Let’s be real: All of us wish we had our very own magical Mary Poppins bag to summon any item we might need at a moment’s notice. Unfortunately, that goes a bit above and beyond what most of us are capable of.
What we all need is a way to quickly access our myriad of coping skills, grounding items, and safety blankets.
And isn’t that the hardest part of taking care of yourself? Planning and executing the smallest tasks that seem way too complicated? Current You needs to be able to take care of Future You with all the tools you might need.
Enter: A self-care kit.
What is a self-care kit?
Self-care kits are pre-curated collections of items you can turn to during a difficult mental health period. These are typically things that help you feel grounded, relaxed, and relieved — but these kits can be anything that fits your unique needs.
While they are obviously not a substitute for other methods of mental health support, self-care kits take the guesswork out of situations that can be hard to read (uh, a dissociative panic attack, anyone?) and give you tools to cope with difficult experiences with very little thinking and planning on your part.
Although each person’s self-care kit will be totally unique to the person creating it, here are some examples of what you can include in yours to get you started.
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By the way, you might also like these self-care resources: 101 Self-Care Ideas | The Best Self-Care Apps | Self-Care Quotes | How To Practice Proactive Self-Care | How To Cheer Yourself Up | Self Care Journals & Planners | Self-Care Affirmations | International Self-Care Day | Self-Care Gifts
What should I put in a self-care kit?
If you take any medications that you might need in a mental health crisis, be sure to have some readily accessible! You can also add over-the-counter medicines like ibuprofen and antacids to soothe any physiological symptoms, too.
Mental health resources
Consider including a self-care “menu” full of different ideas and activities you can try, depending on your energy level.
It’s also helpful to include a list of important contact information and resources if you need additional support. This could include phone numbers for loved ones, contact information for your therapist or counselor, or a list of hotlines and organizations you can easily access.
We’ll even get you started! Check out our database of mental health resources.
Harm reduction tools
If you are someone who has a history of self-harm, you might consider including some harm-reduction tools in your kit. This could include rubber bands or markers, or any other self-harm safety techniques.
Sometimes you need to put your stress somewhere else. Maybe you need to punch a pillow or stomp around, but you can also start with a stress ball.
Fidget toys are wonderful devices for folks who need somewhere to put their anxious energy. Whether you’re stimming, looking for a soothing item to ground you, or just need something to do with your hands, here are a few options.
Similar to fidget items, sensory toys are helpful tools that specifically target a sensory experience. Get in tune with your five senses and find a soothing or stimulating outlet to help you through a tough mental health moment. (An ASMR video on TikTok can also do the trick, too!)
- Sensory stickers
- Chewable sensory necklaces
- Kinetic Sand
- Sound tubes
- Liquid motion bubblers
- Palm board
- Textured noodles
Sometimes you just need a good cry. Let the tears flow and let yourself have an emotional release. While you definitely need some tissues, be sure to drink some water to avoid that post-cry headache afterward.
Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs
Being overstimulated can lead to a meltdown or panic attack, so having resources to deal with too much sensory input is a must! Whether you want to invest in fancy noise-canceling headphones to use every day, or you want to start with some handy (and more affordable) earplugs, we support your choices.
Sometimes freshening up is just what we need. However, during a difficult mental health day, you might not have the energy or executive functioning available to you to have a full-on spa day.
This self-care kit is a great opportunity to incorporate smaller, easy-to-use hygiene items that make you feel better without the hassle of a bubble bath.
- Mini disposable toothbrushes
- Travel mouthwash
- Cleansing wipes
- Hydrating hand sanitizer
- Soothing sheet masks
- Lip balm
- Dry shampoo
- Good-smelling deodorant
Did you know that sour candies and ginger chews are helpful for regulating your nervous system? Yeah! When your nervous system is overwhelmed and you’re having trouble getting out of those twisting tummy feelings, using candy to shock your senses is a great way to ground you and bring you back to the present.
But you can also just include your favorite candies or chocolates in your kit, too.
Another tasty tool for your nervous system? A hot cup of tea! A number of botanicals have healing properties, like chamomile and lavender — just be sure not to burn your tongue!
If you’re not a big fan of tea, you can also enjoy a warm treat with a mug of hot cocoa. Marshmallows are optional but encouraged.
Soothing scents from essential oils and candles also provide great sensory relief at a moment’s notice. If you already have a favorite candle, consider buying one to keep at the ready for days when you need a little boost.
If you’re in the market for a new favorite scent, check out our guide to the best eco-friendly candles!
If you don’t want to keep a big candle or a few bottles of essential oils in your kit, a little sachet of dried lavender would make a great aromatherapy option, too!
Cozy socks or slippers
Is there any better feeling than slipping on your favorite pair of socks or slippers and cozying up to your heart’s content? Yeah, we didn’t think so. Let some cozy footwear be the gateway to your grounding practice.
We’re sure you already have some favorite socks, but if you want to get some specifically for your self-care kit, we have a whole guide to socks that give back!
Another good relief item to consider adding is a sleep mask or eye pillow. If you need to block out the light or give yourself a sensory break while you practice meditation or take a nap, these are a great way to go. Of course, you can also use a washcloth or towel in this case, too.
Nothing says “I’m safe” than a soft plushie that comforts your inner child. Plush toys offer a great tactile sensation or can be a helpful weighted comfort to rest on your chest or stomach.
For more pressurized comfort, a heating pad is a great way to feel grounded and cozy. This is also a great solution for pain relief!
Similarly, an ice pack is a sensory support item that can help shock your nervous system and get you back on your way to feeling regulated and calm. Just place it on the back of your neck, in the crook of your elbows, on your wrists, or on your forehead.
If you get tension headaches, this is also a great item to have on hand (though, you’ll probably want to keep it in the freezer and not in a cute basket in your room).
Things To Do
Journal or notebook
Journaling or doodling can provide an outlet for the big feelings that come up on our bad days. Whether you stick with a therapeutic prompt or prefer to “brain dump,” it’s helpful to have some spare paper for your musings.
Art can provide major healing and therapeutic benefits. Just ask Amelia Hutchison; our favorite art therapist TikToker! Check out a few of Amelia’s videos for inspiration, or just grab some supplies and channel your feelings into any medium that feels right for you.
Would you rather color inside the lines? That’s also a soothing avenue! Grab a coloring book to keep your mind busy and tuck that baby into your self-care kit.
For those of us who might get bored easily, a more in-depth activity book could be a better fit.
A favorite book
Just like a comfort TV show or movie, many of us have favorite books we can turn to when we need to revisit a trusted tale.
Need a new favorite? Check out our roundup of books about hope to add some titles to your TBR!
We might be a little biased here, but the Goodnewspaper is an amazing source of hopeful information that would make a great addition to any self-care kit!
Use an old edition of the paper you already have on hand, or subscribe to get good news delivered to your mailbox every month.
Notes from loved ones
It’s time to bust out the stationery! When you assemble your self-care kit, ask a few of your closest loved ones to write you some encouraging notes. You can keep them sealed in an envelope for a rainy day and refer to them when you need the support of someone you love.
While it’s always helpful to get a boost from your loved ones, sometimes when you’re by yourself, you need some affirmations to choose at random. Decks of affirmation cards can provide exactly that!
All you need to meditate is a spot to sit and breathe, but sometimes tools like beads or cushions can help you find your zen even better.
When your family and friends provide encouraging letters, also see if you can snap a photo with them to keep in your self-care kit! You can take a Polaroid photo, print out one you have already taken together, or keep a special album saved on your phone.
Using your fancy little self-care journal, make a place to create a gratitude list when you visit your self-care kit. You can start with just one thing you’re grateful for, and then challenge yourself to write as many things as you can within three minutes.
Science proves it: Gratitude changes our brains.
QR code to a soothing playlist
Each of us likely has a song or a handful of songs that can lift us up from any bad mood — or at least get us on our way to maybe, possibly, perhaps considering the good in the world.
Take those songs (and maybe even take suggestions from friends with similar taste!) and compile them in a playlist. Then, have that ready and accessible the next time you need a hand out of a thought spiral.
The box, bag or container itself
A self-care kit can live in any sort of container that works best for you! Ideally, you’ll use something you already own, like a basket that’s lying around, a tote bag you can take on the go, or even an old shoe box. However, if you’re still looking for the right thing, here are a few options.
Pre-made self-care kits
The DIY self-care option is a great way to personalize your toolkit, but it’s also a big task (that can get expensive, if you’re buying new supplies!). So, if it’s more accessible for you to buy a pre-made self-care kit, all power to you!
Here are a few options you can find immediately online.
- Personalized Mental Health Crisis Kit
- Harm Prevention Kit
- 7 Days of Self Care Kit
- Therabox Subscription
- Expressive Arts Therapy Kit
A version of this article was originally published in The 2023 Mental Health Edition of the Goodnewspaper.
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