is used alone or with friends or family, knowing exactly what helps you feel cared for and loved is one of the first and most important steps to prioritizing your mental wellness.
And, while it’s not a cure-all for mental health concerns or a replacement for professional help, when you’re feeling down, knowing that you can “open up” your toolkit and find something to make you feel a little brighter can make a world of a difference.
What to Include in Your Toolkit
There’s no right or wrong way to fill your kit, but we do have some suggestions that might help you in figuring out what should go in yours.
For starters, it could be helpful to think of items from most tangible to least tangible; that is, sort items by how real and touchable they are. Your first item could be a keychain that reminds you of good memories and makes you feel happier when you hold it, and your last item could be remembering to breathe deeply through any excess anxiety or stress. No matter how ‘real’ these items are, if they help you feel more mentally healthy, they’re great candidates for your toolkit.
Here are some ideas for self-care activities that involve actual items. Feel free to use these or add your own to this list:
- Riding a bike
- Watching your favourite movie or TV show
- Listening to music
- Meditating or doing breathing exercises
- Eating a healthy, fulfilling meal or snack
- Drawing, painting or sculpting
- Making lists (to-do, what you’ve done, etc.)
But, even though these can all be extremely effective in helping you clear your mind, items in your toolkit don’t all have to be tangible. Many of the most helpful self-care practices are more social in nature, like:
- Going for a walk
- Playing a sport alone or with a team
- Attending a therapy session or support group
- Planning an outing with friends
- Participating in a class, like yoga, pilates, dance, etc.
There are so many more things that can boost your mental wellness, and everyone has different practices and routines that work for them. While we can’t possibly list everything here, we hope that you can use these lists as a jumping-off point for creating and filling your own mental wellness toolkit. Remember: anything that helps you manage your mental health can be included, and be sure to stay tuned to our social channels and future blog posts for more ideas.
Be sure to follow us on IG @EmpowHERto and tag us in your own #MentalHealthToolkit posts all summer long!