By Jannah updated on August 11, 2020
When something is broken, or in need of repair, or maintenance, we tend to reach for a toolbox. The toolbox will be filled with a variety of tools, all with their own use and importance. When we think of a toolbox we think of a box filled with hammers, nails, screwdrivers and so on. But there is another type of toolbox: a mental-health toolbox.
The reality of life is that stressful events will happen, and it’s important to be able to look after ourselves during these periods. Preemptively building a mental-health toolbox, a go-to collection of things that will make you feel better, can help you to manage your stress when it can be hard to work out what’s best for you in a difficult time.
Not every tool is going to be effective in every situation. So it is important to have a wide range of tools to hand. We can tend to over rely on one tool because it is familiar. However, it is well worth adding in a few more, because the more you have in your toolbox the more options you have when confronted with stress or a difficult situation.
A toolbox can be physical or it can be in your head. My preference is to have something tangible, to reduce mental clutter, and because it can be difficult to remember the things that are good for us when we are stressed.
Some prefer to have a binder with folders and list the tools that way. Others prefer to have a box filled with all their favourite things, including lists of different supports. If a lot of your toolbox ideas are based online (ie videos, links to inspiring articles), create a folder on your laptop or phone so they are easily accessible.
Here are some suggestions of things that could be included in a personal mental health toolbox.
These could include such suggestions as go for a walk; sit outside with a cuppa; call a friend; read a book; listen to or play music; watch a favourite movie; pet an animal; take a nap; and meditate.
List out your go-to professional supports. These could include your GP, hospital details, counselling, support groups, medications and a list of helpful websites.
Your call list
Make a call list and include someone you would call in an emergency, someone you would call for a general chat, someone you would call for some fun and laughter and so on.
You can use a journal to write how you are feeling, to write a gratitude list, to doodle, to write out your self-care ideas or to jot down your call list as above.
Remind yourself of fun distractions and comforts, such as games, mindful colouring books, magazines, favourite music, art, favourite cocoa or teas, candles, bubble baths and chocolate.
Maybe make a list of ideas on how you can support others and include it in your toolbox. Helping others is good for them but it gives us a real boost to know we have selflessly done something nice for someone else. Your list could include things like cook someone a nice meal, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, volunteer in the community and so on.
Now more than ever, having a toolbox of supports is so important. Many are struggling with our changing world, and the risks to our physical health, so make sure to support your mental health as best you can, by knowing your own personal mental-health tools, to get you through this time.