I’ve been coping with my mental illness for nearly a decade but I’m still poorly equipped for emergencies that can strike anytime. I have some strategies, of course, but for some reason, it never occurred to me to have something I could physically reach for beyond an extra anxiety pill in my wallet. So, when I first saw a photo of a mental health first aid kit I knew it was something I wanted to try. Of course, I immediately shared it with my fellow Tempest staff and to my surprise, many of my colleagues have long been using this strategy to cope with their own mental health issues. I resolved to put together my first kit and I asked a few of them to share what they keep in their own kits. Whether you are building your first one or want to re-vamp a trusty mental health crisis kit you’ve used for years, hopefully, these can serve as inspiration.
Katherine Kaestner, Interviews Editor
Prepared for: Panic attacks, anxiety, depressive episodes, migraines.
At the age of 27, I finally sat down to intentionally create a kit I can reach for when anxiety, panic or depression takes over. This is version 1.0, there are a few things I have on my wishlist but I already feel better carrying the kit with me this week.
- My psych meds. I already carry all my meds including emergency pills for panic attacks, I’ve just moved them to this kit.
- Ibuprofen and nausea medication for migraines, headaches or any kind of pain that can trigger my anxiety if left alone.
- Earplugs for when I feel anxiety setting in and every sound makes me jump out of my skin. I am actually really looking forward to using these, sound sensitivity is a common issue for me and I usually just try to power through….not a good idea.
- Hair ties when I panic, I fixate on my hair. Sometimes I pull it. Usually, I’m just overwhelmed by the feeling that it’s everywhere. The trick here is to avoid using these on normal days and losing them.
- Kava tea. This stuff works like an herbal Xanax for me and I don’t always want to take my emergency benzos because those are some serious meds that I don’t like to take unless I have to.
- Lavender essential oil roll on. I impulse bought this a couple months ago, I roll it on my pulse points, it reminds me of my mom and cool summer breezes and that calms me right down.
- Tissues. Let’s be real: when you’re prone to depression sometimes you cry at your desk. Or on the train. Or just walking down the street. Best to be prepared.
- Magnesium + Calcium drink tablets. Magnesium is calming, calcium is always a good idea and the salts, water, and sugar combo is great if I’m dehydrated because I forgot to eat or drink, or maybe I just cried too much on the train. Whatever it is, these babies have got me covered.
- Note from my husband trying to text while having an anxiety or panic attack = bad idea. Comforting words from my spouse = always a good idea. This is a note I can open up when things are terrible and I’m on my own.
Dyuthi Prakash, Staff Writer
Prepared for: DEPRESSIVE EPISODES, SUDDEN PANIC ATTACKS, chronic stress, anxiety
It recently dawned on me that I have a history of stress-related health problems in my family, and I need to take notice. When I’m at work, the smallest thing will suddenly trigger my stress, and cause me to go into a panic attack. That usually leads to a downward spiral where my confidence, self-esteem and any remnant of positive thoughts disappear. This is when I turn to my mental health kit, which helps me get back to normalcy. After about 10 minutes of solitude with my kit, I can finally return to my desk and resume work.
- Dark Chocolate. I’ll be honest, I take at least one bite out of my dark chocolate bar almost every day. It helps to lift my spirits when I need it the most. I typically go for 85% cocoa. I have the quite the bitter sweet tooth!
- Coffee. I’m one of those coffee-crazed people who needs to brew her coffee from scratch every morning. I turn to coffee every time a stress-related issue comes my way. It might be a placebo effect, but hey, if it works it works.
- Refreshing wipes. Sometimes I break down crying in the most unlikely situations, and that’s totally normal. Everyone has one of these episodes at some point in their life. I usually try to get it over with, as I feel a lot better when I’m done, and I’ve gotten everything out in the open. Then I like using refreshing wipes; they wake me up suddenly, and I feel like it’s a brand new day to conquer.
- Something by Robin Sharma. I’ve been an avid fan of Robin Sharma for over five years now, and his videos and podcasts have helped me through rough times and helped me get back on my feet. I go back to his book The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari every time I have a depressive episode.
- Earphones. Music is another must for such episodes. It always turns my mood around! Pop and dance music by Maroon 5, David Guetta, and even Taylor Swift’s recent music are all on my stress-reliever playlist. When I forget to bring my earphones with me, I need a lot more coffee to get through the day to compensate for the lack of music.
- My trusty Moleskine. It’s true what they say: when you put your negative thoughts on paper, they don’t seem as significant after all. I jot my stress-related thoughts quickly in my journal, and ask myself three questions,
- “What’s causing the stress?”
- “Is it something you can fix?”
- “If you can’t fix it, let it go.”
Answering these questions usually puts things in perspective for me.
Arushi Tandon, Editorial Fellow
Prepared for: anxiety attacks, depressive episodes, chronic pains, stomach cramps, nausea
I’ve been using a mental health kit since I was in college, even though I didn’t call it that when I first started using it. At first, it was just a way of making sure I kept everything on me every time I stepped out of the house. Now, it’s something I can’t step out of the house without. My mental health kit is my survival mechanism and a vital form of self-care.
- A strong painkiller. A good analgesic and antipyretic is a must for me as I have suffered from chronic illnesses. These make sure any minor pain or fever is kept under control.
- An antispasmodic. I suffer from stomach cramps due to my anxiety and other reasons too, at times, so having a potent antispasmodic in my bag gives me peace of mind.
- Tissues. I generally have a fear of public washrooms and cleanliness helps me calm down. Keeping tissues keeps my hygiene related fears at bay.
- Chewing gum. A little something for me to chew on if I get nauseous, or if I get an anxiety attack out of nowhere, or to settle hunger pangs, which can cause a lot of discomfort and an inability to focus if I don’t have food on me.
- Notepad & pen. I need this to jot down ideas when they strike randomly, but it’s also great for scribbling when I feel on edge or if I feel low. It’s a quick and easy distraction. I’ve also written affirmations in notepad to refer to any time I feel anxiety or a depressive episode coming.
- Sanitizer. This is a perfect way for me to combat my hygiene related fears, as well as my anxiety. The fragranced sanitizers I use from Bath & Body Works come in such brilliant smells that they’re an instant mood lifter for an aromatherapy buff like me.
- Pocket-sized Hanuman Chalisa. As a Hindu, my faith in God keeps me going. So, I carry a Hanuman Chalisa with me everywhere I go for a constant blessing and a quick read before exams, or any event really soothes me.
- Fidget spinner. This one’s a recent edition but I’ve found it to be really good when I feel anxious or depressed in the slightest. It distracts me and keeps my mind from wandering into dark places.
- Makeup & a perfume. A lipstick, eyeliner, kajal, concealer, illuminator, and face powder are my go-to self-care tools in my mental health kit. And I keep a perfume in my kit at all times too.
- Sanitary napkin(s). These are a must for me because my periods can be irregular at times due to my history of illness. I have to keep these with me at all times to make sure I don’t have a crisis situation when I’m in a public place.
- Kindle. I’m a voracious reader, so my Kindle is the perfect way for me to have something to keep me busy when I’m out of the house.
- Earphones. These are a must for me because music is therapy for me and works in ways nothing else can. So I always carry my earphones with me, for my quick fix of anything from BTS to Zedd to Yiruma. My music keeps me going.
- A small water bottle. And of course, the foolproof way to help my mental health and calm my nerves.
Everyone’s mental health kit will look different based on the kind of challenges they face. The important thing is that it contains everything you need to get you through a crisis situation, or just the everyday struggles that trigger your symptoms. Taking the time to put together a good mental health kit has been a lifesaver for the ladies at The Tempest.
So many members of our incredible team here at The Tempest survive and thrive with mental illness and we are committed to shedding light on what real life looks like with these diagnoses. While we engage in a certain amount of mental illness related gallows humor, it’s a very serious issue. If you are struggling, please reach out to a professional and get help. If you feel suicidal please get in touch with a suicide crisis line in your country.