Ever since one of my favorite bloggers, Ashley, posted about her self-care box, I’ve been thinking about making one of my own. It sounded like a really great idea to me. I have enough experience in therapy now to have developed a list of self-care strategies. It’s somewhat engrained in my head, but it’s also in a notebook somewhere. When I’m at my lowest points, I typically don’t have the mental energy to search for or act on that list. It just seems like more than I can must. So I’m hoping having the physical items in one spot ready to go might light a fire under me to make a kind choice for myself in the moments where I need it most.
This also reminds me of Cat’s post from Half of a Soul, which I have referenced before. In it, she said:
Step number one is concrete and relatively easy, so I’d recommend giving it a try. Step one involves making a kit – both real and metaphorical, ideally – to satisfy your own expectations.
Picture the times when everything goes to shit. The times when you’re on the edge of (or even in) a BPD frenzy. What do you need? What do you want? Leave other people out of it for the time being. Don’t fall back on the typical BPD “but I’m helpless when I’m upset” answer: i.e. that you want someone to validate you and take care of you. When you refuse to continue the pattern of putting the blame and expectations on someone else, you realize that what you actually want is simply to feel validated and cared for. So: what can you do to make yourself feel validated and cared for?
Cat is absolutely right. In my worst moments, I want to be cared for. I want others to show me that they care. Figuring out how to care for myself isn’t so automatic as it should be, but I guess that’s the source of the problem. Hence, the reason this kit is such a great idea.
In deciding what I would include in my self-care box, I did some googling. Why re-invent the wheel, right? Ashley also had some great ideas that I stole, so she definitely deserves the credit.
Since I tend to get very impulsive with food, I decided to stay away from that. While a piece of chocolate might be a great way to care for myself, I won’t stop at just one and then I’ll feel guilty. I’m still working on self-control in that area.
The other thing that I was mindful of in making my box is how many of these items are going to need to be replenished. I know myself well enough to know that my perfectionist tendencies would be at play here. I’d want everything to be fully stocked all the time, just in case. If I started to run low on something, I wouldn’t want to use it because then I wouldn’t have it. And if I did use it, then I’d be stressing myself out about replacing it.
The top of the box, which drew me to it immediately.
After some consideration, here is what I came up with:
- Candle. During the difficult days, I would say one of the most consistent strategies I will employ to make myself feel better is to light a candle. My favorite scent, the one my therapist uses in her office, is eucalyptus spearmint. Unfortunately, they don’t make that scent for my candle warmer, but I also love anything mildly apple-scented, so this was the perfect backup.
- Tea. When I feel a cold coming on, the first step I always take is some tea with honey. It’s become something of a comfort. I don’t drink tea as much anymore because of my kidney stones, but I still enjoy it in a time of need.
- Cozy socks. This one came right from Ashley. I have a few different pairs of fuzzy socks that I practically lived in this past winter. And I love to be warm, it’s such a wonderful feeling.
- Remember the Titans. My absolute favorite movie. I have seen it at least 25 times and never tire of it. When I need to watch a movie that empowers me, this is the one I will choose.
- Bath bombs. One of J’s favorite suggestions to me when I leave her office in a bad state is to try taking a bath. My favorite bath bombs are the ones from Lush, but those are expensive, so I settled for a bag of these Lavender bombs that smell awesome.
- Lotion. It’s a simple thing, but this berry-smelling hand lotion shows that I’m taking care of myself.
- Fidgets. Part of working in a school means I have a whole ton of fidget toys to use with my kids during counseling. If it works for them, why not try it for me? I included play doh, which is some of their favorite, and a stress ball that I find myself squeezing when I’m annoyed.
- Microwaveable Heating Pad. This one is one of my favorite things that I included. I got this cute little owl as a Christmas gift a few years back. You pop him in the microwave and heat him up for about 30 seconds to a minute, and are left with a nice smelling and warm comfort object to cling to. If you haven’t noticed, good smells and warmth are the two biggest factors in me feeling cared for.
- Nail polish. Painting my nails can be a chore sometimes, but I really love what a pop of color can do for my mood.
- Face mask. I wasn’t sure at first whether or not I liked face masks, but they’ve grown on me. I like that I’m at least trying to treat my skin well.
- Puzzle book. Through therapy, I’ve learned the skill of mindfulness. When I’m in the car, that means counting mailboxes or playing the alphabet game. For my box, that means sudoku or crossword puzzles.
- Pictures. Photos of my family and friends. Seemed like the obvious choice.
- Affirmation Cards. A collection of uplifting phrases that I plucked from different spots all over the internet. Phrases that I hope will become more automatic to me over time. But for now, these are cards I can read to myself when my mind refuses to create those thoughts on its own.
- Notes from kids, friends. The Christmas card from my grandfather that calls me his special girl. A birthday card from my friend that calls me a sister. The note H wrote me that calls me her best babysitter who always makes her laugh. These make me feel loved.
- My ‘Ready, Born Ready’ Playlist. On my phone, this playlist earned this name because it’s a mix of some of the most uplifting songs I’ve got downloaded right now. It’s namesake is Daughter, by Sleeping at Last. One day I’d like to post about some of these songs that can boost my mood without my brain’s consent, because I think music can be truly powerful.
And there we have it, a self-care kit. I must say, the process of creating it actually felt like an act of self-care in itself. I made an active choice to prioritize myself and my happiness, which has not been something I can say has been easy for me to do as of late. This was me saying I may not always believe I am worth it, but I am going to make the caring choice anyway.
It made me feel good. It made me feel like I was doing the right thing for myself.
I still don’t feel like my box is complete. For example, something that I really want to include is a piece of my grandparents, as it always comforts me to remember how I was/am loved by them. I haven’t decided yet what that thing will be, but I think I will know it when I see it.
Maybe that’s the beauty of it. I can constantly be looking out for new objects that can become a member of the kit. Because in the world of self-care, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.