What Is a Self Care Kit?
I am all about kits. You probably have a First Aid kit and a sewing kit laying around somewhere at home, but kits are a great way to organize almost anything that needs to stay together, including your self care supplies.
A self care kit is pretty straightforward to put together. All you need is a small collection of carefully chosen items to help you keep your mental health together on the go. Other than that, the actual items you choose to include – and how you use them – are up to you.
Why Do I Need a Self Care Kit?
A self care kit can be helpful anytime you’re away from home and need help grounding yourself. I use mine to help me deal with stress, anxiety, and disassociation while I’m out in public, or just when I want to practice mindfulness throughout the day. Remember to keep your own mental health experiences in mind while you’re putting together your personal toolkit. You want to choose tools that work for you, not anybody else.
Note: DIY self care strategies should be a supplement to other forms of mental health management, not a replacement. No amount of lotion or lip gloss is going to cure your anxiety, but a mental health professional can help you out if you’re struggling to cope with your mental health.
Okay, great! Now that we covered the basics, let’s get started with a few guidelines to help you create the perfect self care kit for you.
What to Put in Your DIY Self Care Kit
The best, most accessible tools you have to ground yourself on the go are: (1) your senses and (2) your breath. Choose items that will help you regulate your breathing and channel your senses to create a sense of calm and focus. Here’s what you need to get started:
1 | A container of some kind (duh)
This is pretty straightforward: You need something to hold everything in. Ideally, the container you use will be something portable, beautiful, and easy to access (this is not the time for complicated pockets and zippers). You might consider a cosmetic bag, coin purse, or small box, depending on the size and shape of the items you decide to keep in your self care kit.
2 | Something to touch
Everyone is different when it comes to which sense(s) they find the most comforting to tap into. For me, it’s definitely my sense of touch. Because I find physical sensation so grounding, I like to keep a few items in my self care kit that I can fidget with and touch when I’m feeling anxious or out of it.
For your kit think about which types of items you find the most soothing or interesting to touch: Soft, smooth, bumpy, heavy, furry, cool, warm, whatever. If you’re more touch-driven, you may even want to consider including a mixture of different touch-based items in your kit.
Here are a few ideas:
- Small toys or figurines
- Fidget toy
- Small square of fabric, leather, or lace
- Stones or crystals
- Hand lotion, chapstick, or lip gloss
- Anything else that is relatively small and feels nice on your skin
3 | Something to smell
Your sense of smell is connected to your emotions via the limbic system in your brain, so this is a big one. Some people believe that certain smells are linked to specific states. Citrus, for example, is often considered energizing, while lavender can help some people feel more relaxed. So feel free to use scents that are typically linked to the feeling or emotion you’re hoping to hone in on.
However, your sense of smell is, above all else, distinctly personal and rooted in your own history and experiences (yes, seriously). If nothing grounds you like the smell of fresh apples like the ones you used to pick with your little brother every October, lean into that sweet apple scent for your max happiness.
Some scent-based ideas to include in your kit:
- Hand lotion
- Scented chapstick or lip gloss
- Body spray or perfume
- Essential oils (but make sure to use a carrier oil when you need one)
- Personal aromatherapy diffuser
- Coffee beans, peppermint, or another strong-smelling food product
4 | Something to look at
This is probably the most personal component in your self care kit. What images or items are the most visually soothing and grounding to you? You can go aesthetic here – choose an item that you find visually beautiful, or think more personal – choose an image or item that has personal meaning or significance to you.
A few ideas:
- Personal photographs – your family, friends, SO, baby, dog, whatever makes you happy to look at
- Personal memorabilia – think a small item you own that carries a lot of meaning and history for you
- Other images – your favorite piece of art, a photograph of the ocean, a comic strip that makes you stop what you’re doing and smile, whatever
- Something pretty – dried flowers, a small piece of jewelry, a pretty stone
5 | Something to taste
This isn’t about using food to comfort yourself but more about engaging your sense of taste. There’s nothing wrong with keeping some dark chocolate or another strong-tasting snack in your self care kit, but also consider stocking up on strong mints, fruity chewing gum, or anything in between.
By the way, if you have a complicated history with food, feel free to skip this. Your self care kit is about comforting and grounding yourself in times of stress, not challenging yourself. Build the kit that works best for you, whether that includes something to taste or not.
6 | Breathing cue cards
There are a number of breathing techniques you can learn and practice to help you calm down and ground yourself when you’re experiencing stress or anxiety. Some of my favorites are alternate-nostril breathing and 4-7-8 breathing. If you find these breathing exercises helpful, you can create breathing cue cards to keep in your self care kit as a reminder and guide.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find adult-friendly cue cards for breathing (yet). Since grown-ups need help calming down sometimes, too, I’m adding this project to my to-do list. I’ll let you know when those are ready and available to download! In the meantime, if you need some inspiration for your homemade cue cards, you can check out these helpful explanations and visuals of deep breathing exercises from a child therapist.