When I started in therapy, one of the first things I learned about was building a mental health toolkit. Simply put, it’s having a mental checklist of what you will do in tough situations. You probably have heard the phrase “if this, then that” in many a school lesson. This can be a huge boon for those who struggle with their mental health. If I feel anxious at a restaurant, I will… If I have a major assignment due this week but my depression is acting up, I will… Having an answer to these possible situations is a great first step in building out a toolkit to deal with any mental health emergencies that may arise.
Breathe It Out
Sometimes the best solutions are the easiest. If you have experience with panic attacks, breathing exercises may be nothing new to you. If you feel your heart rate rising, take a few seconds to focus on your breath to help bring it back down. It can be as simple as 5 seconds in, 5 seconds hold, and 5 seconds out. If you have an Apple Watch, this feature is available in the Mindfulness app.
Another breathing exercise I love is the five senses. Take a minute to notice what you can feel, what you can see, what you can hear, what you can taste, and what you can smell. Processing these senses can help your mind take a break from whatever BS it was trying to throw at you.
You Are Not Alone
Your mental health journey can feel extremely lonely but it’s so important to remember that you are not the only one on this journey. Finding a community to talk (or not talk) with about what’s going on, can be extremely comforting and helpful.
Sit down and write out every person you talk to on a regular basis, from your significant other to your best friend to your one aunt you call once a month. Next to their name, write out what topics you feel comfortable talking to those people about. Remember, your spouse does not have to be the only person you confide in. For me, I have a group of friends I regularly talk to about parenting-specific issues and a whole other group who I feel comfortable talking about my anxiety with. Creating a network is a great way to know who you should call when a specific need arises. Keep that list on your phone so when it gets particularly bad, you know just who to call.
When it all feels like a little too much, having a comfort TV show, movie, playlist, or book can be a lifesaver. While reading nonfiction is my bread and butter and I’m a huge fan of books focusing on self-help and parenting specifically, sometimes I just need to grab cheesy romance to take my mind off everything.
Let your family know how they can best support you when you are feeling your worst. My family knows that leaving me be in my blanket pile on the couch is the best option. I know that soon I’ll be ready to leave my cocoon and take on the day.
What’s in your toolkit? I’d love to hear.
Be well, friends,