Guest column: What’s in your mental health ‘toolkit?’
A Peer’s Perspective
The ubiquitous commercial regarding carrying the correct credit card was the inspiration for this perspective. It speaks to being prepared and familiar with having the proper tool in your wallet so that there are no surprises when it comes time to use it. I’d like to offer this same concept when it comes to our mental health.
Take a closer look at this kind of toolkit and see why it is so beneficial. As human beings living this life, we will all come across situations that can throw us for the proverbial loop. If you are like me, some of those situations not only knock the wind out of your sails, they cause you to lose the desire and energy to raise the sails again for a good measure of time afterwards. These are the times when having a tailored collection of tools to help you to navigate the situations is crucial.
To gain insight on when to begin developing this kit, let’s talk about football. There is a huddle to plan what action the team will take before the play against the opposing team. By doing this before the interaction occurs, the players know what steps they need to take to recover. This is a great analogy of when to create your toolkit.
Our brains are wired to function differently when we are in a difficult situation. Thoughts will usually focus on what is going on and how to get through it now rather than planning future moves. Knowing what tools are useful beforehand can be critical in how you move through critical situations. A plan can look something like this: “The next time I feel anxious when I have a job interview, I will use box breathing and sing a song that I like to myself; when I am in a situation where I feel scared, I can use my daily affirmation to reassure myself”.
What goes into the toolkit can be as unique as you are. Mine consists of multiple things including journaling, mindfulness walks, music, pros and cons lists, deep breathing and even cleaning.
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Other choices that may work could be movies, window shopping, calling a hotline, taking a bath or spending time with a friend. Any plausible, healthy option that works in that moment and creates a path for you to manage the stressors that come your way can be added.
It’s important to remember that a variety of tools is optimum as life ebbs and flows. If you look at a carpenter’s tools, using a hammer for every situation wouldn’t get them very far when they need to cut or measure the wood. I am always talking with people and seeing what tools they are likely to use and I may even add one or two of those to my collection.
Let’s be honest, the same tools may not work every day, every time, or in every situation. There have been times in my life, for example, where taking a walk is not an available option, and so having a few to choose from is always the best plan.
I have found that having a mental health toolkit has played a vital role in maintaining my recovery and my hope is that you will consider creating one for yourself so that you can experience its powerful impact. So when someone asks “What’s in your toolkit?” you will have the answer.
Jill Davis is peer services coordinator for Mind Springs Health. She or any one of her peers are happy to share more about creating your mental health tool kit. Drop her a line at Peers@MindSpringsHealth.org.
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