25 Things to Put in Your Self-Care Kit
Article updated April 10, 2020.
When you live with a health condition like a mental or chronic illness, self-care is a must. Fighting symptoms of these conditions can be exhausting, and it can be helpful to have a self-care kit on hand for the times when it’s hard to remember what might make you feel a little better in the moment.
“Creating a self care kit can be useful for those struggling with mental health because it helps to reinforce the message that there are things they can do,” Daniela Paolone, LMFT, a Los Angeles-based therapist for those with chronic pain, illness and trauma, told The Mighty. She added:
When emotionally distressed, it can be hard to be able to think of coping skills, and other support methods to use in those moments. This is why the mental health self care kit is so helpful; because it is something tangible in the form of a list or handout that the person can refer to as needed.
While many choose to carry a self-care kit with them in a purse or backpack, others may prefer to have a box at home — or even just have a few calming objects stashed in their car. If this sounds like a cool idea to you, but you don’t know where to start, look no further. We asked our Mighty community to share one item they keep in their own self-care kit. We compiled their answers below — and added a few suggestions of our own.
Join the Distract Me group if you want help taking your mind off whatever you’re going through.
Here’s what they had to say:
1. Journal and Pens
“Some items that could be included in a mental health self care kit include a journal to write down thoughts, or an art journal,” said Paolone. Journals help you express what you’re feeling and provide a safe outlet when you’re struggling. You can also be as creative as you want, which can help distract from a difficult moment.
My bullet journal is a must-have for my self-care kit. I have a safety plan for when I’m feeling suicidal, and I have a page on which I track my triggers for my anxiety and depression. Plus, it’s great for when I need to write out my thoughts and feelings when I’m going through something difficult. — Jessyca C.
My journal. It helps to put down all those negative thoughts on paper. Because sometimes you may doubt the validity of what you’re going through. But having a visual to quantify and give your emotions existence helps with coping. Since you no longer feel like you’re alone with your thoughts. — Donald W.
2. Stuffed Animal
Sometimes all you need is a little comfort, and having a cute stuffed animal to hug can be calming. Stuffed animals can also be great for sensory regulation and give you a tactile experience when you feel overwhelmed. Whether your fluffy friend is a puppy, octopus or panda, these are great for your self-care kit.
I always carry a small stuffed animal. When I’m super up and down or my anxiety skyrockets, I get fidgety and can’t focus, cope or work well… If I don’t have something to keep my hands occupied then I end up rubbing my legs, tapping my feet, talking excessively/way too fast or I clam up and shut down completely. I am a huge textile person and fabrics are soothing/comforting. Currently I take with me a small elephant that is made with alpaca wool. Some spots are soft others coarse so I can fixate on that instead of feeling like I’m drowning. — Bailey L.
Headphones are a versatile item to keep in your self-care kit. Noise-cancelling headphones can help you tune out overstimulating sounds that amp up the emotionally intensity. You can also of course dial in to your favorite music when you need a cathartic release, soothing sounds or just need to dance it out. If you need suggestions for your playlist, check out these 21 songs people with anxiety and depression recommend.
I carry my noise-cancelling headphones in my purse which has made a huge difference in staving off panic attacks in public. — Caitlin L.
Headphones to plug into my phone. I need music to distract me from anxiety! — Sabrina H.
4. Acupressure Ring
An acupressure ring is designed to apply pressure to sensitive spots on your fingers, which some people find provides relief from anxiety and tension. In addition, an acupressure ring can serve as a fidget while looking like any other piece of jewelry.
My favorite item in my kit is an acupressure massage ring. I can put it on any time throughout the day, it looks like a normal piece of jewelry and it helps calm me down. — Stephanie Q.
Our pick: Acupressure Ring Pack ($6.59)
5. Favorite DVDs
Streaming movie and TV services are great because it puts many of our favorite things to watch right at our fingertips. But even in these digital times, sometimes its nice to have your own box set of your favorite shows. After all, some popular series are hard to find streaming. Whether you want something that will make you laugh or a compelling story to stay distracted, TV and movies have you covered.
A set of ‘iCarly’ DVDs all episodes and ‘Girl Meets World’ [and] ‘Boy Meets World’ DVDs, every episode ever. — Donna W.
6. Essential Oils
Essential oils make a great addition to a self-care kit because they’re portable and can serve many uses. Calming scents, like lavender, can help you relax in times of emotional stress. More intense scents, like peppermint, can be grounding if you find yourself dissociating.
Lavender spray I found it in the health aisle at the grocery store. I spray it on my sheets and my pillow and use lavender in my car. The scent helps me relax and keep calm. — Martha F.
I’d put lavender and orange essential oils in it. The orange is uplifting and the lavender is calming. I found them helpful with depression and anxiety. — Aqeel H.
Always my essential oils. I take them with me everywhere and use them daily. They calm me right down. — Helena B.
7. Yoga Mat
Yoga, like other forms of exercise, gets your body moving. When you need a self-care boost — and could use a way to work some emotional intensity out of your body — yoga can be a great place to start. Add a yoga mat to your kit so you’re ready to go, whether you drop in a local class or tune into a YouTube video at home.
Yoga mat. [For me] 15 minutes a day keeps the blues away. — Laural B.
My yoga mat. It always helps me when I’m struggling with intense anxiety. — Rachel C.
8. Weighted Blanket
Paolone highlighted that many people like to include a weighted blanket in their self-care kit. Having the added weight from the blanket helps down-regulate your nervous system so you feel calmer. The weight of the blanket can also soothe chronic pain or restless leg syndrome, which can help you relax or sleep.
A heavy blanket (heavy, warm things help when i’m really panicking, and I can’t get into a hot shower). — Allie M.
Blanket because I need the extra weight and warmth… and I can wrap up in it for comfort. — Donna H.
9. Nail Care Items
It may seem like a cliche that self-care is all about pampering at the spa, but there’s a reason things like nail care have become so popular. Keeping nail care items in your self-care kit gives you a way to not only freshen up your fingernails but can help you stay grounded, distracted and protect against biting or picking.
Nail polish. When I’m down or stressed out, I will always repaint my nails, no matter how fresh or amazing they looked. The small yet precise strokes help me keep grounded. It got to a point where my best friend would notice my ever-changing nail colors and just hug me. — Lexi W.
Nail clippers. When I’m manic and feel like there are bugs crawling all over me, I scratch. I’ve dug deep before because I didn’t cut my nails. — Ami J.
10. Calming Jar
Self-care doesn’t have to be expensive. Take the calming jar. By filling a simple jar (like a ball jar) with dry beans you can buy at the store, you can put your hand in the jar during times of stress for a calming regulatory experience using the sense of touch. You can also consider filling your jar with other items that feel good or calming, like water beads.
A jar of pinto beans. The sensation is really soothing and dropping a handful back in slowly sounds like rain. Perfect when I’m feeling emotionally raw and off-center. A previous therapist introduced me to the idea. I have a big tub at home and a smaller jar that I can still fit my hand in for travel. — Caitlin L.
“Having pictures of loved ones,” Paolone recommended for self-care. For a kit, having photos of the people you love the most can be a quick reminder that there are people out there who care about you.
A picture of my daughter to remember I have a purpose, a passion and someone who I love and to love me back, unconditionally who would be devastated if something ever happened to me. My daughter, who’s 2, means more to me than anything in this world. And I mean the world to her. Her picture alone can bring me through any rough time in my life. — Mike M.
12. Fidget Toys or Grounding Objects
Fidget toys or other small objects you play with in your hands can be grounding. Not only do they keep you distracted, they engage your sense of touch to bring you back to the present moment. There are thousands of types of fidgets or toys you may want to add to your kit, so have some fun picking out a few you really like.
I have a mini Rubik’s cube, fidget cube [and] small toys to play with to keep my hands busy. I carry it around in my bag for wherever I am. — Ash W.
Elastic bands for wrists! — Kathryn B.
I like having a smooth rock I can fiddle with and rub my fingers over. It doesn’t need to have tension to squeeze and I can pass it between my hands. — Tatauq H.
13. Silly Putty
Another portable product that can keep your hands busy, silly or therapy putty is great for providing grounding sensory regulation and a safe outlet to work out physical tension. Whether you’re squishing the dough or just noticing the way it feels in your hand, putty is a solid addition to your self-care kit.
Silly putty.. It’s small enough to mold in one hand, but big enough to split for each hand. It gives me something to do with my hands which can be destructive and it helps calm me and get rid of anxious and hyper energy. It’s also sticky unlike play doh, so if I need it while driving or working I can stick it on whatever and grab it when I have a free hand in traffic or I’m done typing. — Adah J.
Definitely like a putty or slime or something so I can squish it or try to angrily rip it. — Kay C.
14. Favorite Book
When you need a short break from the real world, there’s nothing like getting lost in your favorite book. Pack your self-care kit with a few of your favorites, or even new adventures you’d like to dig into. Books keep your mind busy and can provide a great sense of distraction.
A book. Books are what got me through high school. — Amy R.
My Harry Potter books/movies. ‘Harry Potter’ has always been my favorite escape when I need it. #HogwartsIsMyHome — Shannon M.
Having a warm, delicious drink in your hands can be a wonderful way to self-soothe. Pack your favorite flavor teas in your self-care kit (bonus points for adding your favorite mug) so a freshly brewed cup is easy to grab.
Herbal teas. They’re so relaxing for me because they’re warm and the herbs (I typically drink teas with chamomile or lavender at night) calm my anxious brain down so I can possibly fall asleep. — Madelyn D.
Tea. It always helps me relax. It can even be helped to ground myself cause I can focus on trying to pick out the elements of the tea. — Stephanie G.
16. Favorite Snack
Sometimes all your want is your favorite snack or the taste of your favorite drink, whether it reminds you of someone you love or it feels comforting. Find a few nonperishable options to keep on hand when you need a little comfort nourishment.
A can of Dr. Pepper would be a must-have. It sounds horrible, but five minutes alone and a Dr. Pepper make everything seem just a little easier. — Devra R.
Chocolate, Pepsi, potato chips [and] a small pillow I love to hold when I curl up and sleep for days. — Jane W.
17. Coloring Book
Paolone added that many people like to keep an adult coloring book in their self-care kit. Not only is coloring a great distraction, it can be grounding because you have to focus on the work in front of you. Coloring is also soothing and just plain fun.
My adult coloring book and colored pencils. Coloring makes me focus, and keep my thoughts on coloring rather than what is affecting me in the world. — Samantha H.
Your self-care kit can also be practical. Add in some tissues to prepare for those times you need an emotional release and need to cry. Crying is a healthy way to express emotions, whether it’s grief, sadness or frustration. Having tissues on hand are a great way to take care of yourself in those moments.
Two things: A blanket to burrito myself away in and tissues. Because honestly, if I’m at the point of needing my kit, I’m already crying and need to mop up tears. — Deanna V.
19. Eye Mask
Pamper yourself and give yourself a little sensory relief in difficult moments with an eye mask. Many masks allow you to heat or chill them, which can be soothing when you’re facing an intense emotion or chronic pain.
An eye mask I can put in the freezer or microwave. I get frequent migraines and they’re especially painful after a panic attack, so I use the mask to help ease the pain behind my eyes. — Lauren H.
20. Fuzzy Socks
Comfort as a way to practice self-care can’t be overrated. In addition to blankets you love and your stuffed animal, add some fuzzy socks to your kit. They’ll keep your feet cozy and often help people feel just a little bit safer.
A fuzzy blanket and a pair of fuzzy socks. Both will keep me warm and help me feel safe. — Stephanie H.
Lotion gives you a double sensory experience — the touch sensation of rubbing it on your hands or body plus a scented experience depending on your lotion. The act of using lotion can be soothing and comforting as well as grounding, which makes it a great addition for a self-care kit.
A tub of Lush Sleepy and a scented candle. — Liv W.
Lotion. Especially if it’s your favorite scent. It’s soothing to be able to smell and is an easy way to give yourself something nice. — Mira K.
Blowing bubbles is an activity you can never outgrow. Not only is it fun, but bubbles can be a breathing exercise in disguise. If you’re breathing too fast or shallow, you won’t be able to blow the bubbles, so you’ll need to breath slower and deeper. Bubbles are also affordable, lots of fun and can be entertaining for pets too.
I have a kit. The one thing I have in my kit is a container of bubbles I received at my friend’s funeral. Her nickname was ‘Bubbles’ and while having a conversation about my anxiety and depression, she asked me if I had ever tried blowing bubbles because you can practice breathing without feeling like it and it’s very hard to be mad while you are blowing bubbles. — Rachel M.
23. ‘Boring’ Self-Care Items
Self-care doesn’t have to be elaborate or require anything other than what you already have in the house. A simple washcloth and soap can be a great reminder to wash your face because you’re worth taking care of. Or maybe it’s a candle, favorite lip balm or dry shampoo you already have.
Sometimes, self-care is boring. In one kit I made for my ‘boring self care,’ I put a soft washcloth and some face soap in a scent I liked, some dry shampoo and Panera gift card to remind myself to eat even when it’s hard. — Madison B.
“Reaching out to friends and family for a phone call, Facetime or text conversations are some other ideas,” said Paolone. Connection with loved ones is so important to our well-being as humans, and your phone can help you reach out. And don’t be afraid to use it when you need to!
I would have to say my phone, so I could talk to my best friend. My best friend’s name is Levi. He has been my rock. — Lynn M.
25. Positive Notes From Yourself or Others
Positive affirmations or “thinking positively” won’t fix everything. But that doesn’t mean leaving yourself a little encouragement is a bad idea either. Leave yourself a few notes for when things get tough that help you remember you’re resilient, loved and valued.
Positive notes I’ve written for myself. Every time I’m feeling good about myself, I write myself a positive note and save it. Then when I’m feeling depressed or stressed, I go back and read those notes to remind myself these negative feeing will pass and I love myself. — Erin G.
Screenshots of loving things my family friends and boyfriend have sent me over the years, things that remind me of how it felt to be cared about, to remind me I can forever reach out. — Felix V.
You matter, and creating a self-care kit is a great way to remind yourself of that. Keep in mind no matter what you decide to put in your self-care kit, it should be personalized to what you need. Maybe you only need a couple comforting items, while somebody else wants a variety to choose from in difficult moments. Experiment and see what works for you.
“The mental health self care kit is made up of stress management ideas, coping skills and other supports that the person has found to be helpful in the past,” said Paolone. “So this list is specific to each person and it can evolve over time to keep up with their own unique mental health needs.”
What’s in your self-care kit?