“I am my best work—a series of road maps, reports, recipes, doodles, and prayers from the front lines.” ~ Audre Lorde
I rise at 6 a.m. every morning. I openly express my gratitudes. I light incenses. Sage. Pala Santo sticks. I take a card from my meditation deck. I listen to my affirmations. If time permits, I soak in a tub, and dance. I do most, if not all of these things before work. When I come home from working in the mental and behavior health field, I usually partake in some form of exercising to de-stress.
Let’s be honest, it’s stressful trying to ‘adult’ every day. Paying bills, caring for your family, maintaining friendships, and most importantly, showing up for yourself, can start to feel tiring.
I find myself constantly needing to pull from my mental health tool kit to stay grounded.
My mental health tool kit isn’t a physical kit. It doesn’t sit in a pretty box. It isn’t something I take down or take out, and grab things from. I like to think of it as my mental box of self-care strategies that I use to ensure my happiness and survival as a Black Woman.
Here are my recommendations on how to start your own mental health tool kit:
1. Keep in mind that the tool kit is an ongoing process. It’s not a quick fix or a short term change. It’s continuous work and you will use it as fit to create the type of balance you need in your life.
2. Make a list of the things that bring you the most happiness. Do you enjoy dancing? Do you enjoy bubble baths? Hot showers? Phone conversations with your favorite homegirl? Meditations? Sit with yourself and explore the things that bring you unbridled joy.
3. If your tool kit has physical things, keep those things on hand. Does coloring calm you down? There are a lot of websites with free coloring sheets that you print. If you enjoy writing as a mental exercise, have a notebook handy. Does the smell of peppermint or lavender keep you calm? Keep some essential oils on hand.
4. Create a routine. I get up every morning and think of one thing that I am in deep gratitude to. This morning, I gave thanks for the act of being able to wake up. Get in the habit of using the things in your tool kit in repetition. It will create and build up consistency and habit.
5. Create variety: Meditation might work for you for three weeks straight and then you might just wake up one day and realize that it doesn’t have that same effect on you anymore. Maybe it’s time to switch it up and practice deep breathing. Constantly pull new things into your tool kit.
6. Understand that some days these practices may work. Some days they will not. Either way, it’s okay. Be gentle with yourself.
My tool kit is built up with strategies that I reach for to maintain my wellness and to keep me grounded. I try to stay proactive with my tool kit, to ensure that I am working on taking care myself. Find what works for you and go from there.