Happy Wednesday, ladies! How are you doing this week? That’s kind of the big question of today’s post actually: how are you doing? Do you deal with anxiety, depression, or just have days where you get super down on yourself and aren’t sure how to cope? I do. And you know what, people really don’t understand. I’m lucky enough to have surrounded myself with people who do. But even in my own family, if I say, “I’m feeling really anxious and I need to remove myself from this situation ASAP,” I’m told to just deal with it. The three words that dig right into your heart right?
There’s no right answer for that problem, but I’ve found saying “I’m leaving, you deal with it,” or something along those lines has brought me the most success for my own mental health. And when I do leave, I do deal with it by giving myself some me-first time. And today I’m showing you how to build your own me-first kit.
This post may contain affiliate links. I am not a doctor and this post is not medical advice. Please see a doctor or counselor to discuss what kinds of treatments, medical or otherwise, will be the most effective for helping you live your happiest and best life.
WHAT IS A ME-FIRST KIT?
So what exactly is a me-first kit? Well, I mentioned it briefly in this post awhile ago. The short version is it’s an emergency collection of things that make you happy.
There’s no real object or thing that can truly cure anxiety or depression. But there is almost always something that will at least help you relax. For some people that’s a video game, for other’s it’s a craft project. And often, it’s more than one thing. Sometimes it depends on the kind of anxiety your feeling. What makes you happier one day won’t always work the next. So a me-first kit is a collection of all the different tools, objects, and activities that can help you calm down and re-center when you’re feeling completely overwhelmed, stressed, panicked, etc.
WHY SHOULD YOU BUILD A ME-FIRST KIT?
If you never suffer from anxiety that can cripple you or significantly change your attitude in a situation, you probably don’t need a me-first kit. But if you do, a me-first kit is a great way to rapidly attack those feelings.
RECHARGE YOUR BATTERY
For me, the last thing that helps is trying to explain my feelings. Especially when it’s to someone who really doesn’t understand. But even with people who do, much of my anxiety actually stems from interaction with other people. Even people I love. The truth is, I am an incredibly introverted person, even though I do love communicating with and meeting new people. You know how some apps really just kill your phone battery, but you keep using them because you love them? People are my favorite battery-killing app. But because my battery dies so quickly, I need to remove myself to recharge.
Now everyone’s anxiety comes from different things, and that’s more to be discussed below. Whatever the cause of your anxiety is, when it becomes crippling and makes you feel like a different person than yourself, a me-first kit can help. It’s sort of like putting your phone on airplane mode to charge. Your me-first kit is your airplane mode button, and when you turn it on, you charge faster. (P.S. If you didn’t know that, yes, putting your phone on airplane mode will actually help it charger faster!)
AN ANXIETY EPI-PEN
And building a kit is far better than just knowing a few things that can help, because it means all of those things are quickly accessible and you can get to charging faster and more effectively. If you’re anything like me, when you’re in the grips of an anxiety attack, just the thought of having to go collect the things you need can be overwhelming. So putting them in one place effetely becomes your anxiety epi-pen. Can you imagine trying to open a concoction of pill bottles and treatments when you’re having a life-threatening allergy attack? No thanks.
Mental health is just as serious an issue because it affects you now and the repercussions can be immediate. It sucks having to go back and apologize to loved ones because your anxiety led you to a complete and utter breakdown. Or have to pay the hospital bill for an anxiety attack out of control. Just because the world hasn’t come to terms with the importance of mental health, that doesn’t mean you have to ignore it or pretend it isn’t important either. You only have one life to live. You should do what you need to do to live the best life possible. A me-first kit is an effective non-prescription way help.
P.S. Don’t ever be ashamed to see your doctor and get a prescription if you need it. In my personal case, after consulting with doctors and discussing the effects of various medications with my family and loved ones, I have decided against it for me, for now. I have found a me-first kit to be incredibly effective for me. And I want to share it with you as another potential tool to cope with something that really is so common and normal.
HOW TO BUILD A ME-FIRST KIT
Right, so now how does one build an effective me-fist kit. Well, it takes a few steps and a little time. It’s something that will always be evolving, as the things that make you happy in life really do change.
WHY ARE YOU ANXIOUS?
The first thing you need to understand is what situations and things make you feel the most anxious? Like I said above, for me, it’s mostly people. Typically I come across people out and about so that’s really going to affect the kind of me-first kit I can build. I also get really anxious when I feel like my mind can’t focus on a single thing. If I’m unable to complete a thought in my head, it can lead to me feeling incredibly anxious. That can happen at home, so I can deduce that I need a couple of kits. One needs to be more portable, and the other can be a little more expansive and full.
What triggers your anxiety? And where are you when it is triggered? Can you easily remove yourself from the situation? Really sit down and think about these questions for a moment. Write down the answers. You need to know them to understand what the limitations of a me-first kit will be for you so you can build the most effective one for every situation.
WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY (OR JUST NEUTRAL)?
Now, what makes you happy? What makes you laugh and feel good inside, even when you’re in a sour mood? Depending on the kind of mood, that can be different. And sometimes the thing that makes you happy can be the source of your anxiety. The most simple example I can think about is kids and loved ones. They can really stress you out, but moments with them can be the best. So if the source of your anxiety is also a source of happiness, ask your self when and why one becomes the other?
Also think about activities that make you happy. Do video games help you relax? I’ve recently rediscovered cross-stitching and I’ve found that to be incredibly relaxing. Knitting, too. And planning, drawing, and writing. I also love browsing Imgur when I’m feeling like I need to return to a more neutral mood: not overly happy, and definitely not sad.
Those return-to-neutral activities are a big one to remember. Sometimes you just get to this place where the thought of trying to swing to happy makes you want to scream. You just want to be neutral. You want the pendulum to stop swinging. Those activities are, for me, the most effective for coping with anxiety. Are they for you?
WHAT PHYSICAL ITEMS CAN YOU USE TO GET AT THAT HAPPINESS?
So the point of a me-first kit is to have a collection of physical objects you can touch and interact with to remove yourself from the spinning brain feeling. That means you need to translate some of those intangible sources of happiness into tangible ones. Back to the family and kids example. If they are both a source of happiness and anxiety to you, maybe a photo album would be a good physical item. You can step away from the interactions which may be giving you anxiety; and, reach for memories that make you happy and think happy thoughts.
If writing and brain dumping is effective for you, having a notebook or blank paper will be effective. So go to your list of things that make you feel happy or neutral and write down a physical object or two or four that can bring that out.
FIND A BOX & A COSMETIC BAG
Now you need a physical place for those objects. When I’m out and about, I don’t like to carry too much on me. But I also know I need to have that thing to help me if I start to feel anxious. I know writing helps, so I always keep a notepad and pen in my purse. Always – even to the bar. I also saved a bunch of my favorite memes to a folder in my phone so even if I don’t have cell service, I have something I can browse. There a couple of games on my phone which help: Sims for when I don’t feel like doing anything; and, CodyCross for when I need my brain to focus on a single thing. (I also have a pomodoro app for when I need to focus and get things done, but I’ll do a post on how that helps later!).
When you’re out and about, try to find objects that can fit in a cosmetic bag or a small pouch so you can always have it on you. You may also consider keeping any larger objects that are really effective in a small box or bag in the trunk of your car. At home, use a box or bag, or whatever storage tool you like best, to keep several different happy objects together. The point is to have these things easily accessed and have several options available so you don’t have that feeling of, “Nothing is working and I give up.”
REDUCE THE BARRIERS TO ENTRY
Once you have your objects and their storage system, it’s time to think about the best place to keep them. You need to reduce the barriers to entry. Think about when, how, and why you get anxious, what helps and where those things help. If you hate reading at the kitchen table, but reading really helps, keeping book in the kitchen may not be the most effective for you. (Unless of course, the kitchen can be a big anxiety, and just touching the book gets you moving in the right direction.) For me, I want my objects to be in the place I will use them because getting there is my biggest challenge. So I know I just need to get there, and then everything will be alright.
At home, I have a little corner by our couch where I keep knitting and, now, cross-stitch projects. We also have a sketchbook and some pencils there. The sketchbook is Chris’s, but he wouldn’t be mad if I stole a page or two if I needed it. And, because clutter can make me anxious, stealing a few pages from him is better for me (and us, tbh) than having several books around. In my office, I keep all of my planners and notebooks that I like to spread out when I need a major, major brain dump for serious anxiety spirals available on my desk. I also keep a book and a notebook and pen on my nightstand.
Essentially, I’ve strategically placed the objects that help me cope in the places where I’m most likely to need them or want to use them. I like to read in bed and do crafts at the couch, so those things are in the places that are most effective for me. I also like to wrap up in a blanket when I’m stressed, so I have blankets in every room of our apartment. By keeping your me-first kit where you can access it quickly and use it quickly, you set yourself up for success.
A FEW NOTES ON ME-FIRST KITS
There is no cure.
One thing to keep in mind is that there is no be all end all solution to anxiety. While medications even can help, you can’t take a few doses like an antidote, cease treatment and be done. Rather, anxiety is a natural and normal response to stressors around you. Some people react to those stressors more strongly than others. And that’s normal. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not.
It’s okay to get help.
But if you spend all your time looking for a cure to anxiety, you’re only going to find yourself let down and disappointed. The best you can do is learn to cope with it like an allergy: know your particularly stressors and be ready to apply treatment as necessary. A me-first kit is just one possible tool you can use to cope with anxiety, but there are so many more. Talk to a doctor, therapist, or counselor; someone trained to understand the effects of anxiety and who’ve spent years researching ways to deal with it.; Their research is to your benefit, don’t be ashamed of that. But also don’t let anyone talk you into a treatment you’re not comfortable with. It is your life, remember?
I’ve wanted to go into this post for a long time because I truly believe mental health needs to be a topic of casual conversation. It’s also something that I struggle with every day of my life. But I’ve come to terms with it, I know I experience highs and lows. There will be an up to the down.
You’re not alone.
I also know I’m not alone. It’s literally taken years and years and years for me to come to understand myself, my anxiety, and how to cope with it. I’m still learning. But I know that not everyone is at that point, and I’m here to say it gets easier. If you seek out a coping solution, you can find them. I hope I’ve shared one today that will work for those of you looking. And if not, don’t give up. Just like some people respond better to one medicine over another, some anxiety coping mechanisms will work for you better than others. So keep searching. Keep persevering. Keep that chin up. And if you ever need to talk, feel free to email me at email@example.com. There are often resources available that provide anonymous conversation if you prefer to talk on the phone, this link here shares a few national hotlines in the United States.
I hope this post helps you, if you have any questions or comments feel free to share them below or in an email, dm, or favorite method of communication. If you want to see more posts like this, be sure to share that too!
Do you have anxiety? What steps do you take to help you cope?