Do you have a mental health first-aid kit? If you don’t, do you know what one is?

Most of us have some kind of first-aid kit for our physical health, even if it’s just a couple of past-their-best plasters and a packet of paracetamol. What about a kit you can dip into when your mental health isn’t great?

I first came across the concept of having a mental health first-aid kit when I was reading Dr Emma Hepburn’s first book “A Toolkit for Modern Life: 53 Ways to Look After Your Mind”. I was in quite a bad place at the time having experienced complete burn-out.

I’d got to a stage where I felt like I was able to start to learn how to help myself. I came across Dr. Hepburn aka @thepsychologymum following a recommendation from someone on Instagram. I bought her book but didn’t have particularly high hopes that it would help.

A book about how a brain works isn’t something that had ever been on my reading list. I expected it to be very dry and difficult to read. But Dr Hepburn’s Instagram feed isn’t like that at all. She uses diagrams and simple, relatable language, to explain why we feel a certain way. And how to help ourselves feel better. So, I had high hopes the book would be easy to understand too.

mental health first aid kit
Photo by Garo Uzunyan on Unsplash

Mental health first-aid kit

One aspect of the book that struck a chord, was the benefits of having a mental health first-aid kit. It’s such a simple concept. But also, a very powerful one.

A first-aid kit for our physical health is fairly standard. Plasters, bandages, antiseptic and medicines. If you have a particular condition, you may have more specialised items. But generally, that’s what most of us have.

The beauty of a mental health first-aid kit is that you tailor it to exactly what you need. Therefore, no two are the same. And it certainly isn’t something you buy off the shelf from a pharmacist.

So, how do you create a mental health first-aid kit, and what needs to be in it? The answer to both of these questions is that it entirely depends on you and your needs.

In terms of the kit itself, it could be a physical thing. Perhaps a lovely box which you keep the kit in. Or it could be a list kept in your phone or in a notebook. Mine is a list in the back of my planner. It’s easily accessible as I use the planner most days. A lot will depend on what you have in it.

What should you put in it?

In terms of what goes in it, spend a bit of time thinking about what your go-to things are when your mental health isn’t great. What helps you relax or makes you feel calmer? Is there a book or magazine that always helps? Or a treat such as a candle or snack that always helps? What about music? Are there songs that take you to a calmer place? When you’re feeling stressed, do you have certain things you do to help you sleep? If you’re looking for inspiration for this, check out these tips from Tales of Belle.

My list is walking, music, a bath, talking and breathing. They’re quite general, but I know that they will all help me gain control of my thoughts, and work through anxiety. Breathing is always a good starting point for me. It’s an obvious one but taking a few minutes to breathe deeply and notice my feelings, helps me start to understand them better. And 10 minutes of my favourite tunes makes a huge difference for me. If you want some help with a playlist to boost your mood, have a read of this fab article from Whimsical Mama.

When we’re experiencing poor mental health, we often struggle to know how to help ourselves. Particularly in times of overwhelm. So, having the things that you know help you, somewhere you can easily access them, can really help.

mental health first aid kit
My first aid kit

I’d love to know if you have a mental health first-aid kit and if you do, what’s in it? Leave a comment or drop me a line. Whilst it is an individualised thing, it’s useful to know what others have in theirs too.

“A Toolkit for Modern Life” is available to buy in bookshops, including Waterstones, now. If you’d like to read my review of it, click here.

Please note the link to Waterstones is an affiliate. That means if you click on the link to the book, and then buy it, I get paid a fee from Waterstones.

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