As a single woman and home owner for many years, I took pride in doing things myself or trying to anyway. At my request, I was given a tool box as a gift years ago with an adjustable screw driver with a thousand different dohickys that go on it, a fancy leveler and about a million other assorted tools I have never used.
I would try almost any do-it-yourself project at least once. I replaced light fixtures, refinished existing ones, stripped wallpaper, and painted with some successful results. I also punched a hole in the bath tub while standing on a stool painting the wall above it. Part of the window frame split off and fell on the floor while I was screwing in the curtain rod holder. Apparently, you are supposed to drill a hole first. I could go on and on.
These days, I prefer to leave these types of things 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 maintain a mental health tool box. I find that this brings me a lot more peace of mind! I have spent years assembling my mental health tool box and getting well acquainted with each item in it. Unlike my power drill, I have actually read the owner’s manual for each item in the box.
In the book, The Seeker’s Guide, Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of the Omega Institute, America’s largest adult-education center focusing on wellness and spirituality, 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 immediately following my suicide attempt five years ago which resulted in a serious brain injury and losing custody of my two sons. While I did not consciously intend to assemble a mental health tool box, I realize that this is what I did over the years of recovering and gaining strength emotionall, psychologically and mentally. My lifestyle has changed to incorporate these tools on a regular basis.
Meditation is the duct tape of my mental health toolbox because it works in almost every situation no matter what it might be. I practice it daily. 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 here: The Myth and Magic of Meditation and here: What Meditation is to Me.)
Physical exercise and yoga act as my WD-40. (Read more about the brain benefits of exercise here: The Fountain of Youth for Brain and Body and about my Bikram yoga practice here: A Japanese Ham Sandwich and 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.
Like the must-have Phillips’ head and flat head screw drivers, also in my toolbox are thought reframing (read more about this here: Turn It Around and here: Poison Ivy of the Mind) and visualization. (read more about this here: Picture This! and here: Get the Picture)
Music, writing, reading, and spending time with friends and family are the assorted, essential nails and screws in my tool box. I just recently added gardening and am finding that I love it. I can’t wait to eat the results!
These are invaluable tools to me which cost nothing and can be taken anywhere I go. I know that, with these in my tool box, I can successfully navigate anything life may throw at me and that I will not only survive, but thrive even. These tools are the only true constants and the only things which I can control in an ever-changing world. This is what works for me.
I would encourage you to assemble your own toolbox. Maybe you already have one. Maybe ypur tools are well worn from use or maybe they are dusty and could stand to see the light of day. You have to find the things 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 to 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.