Being a single woman and homeowner, I used to take pride in being able to do things myself – or trying to anyway. At my request, I was given a toolbox as a gift with a thousand different dohickys, thingamajigs, and assorted tools I’ve never used.
I would try almost any do-it-yourself project at least once. I’ve replaced light fixtures, refinished existing ones, stripped wallpaper, and painted, with some success. I’ve also punched a large hole in the bathtub while standing in it on a stool painting the wall above. A piece of the window frame split off and fell to the floor while I was screwing in a curtain rod holder. Apparently, you’re supposed to drill a hole first. I could go on and on.
These days, I prefer to leave the household projects to others who are more skilled while I use my time and efforts to concentrate on another kind of do-it-yourself project that requires that I keep a well stocked mental health toolbox. I find that this brings me a lot more peace of mind!
I’ve spent years assembling my mental health toolbox and getting well acquainted with each item in it. Unlike my power drill, I’ve actually read the owner’s manual for each item in there.
In the book, The Seeker’s Guide (previously published as The New American Spirituality), Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute, introduces the ideas of a “heartfulness toolbox” and a “soulfulness toolbox” and suggests a diversity of specific choices including prayers, meditations, books, audiotapes, and music to begin to assemble such a toolbox of your own.
I read her book in the dark days following my suicide attempt years ago, which resulted in a serious brain injury and losing custody of my two sons. I needed some serious tools. While I wasn’t not consciously putting together a mental health toolbox, I realize now that this is exactly what I was doing over the years of recovering and gaining strength emotionally, psychologically, and mentally.
I still incorporate these tools on a regular basis today, and they have just become part of my lifestyle to help me maintain my emotional balance, happiness, and resilience.
Meditation is the duct tape of my mental health toolbox because it works in every situation for me, no matter what is happening. I have a daily practice. Meditation soothes and calms me while keeping me centered and helping me to maintain a healthy attitude regardless of the external circumstances of my life. (Read more about meditation: You Are Not Your Thoughts and The Myth and Magic of Meditation.)
Physical exercise and yoga are my WD-40. (Read more about the brain benefits of exercise: The Fountain of Youth for Brain and Body and about my yoga practice here: Mind Power.) Physical exercise keeps the endorphins flowing and keeps my brain cells growing and oxygenated while yoga teaches me stillness and concentration in mind and body.
Thought Reframing and Visualization
Like the must-have Phillips’ head and flat head screwdrivers in every toolbox, thought reframing (read more: Turn It Around and Poison Ivy of the Mind) and visualization. (read more: Picture This! and Get the Picture) Music, writing, reading, and spending time with friends and family are the assorted, essential nails and screws in my toolbox.
Make Your Own Mental Health Toolbox
These practices are invaluable tools to me which cost nothing and can be taken with me wherever I go. I know that, with these tools in my toolbox, I can successfully navigate anything life may throw at me and that I will not only survive but thrive even. These mental health tools are the only true constants and the only things which I can control in an ever-changing world. This is what I have found works for me.
I would encourage you to assemble your own toolbox. Maybe you already have one. Maybe your tools are well worn from use or maybe they’re a little dusty and could stand to see the light of day. You have to find the right tools that work for you in your own life. Your toolbox may include some of the practices mentioned above or anything ranging from running, chanting, riding your motorcycle, talking to a therapist, journaling, painting or playing a musical instrument, participating in a drumming circle, hiking, volunteering, or singing. The point is to find what works for you and do it with regularity to your benefit.
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