A self-care or mental health toolbox or toolkit is, most simply, all the healthy coping mechanisms at ones disposal. These are the things we pull from to remind and guide ourselves through changes, healing/recovery, crisis management, pursuing goals, and being our best selves. Many of us spend much of our adult lives building our individual toolkits, even if we aren’t aware that we’re doing so. It is empowering to think in terms of a toolbox/toolkit because it shows us that even when it feels like things are hopeless, we do still have options and resilience–always!
The hardest part of putting these tools to use, though, is remembering to do so! It is easy to forget about the most simple of self-care tasks, let alone the tips and tricks we learn along the way.
So I wanted to create a literal, physical toolbox I could refer to rather than relying on the overstuffed-filing-cabinet of memory. There are many excellent options out there for structuring one’s toolkits for specific needs and preferences, and I’ve tried some but wanted to try something different too. My hypothesis is that having a visually appealing, portable and unique toolkit that I put time into crafting might get me to remember mine and look through it periodically.
Here’s what I ended up with (plus matching Smurf hands):
The design needed to be compact, sturdy, pretty, and accessible. My first thought was to model it after my beloved Rolykit toolbox, which has held my miscellaneous crafty bits for over 15 years.
It is compact and portable, but it takes some space and maneuvering to get into the inner compartments. I’m less likely to get into those compartments, so the things I use most get placed in the most accessible outer compartments. Likewise, I put instructions for crises in the the innermost portion of my new toolbox. I can browse all the other options first. Keeping up on those things prevents crises altogether, when self-care is a lifestyle.
I wrote up my long list of self-care tasks and tips in a Word document. I am sure I’ll recall others I forgot, and learn additional ones, but those can be written in later. Once printed, each item got snipped out and roughly sorted from basic first strategies to outright crisis-mode strategies.
I cut a poster-sized sheet of one of my favorite matbled papers into narrow strips, and glued them end-to-end. The marbled side I left as-is and put all my additions on the back.
At the outermost edge I attached a cover, made out of folded paperboard covered with the same paper.
I started a scroll with the same paper, but quickly decided that would be too unwieldy (I’ll use the scroll for some other project). Like the RolyKit, I wanted it to unfold one section at a time but not go rolling out the door, and be as tightly wound as possible. That meant folding the paper into an ever-growing rectangle. Getting this shape meant scoring and folding twice for each segment: first with the folded area lying flat,
And again with it standing on its side, with that first fold already covered up.
This paper I used is very thin so it doesn’t hold the sharp folds well, so it is rounder than I had intended but it still works.
Gluing down the words had to be done at the same time as the folding (I learned that the hard way). And once they were all in place, I smudged various yummy finishes across the surface at random: interference and pearlescent mediums, iridescent glitter paint, and thin metallic silver paint. Just seeing those has a positive effect on me!
All the edges got gilded with gold paint marker. And finally, doodles throughout using various pens and markers.
I may add a thin magnetic closure, or tie it shut, but for now it stays closed well on its own. And I want to try some other prototypes since it is definitely possible to go even smaller.
I hope everyone finds a way to build and engage their own self-care toolkit, in whatever form, and that this project sparks some ideas! Though we all have different needs, I am happy to send anyone the list I made for myself if it would be useful.