Hands up who knows where to find the first-aid kit at home or at work? But what about if you or someone you care about is struggling with their mental health? Would you even know where to begin? That’s why it’s important to create a mental health first-aid kit, too…
Despite the fact that one in six of us are experiencing mental health issues, which include depression and anxiety, at any given time, not many of us have a mental health first-aid kit. And it’s not just about management, or treatment when there is an issue; in some cases, prevention is crucial. Just as we take care of our physical health, we should take care of our mental health, too, and working on either one will likely also help the other.
So how does a mental health first-aid kit work? GP Dr Zoe Williams says, ‘Many of these items and actions can help by stimulating your senses to help you access “happy” memories, while others can stimulate your brain to release hormones and chemicals that are associated with feeling good.’ She suggests keeping these essentials at hand for emotional well-being…
Here’s a list of essentials for a mental health first-aid kit:
An upbeat playlist
Listening to an upbeat soundtrack can transform your mood in minutes, so create a playlist of mood-boosting songs. For one person that might be heavy rock, while for others it’s Disney songs – whatever works for you.
Notepad and a pen
Writing down negative thoughts can help put them into perspective, or validate your feelings. If stress is the problem, write a list and walk away from it for a period of time to give yourself distance. You can also try writing a letter to yourself when you’re in a good place – then, you’ll know exactly what pep talk to give yourself on darker days.
Phone number of your ‘go to’ person
Just having their name or number in your kit will remind you that you have support. Reaching out to someone who you trust – whether that’s chatting on the phone or sending a WhatsApp message – is often the best tonic if you’re feeling low.
It might be the last thing you feel like doing, but research shows that exercise can be beneficial if you suffer from mild to moderate depression. Exercise that involves concentration and coordination, such as dance or yoga, actually helps break the cycle of repetitive, unhelpful thoughts that are sometimes associated with depression.
Read more: 8 morning yoga poses you should master
Something to touch
It’s not just physical contact between people that can reduce levels of stress. Certain textures can also bring us comfort – who doesn’t feel more relaxed after curling up in soft, cotton sheets? So it makes sense to have an item in your kit that is soothing to the touch. This can be a particular fabric, the pages of a well-loved book, or even a scented hand cream to give yourself a hand massage.
You probably won’t leave your phone in your first-aid kit, but how about having a list of useful apps that you can use for your mental health? Free app options (for both iOS/Apple and Android) include Headspace, Catch It – Making Sense of your Moods, and Self-Help for Anxiety Management.
A ‘happy’ photograph
Technology means that we’re connecting less in person with others, and for many, avoiding others is a defence mechanism for when we’re feeling low. But just looking at a photo of a happy memory can quickly remind us of our purpose in life and that we are loved.
A cup of tea
Apart from taking time out to wait for the kettle to boil, studies have shown that a hot drink can help to regulate positive and negative emotions. So that confirms what we have known for ages – that a cuppa really is a cure-all!