Tuesday, April 18, 2017

How to Make a Self-Care Kit

Hello, beautiful - and welcome back to another gorgeous day on Haley Marie Blog! Today, I want to talk to you all about a subject that's near and dear to my heart: self-care.

Admittedly, while I try to keep this blog upbeat and positive, we all know that college has its challenges. Like many of you, I'm constantly part of a hectic balancing act. Between school, the paper, Theta and my blog, I sometimes feel like I'm stretched too thin. As a result, anxiety remains a near-constant fixture in my everyday life.

Unsurprisingly, college is the perfect melting pot for stress, anxiety and depression to come together. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 85% of college students reported feeling overwhelmed by their commitments and 30% of college students reported that stress negatively affected their academic performance.

With finals coming up and the semester heading toward a close, it's more important now than ever to keep unhealthy stress and anxiety at bay. That's why I'm walking you through one of my favorite self-care tips, step-by-step: how to create a self-care kit!

As someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, creating a self-care kit that I can carry with me throughout my day has really helped me transform my everyday routine. In addition to the portable self-care kit I'll be showing you how to make today, I also have a larger kit in my bedroom to help me unwind at the end of a long, stressful day!

In this post, you'll learn what self-care is, why it matters and how to create your very own self-care kit. In addition, I also have a kind of exciting announcement to make! I'll be hosting my very first giveaway here on Haley Marie Blog to give one lucky reader a spring self-care kit to help you unwind during the busy finals season.

Your potential prize! (Letters not included.)

If you win, I'll ship you a little basket full of Target goodies, including (but not limited to!):

  • Cute spring stationery, to help you finish out the semester strong! 
  • A lavender face mask, to relax and rejuvenate your stressed-out skin.
  • Bigelow tea bags. What could be better during finals week than a hot cup of tea?
  • Marshmallow peeps, because it's *just* past Easter - and who couldn't use a sweet treat?

I was so excited to put this basket together for you, so I hope you're just as excited about it as I am! If you want to enter for your chance to win this spring self-care kit, read all the way to the bottom of this post to find out how you can win.

Oh, and for the full terms and conditions of the giveaway, be sure to click here! Now, let's talk about self-care :)

What is self-care? (And why practice it?)

First of all, I have to answer your age-old question: Why should I care about self-care? The term "self-care" gets thrown around a lot in holistic health and wellness circles, so many people assume self-care is only for that certain type of person. Others may think self-care is important only if you are suffering from anxiety or depression.

In reality, all of those assumptions are completely false! Taking better care of your mental health can benefit your life even if you aren't someone who is stressed, anxious or depressed. Self-care is something you probably do every day and don't even know it!

Put simply, "self-care" is exactly what it sounds like: taking care of yourself. If you got a good night's sleep, took a shower and/or ate breakfast this morning, you're already engaging in the most essential kind of self-care. Once you master the basics - like eating regular meals, sleeping enough, exercising and keeping up with personal hygiene (whether because you're busy, anxious or depressed, believe me: this can be harder than you think) - then you can start thinking about the type of self-care I'm going to talk about today.

Eating, sleeping and showering are all types of self-care essential to your health and wellness. However, it's equally important to engage in self-care benefitting your mind and spirit as it is to take care of your body.

As college students, we're almost eternally stressed - especially toward the end of the spring semester. If you're anything like me, right now you're probably struggling to figure out your summer plans for internships, jobs and travel while worrying about when you're going to finish all your long-term projects, study for your tests and register for next fall's classes (and going broke in the process).

Thus, self-care is especially important for college students. Taking good care of yourself can help you get a grip on your mental health, reconnect with your motivation and release some of that built-up tension amid all of those external stressors. So, if you're in college and this stressed-out, frazzled character doesn't sound like you, chances are it's because you're already killing the self-care game!

Meditating, coloring in an adult coloring book, playing with your dog or participating in a hobby you love all qualify as self-care for your mind. Furthermore, if you're someone who's religious or spiritual, it might be important to you to pray, read religious texts or devotionals, do yoga or meditate for your mental health.

Slowing down to do even just one of these things during a busy day can completely transform your mood and outlook on life - which is why everybody, no matter who they are or where they come from, should practice some form of self-care.

What is a self-care kit? (And why do I need one?)

In general, a self-care kit is a compilation of resources and small knick-knacks that make you happy. Your self-care kit should contain items you love and be something you can turn to on your worst days for comfort and relief. 

Your self-care kit can be portable or stationary, depending on where you like to do self-care and when you think you'll need it. Additionally, your self-care kit could contain a number of items meant to cheer you up and calm you down, from relaxing scented hand-lotion to a favorite book of brain teasers. 

But no matter what you put in your self-care kit, most importantly, all of the items should be personal to you and play some role in making you feel better when you're at your worst. Needless to say, don't put anything in your self-care kit that might make you feel worse. (So be sure to check any photo albums for pictures of your exes before tossing them in!)

A self-care kit can be useful in all kinds of situations. For example, if you suffer from anxiety and find yourself having a panic attack in a public space, sneaking away to the bathroom and pulling out a beloved item in your self-care kit can help you calm down fast. Or, if you're having a rough day and need a quick pick-me up, there might be something in your self-care kit to help boost your mood and give you that burst of energy you crave. 

Personally, I have a small, portable self-care kit that I keep with me at all times for fast relief, as well as a larger one that stays in my room full-time. However, today I'm just going to be showing you how to make a portable one to help you cope when you're away from home.

How to create your self-care kit

First things first: to create a self-care kit you'll need to gather the necessary supplies. Boiled down, a self-care kit basically consists of some type of container and all of the items you're going to put in it. Assembling the kit is easy, but first you have to decide what goes in and what stays out!

For my container, I'm using a simple makeup bag given to me by my big during big-little week (more on that next week! I'm so excited to share my experience with you all!). This bag was perfect for this purpose because it's both roomy and portable. Plus, the little hello detail on the front is so adorable :) When she gave it to me, my big stuck a sticky note on it that said "it me" - get it, like the Adele song? So cute!

As for the goodies that go inside, this is where it really starts to get interesting! What goes into your self-care kit is up to you from this point forward. My only advice is to keep them small, portable and fairly mess-free - and avoid anything that doesn't make you happy, of course! If looking at, touching or smelling whatever it is makes you upset in any way, shape or form, that item has no place in a self-care kit.

As you can see from the above photo, my self-care kit initially contained just a few items designed to cheer me up and calm me down. Later on, I added a few more items and resources as I found them to make sure I would never be in a situation where I didn't have what I needed or wanted. Here's the full list of what went into my finished self-care kit:

  • Bath and Body Works Stress Relief hand sanitizer. The relaxing scent really does what it promises - plus, it's always great to carry hand sanitizer for sticky situations on the go! (Literally and figuratively...)
  • Dr. Bronner's All-One Hemp Lavender Pure-Castile Soap sample. I got this sample at a vegan and cruelty-free products/food fair in Boston and have been hanging onto it for the perfect occasion. I figured my self-care kit was a great place - that way when I'm feeling gross, I can slip into the bathroom and wash my face or hands with the soothing scent of lavender.
  • Fresh Sugar lip balm. This is my all-time favorite lip balm, and is left over from my very first Sephora birthday gift ever when I was only 13 or 14! I love putting on lip balm when I don't feel my best. It might not make sense, but somehow soft lips = a happy soul.
  • Play Dough. This mini play dough is leftover from self-care kits that Student Health handed out around finals last semester! Squishing the dough was an amazing distraction from the textbooks and stress, so I figured it would work the same on my anxiety.
  • Harry Potter Coloring Kit. As you can see from the photo, I bought this 20% off at Target...no shame! Coloring is one of my favorite activities to quell anxiety, and carrying it with me has saved me from stress a number of times.
  • Dark chocolate Hershey's kisses. From my big - because obviously, chocolate is an absolute necessity for relieving stress and soothing the soul.
  • Stress ball. Also from Student Health, if you couldn't tell from the picture! When I'm anxious, I like to do something with my hands to distract from self-harm or any other harmful activities. Squishing a stress ball, for me at least, does just the trick. (Side note, but I'm also looking into getting a fidget cube for the same reason - have any of you used one before? Do you like it? Which one should I buy? LMK in the comments!)
  • Tea bags. Sitting down with a cup of hot tea is my favorite way to be mindful during the day, and English Breakfast tea just happens to be my favorite blend. Trader Joe's makes an amazing one, as does Twining's. 
  • Kleenex. Anxiety happens. So does crying. For me, it's usually at the same time... A girl's just gotta be prepared for anything, ya know what I mean?
  • Crystal Essence Mineral Deodorant Towelette (not pictured). This is another free sample from that vegan/cruelty free fair I went to. It might seem a little odd that I keep deodorant in my self-care kit, but I find that when I can tell that I'm sweating due to my anxiety (or just 'cause I'm a mess), I feel less confident about myself in general. So, in a pinch, deodorant silences any worries I have about the way I feel or smell!
  • French Lavender and Honey body cream mini (not pictured). Is there any feeling in the world better than smoothing lotion onto dry hands? In the wintertime, this body cream from Bath and Body Works is a must - and the act of rubbing it in completely melts away any tension I feel whatsoever.
  • Pain reliever (not pictured). If you have anxiety, then you know all about the unexplained aches and pains it can cause. From tension headaches to muscle aches, anxiety can be physically uncomfortable as well as mentally. While pain pills aren't a great long-term solution for controlling anxiety, I like to have them on hand so I can ease pain and discomfort and avoid hyper-focusing on any uncomfortable physical sensations I might have.
  • Index cards (not pictured). Okay, I don't just keep index cards in my self-care kit! More specifically, the index cards I keep have messages of self-assurance for all of my triggering situations. Additionally, I have another index card where I write coping strategies for dealing with anxiety attacks. For example, one of my favorites is the tight fist move that I learned about from the book Anxious in Love. To try it, you imagine all of your worries and anxieties gathering in the palm of your hand. Then, you hold those worries in your hand in a tight fist and imagine them dissolving into liquid. When you unclench your hand, imagine all your worries dripping to the floor like molten lava. Ahhhhh...doesn't that feel better?! 

Anyways, that's just what I personally keep in my self-care kit! However, it's important to note that this isn't a formula. In reality, your self-care kit should be unique to you and include whatever it is that makes you happy! Here are some ideas for other things you might want to include (slash things I didn't include because I was trying to save money and not buy anything new...):

  • Headphones. For listening to music, audiobooks, meditations or whatever it is you love to do!
  • Mini toiletries, such as a toothbrush or face wash. I find that when I feel clean I feel so much better about my life! 
  • Photos of your family, friends or significant other. I have these in my full-size self-care kit at home, but you could easily throw them in a portable self-care kit, too. I love looking back on happy memories with me and Ryan when I'm feeling sad!
  • Perfume. Ever noticed how a favorite scent can bring you back to a happy memory or a better time? 
  • Snacks. Not that I condone emotional eating (though I am probably the world's worst offender of it), but let's be real here: being hangry never helped anyone when they were sad. 
  • Starbucks gift card. Going out for coffee is one of those pick-me-ups that makes me happiest when I'm feeling down. Since I'm in college, I tend to just use my dining points for this - but a gift card can help if you're off-campus or if you're not in college at all!
  • Brain teasers or fidget toys, such as a mini Rubix cube or a book of sudoku. Sometimes just focusing your brain on something else can help when you're feeling down! (On that note, playing a game on your phone works just as well as a distraction!)
  • Essential oils. I'm a firm believer that specific oil blends can completely transform your mood. Check out the Worry Free roll-on by Plant Therapy for anxiety - it's my favorite!
  • Crystals. Though I've never tried it myself (I want to though!), some people believe that certain crystals have healing properties for things like anxiety and depression. Simply by carrying them with you, you might find yourself feeling better already! 
  • Bubbles. Blowing bubbles is my favorite way to relieve stress! In my opinion, it's impossible to be sad when you're watching bubbles floating through the air :) 

How to enter my spring self-care giveaway! 

Congratulations - you made it to the end of my self-care kit tutorial! Now for the fun stuff :)

Entering my spring self-care giveaway is easy: just submit your information through the Rafflecopter widget below. The app should ask you to enter using either Facebook or email! (If that's not working or you're on mobile, click here to enter.) Then, to complete your entry, you'll be asked to complete one or more quick actions, like tweet about the giveaway or comment on my latest blog post!

If you're interested in entering, I encourage you to review the full terms and conditions here. However, here are some important takeaways to be aware of:

  1. You must have parental permission to enter if you are under 18.
  2. The giveaway closes at midnight on April 30, 2017.
  3. The winner will be notified via email.
  4. No purchase is necessary to enter the giveaway!

I think that's it for the boring legal stuff now, so without further ado, here's the link to my spring self-care giveaway - good luck and happy spring!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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