College /// Thoughts x

Your mental health is more important than your studies.

Self-care boxes have become a popular form of at-home therapy, giving you access to a unique collection of items that will make you smile and lift your spirits on an off day. While especially helpful for people with mental illnesses such as depression, self-care kits are useful for everyone.

And although many guides on how to start your own kit urge you to buy a heap of items to fill it up, there are many cheaper ways to accomplish the same goal. Here is the advice of a broke college student on how to make a self-care kit.

First, you will need a container. Anything will do: a shoebox, Tupperware, the empty biscuit tin your grandma puts her sewing supplies in, or the box your latest Amazon order shipped in. Whatever the choice may be, your container has to be big enough to hold everything you want to put in it.

Next comes the fun part: deciding what goes into your container. A good place to start is printing out pictures of things you care about. The photos could be family, friends, pets, places, or anything else, although from personal experience, I recommend not putting pictures of a significant other in your kit. If you break up, looking at photos of the two of you can quickly turn your box of happiness into a collection of bitter memories (trust me on this).

But instead of your partner, why not memorialize your favorite meme on paper and include it in your kit? You could also print a picture of your favorite character, movie scene, fan art—basically anything that might make you smile. You could print these from the printers at your college, or develop photos from a store such as Target for around twenty-nine cents per 4×7 picture.

You can also include your favorite comfort food in your kit, whether it’s cheap ramen, extravagant chocolate, disgustingly sweet Halloween candy, or the phone number for the nearest Domino’s. Give yourself permission to not consider the unhealthiness of the food, and just allow yourself to munch on something comforting without worrying about being healthy. If comfort food can help you feel better, then so be it — at a tough moment, sometimes you have to put your mental well-being before your physical health, if only for one snack.

Your kit will come in handy when finals have you down in the dumps. (Image via Work Over Easy)

Include some fond memories as well (they’re priceless). You might include the ticket from a movie you loved watching, or a letter from a friend, or a postcard from a trip you enjoyed, or a birthday card that makes you laugh. Having your favorite stuffed animal in your kit is also a lovely idea, because when you’re feeling down, it’s nice to have something soft to hug to make you feel better. But any oddity will do, as long as looking at it and holding it brightens your day.

Besides including items that have personal worth, it’s important to add enjoyable activities to your self-care kit. Depending on what you like to do for calm and relaxing fun, you could include a crossword puzzle, a collection of coloring pages (free, downloadable and printable if you don’t want to buy a whole coloring book), or a novel.

If you don’t mind spending a bit of money, “The Tiny Book of Tiny Pleasures” ($9 on Amazon) is a beautiful collection of little things to appreciate in life, from eating a whole cake to hearing the rain patter on the window. If you’re in need of something to remind you that life is more beautiful than it may seem when you are feeling miserable, this adorably illustrated book is perfect for you to put in your self-care kit.

Since you may be in need of something to remind you of your own worth, you should write a list of everything you love about yourself and stick it in your kit to give you some self-love when you need it most. If you don’t want to hear such positivity from yourself, take the word of the people you look up to: write down some of your favorite inspirational quotes to remind yourself of how amazing you are and reassure you that you can get through this tough time.

If you are going through a hard time, writing about what you are experiencing is always more helpful than you think it will be. Writing down your sorrows and frustrations helps you pinpoint exactly what you are feeling, why you feel that way, and how you can cope with the sadness and work through your problems.

If you’re not much of a writer, you can find other ways, such as art or music, to flush out your negative emotions. No matter what you do, shouting your pain into the void through some form of artistic expression is one of the most beneficial things you can do to cope with whatever you are experiencing.

Since you may need to have a cry to fully work out your pain, a pack of tissues is always a good thing to include in a self-care kit. In the same vein, a washcloth is also a good addition, since you can wet it with cold water to soothe the puffy redness around your eyes. And since crying is dehydrating, add some teabags or hot chocolate mix to your box so you can make yourself a hot, comforting drink while you sift through everything in your box and try your best to start feeling better.

A self-care kit may not fix your problems, but it can help to dry your tears and give you the confidence and contentment to pick yourself up and turn into a functional human once again. These ideas on how to create a collection of happy things for little to no money can help get you started on making your own and personalizing it to fit your needs.

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Kathleen Danielson

Carleton College

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