During times of stress or in the middle of a depressive or manic episode, it can be very difficult to remember how to take care of yourself. Healthy coping strategies significantly improve mental health symptoms, while unhealthy tactics can further exacerbate your situation and your symptoms.
Poor mental health has a significantly negative impact on physical health so improving it should be taken just as seriously. Because emotional health issues are highly stigmatized and rarely discussed, especially in the South Asian community, having access to pre-determined sources of support is very crucial during a highly emotional time.
One way to do this is to create a wellbeing toolbox. This can be a physical box or a document on your computer that contains reminders of activities, people and resources that help you feel calmer. The benefit of having a toolbox is that when your emotions are high is that you don’t have to rely on your memory to remember how to take care of yourself. This is especially important because when we experience emotional distress of any kind, our brains are flooded and very little energy is spent on remembering such tasks properly.
Additionally, a physical reminder of coping methods, such as a tangible CD or a list on your email, can be more motivating than trying to think of them in an abstract manner. Finally, when we are going through an emotionally difficult time, healthy living may seem more difficult to engage in than we had thought before the emotional episode began.
Here are some ideas on what to put in your wellbeing toolbox so that it is available at any time that you feel you need support. If you are doing a virtual toolbox, consider adding links or actual files to your document so that you don’t have to spend time searching for your tools during a emotionally low period.
CD that makes you feel calm
book that soothes you
list of positive qualities about yourself
list of people (with phone numbers) you can call for support
list of activities that you enjoy (e.g. gardening, running, dancing, date with your partner etc.)
recipes of healthy foods
photos of places and people you love
videos/stories that make you laugh
A toolbox can also be created for a child or teen with age-appropriate materials in them. This can excellent opportunity for parents and their children to talk about the importance of emotional health. In addition, it will teach the child or teen how to manage their own emotions in a healthy way as they grow up.
Having a wellness toolbox physically present somewhere will help you during emotional times because each of these coping methods will be right at your fingertips. Thinking of healthy emotional management techniques while experiencing poor mental health is very difficult to do and and follow through with. By having a toolbox, half of the work is already done and you can focus on take care of yourself.
May is mental health awareness month. What do you have in your wellbeing toolbox? Please leave your comments below.