There are many times in the year when our mental health comes under fire with challenges. Challenges that come from every direction of life. Those challenges can come from motherhood, from marriage, the comments people say, from work, and the list goes on. These reasons alone and so many more for every black woman, are why it is so critical to have a mental health toolkit. A mental health toolkit is a necessary resource that is specifically designed to support mental wellbeing throughout the year.
What Is A Mental Health Toolkit?
A mental health toolkit is a group of resources designed to bring you comfort in times of mental stress. A mental health toolkit can also be referred to a mental health survival guide. This collection of resources helps keep you grounded, calm, and redirects focus to positive situations in your life. When creating a mental health toolkit, it is best to lean into incorporating specific resources. Resources that help you maintain a happier and healthier version of yourself throughout the year. The components of a mental health toolkit help manage mentally stressful conditions, reduce the severity of mental illness symptoms, and boost overall mental well-being. Throughout the year, life can change which means a mental health toolkit is not meant to stay the same. There are periods of life that lead to evolution and change. So as the circumstances of your life change so does your mental health toolkit.
What Led Me To Create A Mental Health Toolkit
I have had a long-standing history of mental health disorders since the age of 11. I continuously struggled through much of my adolescence and young adulthood with a range of mental health issues. Those range from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and suicidal ideation. During this particular time frame, there were certain circumstances that escalated my mental health issues. That is when I would usually turn to alcohol, marijuana, and or promiscuity to numb the pain of the mental pressure I was dealing with. Eventually I realized, the mechanisms I were turning to only worsened my mental illnesses.
During my experience with cognitive behavioral therapy, I asked my therapist if I could possibly go any lower. From there, my therapist asked me since I felt this way, what healthy coping mechanisms did I enjoy? She made me aware that I deserved happiness. I could do so by implementing those mechanisms when I felt myself entering a mentally stressful moment. She simply dubbed those mechanisms as a mental health toolkit. She informed me that a mental health toolkit will create a positive foundation for me to redirect my mind while engaging in positive mechanisms. In spring 2019, I started discovering resources to support my mental wellness.
The Foundation of My Mental Health ToolKit
Over the course of the past 2 years, I have leaned into specific resources. Resources that will help me to maintain a mentally healthier version of myself. After a significant amount of trial and error, I found that my particular preference of resources include the five senses. Having a resource from each of the five senses, mentally works for me. I have grown to nurture this approach for the past two seasons of fall and summer. I have found that taking this approach with the five senses allows me to have variety in the tools I engage in. Having five broad areas I can pull from gives me the freedom of knowing that I can always change a tool when it longer improves my mental wellbeing.
What’s In My ToolKit
The purpose of what is in my mental health survival guide is to help me recall or imagine joyful moments. These joyful moments are brought on while engaging in activities that I thoroughly enjoy. Having these specific mental health tools have prevented me from reaching the point of a mental health crisis.
I incorporate the sense of sight into my mental health toolkit by either reading a book/magazine or opening up my affirmation coloring book. Being able to read takes me away to different settings within the books where I am able to connect. I often imagine what the fictional characters or nonfictional people did outside of what was presented in the books/magazines. While I color, my mind focuses on precise strokes of my crayons and pencils. It’s a form of a calming experience for me that I recommend as a mental health gift. Some of my favorite books to read are The Alchemist, Set Boundaries Find Peace, and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Plus a few of my favorite adult coloring books are Color My Melanin: Affirmation Coloring Book and Uplifting Aspirations.
The act of lighting candles and then letting the amazing aroma permeate the room, is how I incorporate smell into my mental health toolkit. Smelling the aroma from candles truly helps me to ease any stress that I may be having. There are certain scents that remind me of a particular place or a specific time. That place and or time in my life is usually when something positive occurred in my life. I have been a fan of using candles in my mental health toolkit for the past two years. My favorite candles to burn in my home include the UnOrthoDoc Candle Co., Public Goods, and the Harlem Candle Co.
Holding onto a soft weighted blanket has been the way I incorporate touch into my mental health toolkit. I also like to pull out my childhood teddy bear to hold onto for some extra plushness. The weight of a soft weighted blanket offers a therapeutic touch that mimics a comforting hug for me. The type of comforting hug my husband and dad gives me. Speaking of my dad, he bought me a teddy bear when I was about five years old. I have held onto that bear ever since because of the pleasant memories it me. However, if you are looking for your own weighted blanket, I recommend the Room Essentials Sherpa Blanket, Baloo Throw Blanket, and the Bearaby Cotton Napper.
One of the best ways for me to incorporate taste into my mental health toolkit is to eat some sweet and savory snacks. It is known that the types of food we consume play a vital role in not only our physical health but our psychological health as well. This is why I tend to stick to eating things that are good for my mental wellbeing. I love to eat some strawberries and grapes along with some roasted almonds and pistachios! The taste of these foods immediately make me feel great! I tend to shop at Publix, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s for my fave mental wellness snack!
I incorporate the sense of hearing into my mental health toolkit using two tools. Hearing is incorporated by either playing the piano and or listening to music. I started playing the piano when I was seven years old. Honestly I used to despise it. However, now that I am much older and in the world of adulthood, I have grown to appreciate the talent I have. These past two years, I have been playing the piano to improve my craft and escape in the melody of the music.
I also escape while I am listening to some of my favorite genres of music on my record player. Music is oftentimes a powerful way to bring mental stability into your world. A quick dance session happens a majority of the time when I listen to music as well. The piano I am currently playing is Williams Legato III Keyboard and a few of the records in current rotation are Michael Jackson Thriller , The Isley Brothers, and John Coltrane.
The circumstances of life are constantly changing. Oftentimes those changes challenge our mental health and wellbeing throughout the year. That is why it is so important to have a mental health toolkit to turn to in those times. Using that toolkit outside of those times, is just as critical to keep the mind at ease before stressful situations arrive in life. I encourage you to build your own mental health toolkit. Be intentional in what you choose to include in your toolkit. In addition, incorporate it into your life on a daily basis and not only when a mental health crisis arrives. If you need inspiration on how to create a mental health toolkit, I highly suggest you visit the following websites: Plus if you know anyone who needs something new to put in their mental health toolkit may I suggest checking out my Mental Health Gift Guide
Let me know in the comments what you have decided to put in your mental health toolkit for this season!
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