For most of us, being mentally healthy and coping with life in healthy ways requires a life toolbox.
Inside our life toolbox, we have different strategies and healthy coping mechanisms, like meditating or working out, that help us manage life in healthy ways. But there is another toolbox that I have included in my life—my tiny toolbox!
A tiny toolbox is something we put together that is specific to us and what calms us. It’s exactly what it sounds like—a tiny container of things to use when we struggle. Having a tiny toolbox that we can refer to in times of trigger or stress is a familiar tool for many in recovery, but it doesn’t have to be limited to only those in recovery—anyone can use it in their everyday life.
The things to include are endless, and the items that we choose are only limited in their ability to be small and mobile, but honestly, our tiny toolbox can contain anything that we love and anything that calms us. If we want to include something that isn’t feasible to fit in our tiny toolbox, we can take a picture of it, write a quote about it, or use an item that reminds us of that thing.
A tiny toolbox can be the difference between responding to our feelings or reacting to our feelings. It can be the difference in changing a habit or succumbing to a habit. It can be the difference between being the best version of ourselves or staying stuck in a cycle we don’t want to be in. Am I making it out to be a miracle tool? Maybe a little bit. But our tiny toolbox can take us out of whatever we may be struggling with and bring us to a place within ourselves. A place of calm, a place of feeling, and a place of reflection. We can use these tangible tools to de-stress and calm our minds.
How do we do this? First create your tiny toolbox; take your time and make it something that you really love.
My tiny toolbox is a small bag with the quote, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” on the front. I love this quote because it reminds me to be myself—not to give in to people pleasing or being a chameleon to fit in, but to own who I am and to love myself as I am. It also contains a smooth rock that I found hiking that my thumb fits perfectly in (I use this while doing deep breathing), some lavender essential oil, a reminder to myself on a sticky note, hand lotion, and a super small notebook I have dubbed “my mini journal” for me to write or doodle in (both of these things calm and center me).
You can include anything you want—a picture of someone you love (yourself included), something that smells good, a piece of jewelry that is special or makes you feel pretty, a moment you want to remember written down, a quote that brings you back from anger or reaction, a reminder written down of who you envision your best self to be. Anything that you love and want to include, do it! Keep your tiny toolbox in a place that you can access when you aren’t home—your purse, your car, your desk at work. Whatever place works for you!
My go-to when I am stressed or brought to unconscious reaction is deep breathing in my room, away from it all, but if I am out and about and need some calm in my life, my tiny toolbox comes to my rescue. Before I even open my tiny toolbox, the quote on the front is a reminder of who I am. I open my tiny toolbox and pull out the lavender oil and put it on my wrists, then I gently inhale and close my eyes. I pull out my smooth rock and do some deep breathing or I pull out my mini journal and write about my anger or sadness. These small acts bring me back into my body and invite calm into my mind. My written reminder to myself is special to me and always brings me back to a place where I remember who I want to be and what is important to me. Most often, my reaction to whatever is triggering me is not how I want to act or who I want to be, and I am always grateful to have that reminder in my tiny toolbox.
Life is full of things we cannot control, but we can control our reactions to the things in our world.
Put together a tiny toolbox and see if you can invite calm in the midst of the crazy and the curveballs life throws you.
Take time for yourself to control what you can, and let the rest go. Bring yourself back into your body, invite calm into your mind, and remind yourself of who you want to be.