We have First Aid Kits for Physical Health and Injury, which contain things like Antiseptic Wipes, Plasters, Bandages, Slings and Surgical Tape.
So why can’t we have a Mental Health First Aid Kit. One we can turn too when we are struggling with our Mental Health or our Anxiety is paticularily high and causing us grief.
I have done just that, when times have been really tough I go through it and do an activity from it or use the items i have put in for self-care.
If you decide to make one for yourself, make it personal to you, below are some of the items i have included in mine:
- Self-help books – I have included a couple of my favourite self-help books. Changing them over from time to time.
- Motivational Quotes – I have printed off some of the quotes that I have posted on my Facebook page.
- CBT Worksheets – over the years I have received CBT Therapy, I note down some of the stuff I have learnt. I also have a folder with blank copies of the worksheet I have used and found helpful in past CBT sessions.
- Puzzle Books – I quite like doing puzzle books, word searches, Suduko, cross words, I find they help to distract me from my thoughts or the triggers for my Anxiety and Depression.
- Fragranced Candles – I love candles, I keep my favourite calming scented ones in the Mental Health First Aid Kit, to use when needed.
- Bath Bombs – There’s nothing like a hot bubble bath to help aid relaxation and ease tense muscles. Add a nice bath bomb to the mix.
- Music – I keep my favourite music close to hand. It helps with relaxation and to lift my mood.
- Films – I also have some go to films that I turn to when my Mental Health is in decline. The type of film depends on my current mood.
- Exercise DVD – Sometimes a work out is what is required, the last thing I want to do when My Mental Health is causing me problems is to be around people, which rules out classes and the gym. An Exercise DVD is just as helpful.
- Blank Paper and Pencils – I find doodling and drawing helps to keep my mind away from my thoughts and worries.
- Colouring Book and coloured Pencils – another hobby I enjoy is colouring, there are loads of adult colouring books out now. I have my favourite artists books that I use.
- Notebook and pen – Another thing I find useful is writing, the old fashioned way. Keeping a journal is a must have activity for me.
- Novel – I love to read, when I get the time. So I always keep a new book in my kit. A good novel whisks you away from your own problems for a while.
I keep all these items in a box in my wardrobe, so that its close to hand. I swap items around from time to time. You can add anything to it that works for you, I find that it does help when I am struggling with my Mental Health.
The following part of this blog is taken from an old blog I wrote, but I feel they work well together.
Over the years I have picked up many ways of coping with the symptoms and everything else that Anxiety (and Depression) brings with it.
Due to living with Anxiety for the majority of my life, since childhood, I have tried and tested loads of different ways of dealing with the symptoms and intrusive thoughts.
Finally, now that I am in my 30’s, I have five main “go to” activities that help, I won’t say they work all of the time, sometimes I have to swap which ones I use, but they do help.
I know exercise is probably the last thing you feel like doing when experiencing an Anxiety Attack or Panic Attack. But, it does help to calm things down and takes your attention away from how you are feeling.
I find that walking really helps, it burns up the adrenaline that Anxiety sends coursing around your body during an Anxiety Attack or Panic Attack. Sometimes I really have to push myself to do it, but I always feel better for it. Whether you walk alone or with a friend is up to you, try it and find which one works best for you.
There are days when I just can’t face going outside or being around people, so I have a stepper at home which means I don’t have to. Although I do find there are added benefits to walking outside, like listening to nature and being amongst the trees which seem to have a calming effect on its own, working out at home does have it’s uses as well.
I love writing, just getting my thoughts down on paper helps to sort them out into some sort of order. Rather than being tangled up in my head, going round and round in a vicious and endless cycle. Seeing it on paper takes some of its power away, sometimes making it seem a much smaller problem than it did when it was stuck in my head.
I also keep a journal, it’s not for everyone, but I find it beneficial. If it has been a difficult day, which has left me feeling drained and feeling a failure, by writing it down I can pick out the good bits that I may have dismissed. Instead of writing it off as a “bad day”, it enables me to work through it and bring some kind of closure, being able to start the next day fresh instead of carrying over the “stuff” from the day before. Also, Looking back through it helps me to realise just how much I have achieved and overcome.
You may even find that you have less “Bad Days” than you realised.
Another thing I find helps is writing down an action plan or some goals, it gives me something to focus on and aim for. Once I have achieved a goal I feel a sense of accomplishment, it helps me to see that I am not failing as much as I originally thought I was.
Never stop talking, it helps to talk things through with someone. Talking is not something I find easy, I get nervous and stumble over my words, then feel silly for it, especially when it’s to more than 2 people. Sometimes when I am at my lowest, finding the right words to explain exactly what I am feeling and going through is very difficult. Sometimes talking isn’t an option, just having someone to talk nonsense too is beneficial, even if it’s just about the weather.
I know how frustrating it can be for the people around me when my Anxiety is high, it is hard for them to understand why I worry so much over everything. Its annoying for them when I have to cancel plans on them.
If you have someone you trust and feel comfortable talking to it does help, I am lucky to have friends I can talk to. I am lucky that I have friends that are struggling with Anxiety too, not that I would wish it on anyone, but, they get it. They understand exactly how you are feeling, how difficult and frustrating it can be. Anxiety can be irrational, the things that trigger an Anxiety Attack can be irrational, but you can not help what triggers your Anxiety even when you know how irrational it is. Having someone that gets that, that is going through it and understands, helps you to feel less alone and unjudged for it.
4. Healthy Eating (and drinking)
I am a comfort eater, I eat when I am stressed, I eat when I am anxious (which is a lot of the time), I eat when I am low, I eat when ……………… I’m sure you get the idea. It doesn’t make me feel any better long term, in fact it makes me feel worse and the guilt sets in. So why do I do it, I don’t know, it’s become a habit I guess.
I don’t drink alcohol as 1. It takes a very small amount to get me very drunk and 2. I hate the feeling of being drunk, not being in control, also it reminds me to much of the feeling you get during a Panic Attack. So I avoid it.
I know by eating and drinking a healthy diet it helps me to feel better, lighter even. By fuelling my body and brain with the right foods instead of overloading them with sugar allows them to function properly. Which in turn helps me to feel better, less anxious even. If you don’t put the right fuel in a car you can’t expect it to function properly, our bodies and brain are no different.
I personally believe it’s important to keep learning, not only does it distract me from my thoughts, it also keeps my brain active.
I have done courses on Mental Health, I have read loads of books on Mental Health and how the mind works. I have had therapy, CBT.
By doing all this it has taught me a lot about my own coping strategies that were just not working for me, it has shown me that the way Anxiety and Depression cause me to act and react to certain things and situations is down to the condition I have. It is something I have, not who I am. I can’t always help how I react to things.
For a long time I was embarrassed by my Anxiety, I felt guilty, I feel that I am not good enough for the people around me, I even hated myself for it. All that does is add extra pressure and can make your mental health suffer.
I’ve learnt to be kinder to myself as most of it is out of my control, but I can do things about it, by doing all of the above I can help myself grow and deal with the Mental Health Conditions that I have.
I hope that you find the tips in this blog helpful, good luck with building your own Mental Health First Aid Kit.