What's In Your Mental Health Tool Box?

Being a single woman and home owner, I used to take pride in being able to do things myself – or trying to anyway. At my request, I was given a tool box 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 bath tub 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 tool box. I find that this brings me a lot more peace of mind!

I’ve spent years assembling my mental health tool box 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

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.)

Exercise

Physical exercise and yoga are as 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 screw drivers 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 tool box.

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 tool box, 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.

image source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/aigle_dore/

36 Comments

  1. Thanks Debbie,
    My tool box other than a glass of wine or a Canadian Ale consists of
    golf, hiking, writing and socializing. Being an extrovert has it’s problems, but helped my career in being a sales engineer
    It does appear that writing helps you allot.
    I suppose that faith and religion fits in there someplace too.
    So keep faith & try a Canadian Ale, Chet

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Chet, thanks for the wise words. I am glad you have tool box that has proven successful for you! That is what it is all about.

  2. As clumsy as I am I still try to learn how to use new tools when a job calls for it. I find that after awhile that I get pretty good at it and the use of tools becomes also automatic. It’s the same approach I used with my “personal” tool kit. I used them until their use was automatic and my life rarely seems to call for a deliberate use of these tools. I’m sure your use of tools is automatic and that you are quite skilled in their use. Good imagery with “personal tool kits”

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thanks, Tony! I really did used to be pretty handy, if I do say so myself. After the brain injury, not so much! I have learned to maximize my time and minimize the frustration by letting others do it.

      You are right. The mental tools, with time, become automatic with experience dependent neuroplasticity facilitating this process. There was a time when I would have to remember to use the tools. It was not my innate, first response. Now, it is second nature.

  3. Hi Debbie,
    I love this idea! I’ve thought about the tools I have in my self-help tool kit, but the idea of a heartfulness tool kit and a soulfulness one is enchanting!
    Do you actually have a physical place for these ideas and books? Perhaps a meditation space?
    Like you, I’ve recently discovered a love of gardening! I was so excited today to purchase a package of sage seeds. I love the aroma of dried sage and plan to grow and dry my own. If I have enough I’ll make some Christmas gifts out of it. It’s fun to weed and see the garden grow practically before your eyes, isn’t it? Our Lily of the Valley is popping up and the orange lilies and the Mayflowers have already arrived (early this year!) It’s so therapeutic to go outside and be a part of nature!
    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!
    Lori

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Lori, I do have my meditation chair. It used to be more elaborate and a corner with a table and books, crystals, and other aids when I had more room before I moved. It is a place where I know I can always go and feel safe, peaceful and do some good work.

      Sounds like you are more of an ornamental/herb gardener right now. I planted all kinds of veggies, some from seeds, some starter plants, and it is amazing to me how much joy it is to watch them grow and nurture them!

      I have had herbs in pots for years, and I love cooking with them. I would like to venture into flowers more.

  4. And I am so thankful that you are gracious enough to share “your tool-kit inventory” with others! Inspiring so many on a daily basis!

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      If I can do it, anyone can! I want others to know that they, too, have the power to change their lives for the better. I see you doing it! Love ya’!

  5. Judy M. Hampton Reply

    Again, very wise words that anyone can use to better their life. I am so very proud of you, your progress, and contunued growth. You are a role model and example. Love you lots, Mom

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thanks…. and much agreed on the last part!

  6. Oh yeah, I would have never figured out how to spell “dohickys.” Thank you.

    I’m a big fan of tools to and, like you, meditation is #1! My tool box has some basics but it evolves and changes too. At the moment, I’ve been doing Jin Shin Jyutus (like acupressure) self-care daily plus learning Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction.

    There’s so much good stuff out there. And what’s amazing is that often you can apply this self-care for free though you might have to spend a little money learning some techniques. We have so much healing power within us! Great topic, Debbie.

    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thanks, Sandra! I think, words like “dohickey” and “thingamajiggy” should be spelled however suits you!

      My tools have changed and evolved over time. I used to use EFT pretty heavily. I don’t use it all anymore. I think, you get out of a tool what you need to and move on. Some tools, like meditation, are constants.

      I have not heard of Jin Shin Jyutus….sounds interesting…like EFT. I hope you find it helpful. I feel like I am ready for something new. I am going to a workshop this weekend. Maybe something will manifest there!

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    The article has truly peaked my interest. I’m going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new information about once per week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

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    • Debbie Hampton Reply

      Thanks for the encouraging words, Candice! 🙂

  9. Playing brain games, may be is one of the best tol for mental health

    • Yes, anything ne, challenging, and that forces your brain to stretch, is good. Learning a new language or to play a musical instrument are two of the best.

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