Create a Self-Care Toolkit

Women in bed reading book and drinking coffee

I was hopeful that the covid-19 epidemic was in our rear-view mirror and our collective stress levels would decline. I didn’t predict that Putin would invade Ukraine or that inflation would surge. When you add in tax time, some crazy weather, and “regular stress” (in my case computer issues and a sick dog), it is obvious that external stressors are not going away. Recent studies have shown that Americans are actually more stressed now than they were during the pandemic.

Stress management needs to be an inside job. In this article you’ll learn how creating a self-care toolkit can help you deal with stress.

What is a self-care toolkit?

A self-care toolkit can help you cope with difficult times. It is a collection of items and actions that can help you meet your physical, emotional and spiritual needs.

I think of having a self-care toolkit to be like packing airplane activities when you’re traveling with kids. You need to have a lot of choices and must anticipate what you will need if things go badly. When my children were young, in the days before iPads and other devices, this was a travel bag that included new toys, books, puzzles, games, comfort items, and lots of snacks.

Your self-care toolkit can help meet your need for comfort. It can include things that will remind you to take a break, calm you, ground you, and overall make you feel better. Some people gather these items in a physical box or basket. In my case, I have a list of activities that are my “go to” when I need self-care.

Create a self-care toolkit that addresses all five senses

When a child cries, we give them multi-sensory comfort by speaking softly and snuggling them against our chest. This warm embrace addresses all of their senses – seeing your face, hearing gentle words, experiencing warm touch, and smelling the familiar scent of a loving parent. For babies, the taste of warm milk rounds out all of the senses. Keep this in mind as you create your self-care toolkit that addresses all of your senses.

Seeing

Create an environment full of positive, supportive images. These can include:

  • Books (motivational books, religious texts, daily readers).
  • Meaningful photographs of loved ones and happy times.
  • Fresh flowers or plants.
  • TV, Netflix, and YouTube videos.
  • Watching birds and squirrels outside your window.

Hearing

Tune into sounds that make you feel calm and happy. This might include:

  • Guided meditation.
  • Music.
  • Nature sounds.
  • Podcasts.
  • Silence.

Touching

Touch is incredibly comforting. Make sure that your self-care toolkit includes items that feel good against your skin, including:

  • Fuzzy socks or comfy pajamas.
  • Worry stone, rosary or prayer beads.
  • Stress ball.
  • Hand and body lotion.
  • Cozy quilt or weighted blanket.
  • Sensory experiences such as gardening, writing, knitting, or kneading bread.
  • Snuggling your loved ones or pets.

Smelling

My mom used to bake chocolate chip cookies on rainy days. I remember walking home from school in the rain and being greeted with the smell of fresh cookies. Many decades later, I still find the smell of chocolate chip cookies to be very comforting. Make sure that your self-care toolkit includes items that smells that provide comfort, including:

  • Essential oils.
  • Perfume, soap and lotion.
  • Fresh flowers.
  • Scented candles.
  • Baked goods.

Tasting

Many people include special foods and beverages in their self-care toolkit. Some ideas include:

  • Mixes for your favorite beverage (gourmet coffee, hot chocolate, or herbal tea).
  • Favorite food (truffles, caramels, or chocolate chip cookies).
  • Foods to make your mouth feel fresh (breath mints or mouthwash).

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