Beautiful Between

living fully in the now & not yet

How to make an amazing self-care kit for bad days

Tools, tips, and resources I use to get through my worst days

It’s been a tough week. (You, too?)

We’ve been pelted mercilessly by rain that brought dangerous flooding across Nashville. After a brief break and sunshine, the flat gray clouds have rolled back in.

Loved ones have been buried under feet of snow across the country, but they’ve also seen more sunny days than we have recently. I find myself unusually homesick, longing for Central Oregon’s clear, crisp winter days. It might be a high of 22 degrees, but there are blue skies.

There were a lot of little things that added up: conflicts and confusion, headaches and poor sleep. Anxiety and overwhelm crept in, making way for the sadness that tends to linger a little more in the dark of winter.

It’s left me huddling up with soft blankets and comfy clothes, good books and hot tea. It’s had me working proactively to take care of myself, stretching and taking vitamins and eating especially well.

Thankfully, I’ve built up a tried-and-true self-care kit that helps me on my bad days. Here’s what’s in it:

Note: this post contains affiliate links, which help support my blog and writing at no cost to you 🙂

Body Care

1. Face wipes

Sometimes on bad days, it seems like an impossible task to wash my face and take off makeup. I’ve been working on making my evening routine something I look forward to, but on nights when I don’t have the energy, face wipes are my best friend.

My sensitive skin has been happy with Yes To Cucumbers and Burt’s Bees (usually available at Target/Wal-Mart).

2. Yoga mat

Since being hit by an SUV while out on a run, my body hasn’t worked quite the way I want it to. It’s left me with chronic pain that worsens in tough mental health seasons. One thing has made the most difference to my pain: stretching and strengthening exercises like yoga and pilates.

I’m not as consistent with time on my yoga mat as I’d like to be. But this week, as I’ve spent time stretching my back and breathing deeply, I’ve noticed stress and anxiety dissipating.

We know exercise is good for our moods, but the idea of getting to a gym or doing HIIT can be overwhelming on bad days. Unrolling my mat and stretching my body is an easy, low-pressure way of making sure I get some of those benefits when I don’t feel up to much more.

Because a bath full of citrus fruits would smell amazing <3

3. Baths

As long as I can remember, baths have been a soothing, relaxing ritual for me. I soak as long as possible, adding hot water over and over, so I can delay getting out. A hot bath is perfect paired with a good book or soothing music and something yummy to drink.

Epsom salt baths can help relax muscles, boost serotonin, are a great way to help relax, and there are tons of recipes for DIY bath salts out there. You can find Epsom salt in most drug stores for a few bucks, so it’s one of the most affordable items in my self-care arsenal.

4. Comfy clothes

There’s something deeply comforting about cocooning myself into cozy clothing. I’ve even had a therapist suggest it as a form of self-care. As I type, I’m wearing warm fleece leggings, wool socks, and a super-soft shirt. At home, I’m usually in some fuzzy, fleece-lined slippers my husband got me for Christmas.

It might be something different for you. Maybe it’s those worn-in jeans and your favorite t-shirt. Maybe it’s your workout clothes. Whatever it is, try indulging in some cozier clothing on when you’re having a tough day.

Sleep Soundly

5. Eye mask

I thought eye masks were ridiculous until my amazing best friend gave me one. Sometimes, a bad day just calls for a nap, but I don’t sleep well if there’s much light. At first, I just used my eye mask when I was traveling or trying to nap during the day. But now, I use it almost every night and sleep so much better for it. This one is my favorite because it doesn’t press on my eyelids (plus I can sometimes find them locally at stores like TJ Maxx).

6. Ear plugs

In addition to an eye mask, I usually sleep with ear plugs. My husband and I live in a condo in the city, so we often hear noise from our neighbors or the road. He got me some of these ear plugs and they cut down on unwanted sound a ton without totally blocking it out.

Mood Boosters

7. Essential oils

I’m a skeptic, but I love using essential oils as part of my self-care kit. Just like with lotion, the scents can be soothing and uplifting to me, a mini-break in my day to enjoy a simple pleasure. In fact, I think the fact that they make me slow down and appreciate something small is a big part of how they help.

I often reach for cardamom, lavender, and citrus oils like lime and tangerine and either sniff them directly from the vial, diffuse them in my home, or mix them with a carrier oil and roll them on my skin.

Warning: nerdy rant ahead. Proceed at your own risk 🙂

Listen: despite what you may hear, the evidence for aromatherapy and essential oils is limited and inconclusive at best. There is more research being done, and new evidence is emerging, but we shouldn’t throw caution to the wind.

Many oils are toxic when taken internally and can cause injuries on the skin. Some companies use terms like “therapeutic grade” to sell more oils, but there is actually no independent certification that determines purity and safety. Because of that, I err on the side of caution and skepticism.

That being said, if a scent makes you feel good, enjoy it. Make it part of your self-care routine – just make sure to do it safely (here are some guidelines to help).

8. Encouraging, happy, and funny words

One of my main love languages is words of affirmation, so I cling to kind words from those close to me. I keep notes and cards (or take photos of them – I’m moving slowly away from keeping paper clutter). Then, when I feel low, I often pull them out and reread them.

I also keep a couple of notes in my phone for funny things my nieces say. Kids are a riot, so scrolling through a few years of crazy, wildly inappropriate comments from toddlers never fail to make me chuckle. If you don’t have kids in your life, you can get some chuckles from this list or this one (note: both lists contain some profanity and “adult” language).

9. My favorite books

My husband wooed me with Winnie the Pooh quotes (no joke). On several occasions, when I’ve had a panic attack, he grabbed our collection of Pooh’s stories and read to me.

I also love The Little Prince – it’s the most beautiful book I’ve ever read – but any book that makes you feel good is perfect.

10. Dark chocolate

I eat a modified Paleo diet to help manage my mental health (which has been a total game-changer!), so I don’t eat processed or cane sugar if I can avoid it (I do eat honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar). Dark chocolate has a low sugar content, plus it has tons of health benefits and can even help with depression.

I also try to buy fair trade chocolate when possible (to avoid supporting child labor and trafficking). Some great options you can find at Target, Kroger, and even Walmart are Green & Black’s, Equal Exchange, and Theo.

11. Journal and pens

Journaling is a necessity for me! I need a place to hold my thoughts, prayers, worries, big feelings, and questions. I need a place to pour out my broken heart and remind myself of what’s true, a place to record my gratitudes when I need to cultivate joy. I process a ton in my journal, and apparently there’s a lot of evidence for why it works. Journaling helps symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and depression.

I usually find a journal I like at a discount store like TJ Maxx, but a friend recently gave me this gorgeous leather specimen. You can find cute, inspiring ones like this on Amazon.

I also use a dot-grid notebook for my bullet journal inspired-planner. It gives me complete control of my planner format, which helps me track my self-care habits (like exercise and quiet time) and keeps me from getting overwhelmed.

Anxiety Soothers

12. Weighted blanket

When I’m a little anxious, panicky, or just having trouble sleeping, I’m SO grateful I have my weighted blanket. It’s like wrapping my body in a big hug and always calms me down within a few minutes.

There’s actually scientific support for using these. The deep pressure from the blanket is like a comforting hug – it helps release oxytocin and has been shown to be effective at calming 78% of people involved in the survey.

It’s also amazing for people with sensory processing issues. It’s been shown to help with anxiety, autism, ADHD, and insomnia.

I made my own out of a set of sheets and some plastic pellets. But it was a HUGE project, so you might want to check out Amazon’s top-rated weighted blanket. It’s a bit of an investment, so you might also look into this one by Ackbrands for a more affordable option.

13. Lotion or hand cream

Several years ago, I battled intrusive thoughts of self-harm every day. I was in a difficult season of depression and working through a lot of PTSD in therapy, so every day was a battle. But when those thoughts would press into my mind, I would smooth a rich, lavender-scented lotion over my hands and forearms. The gentle sense of touch and the soft fragrance were so soothing and helped me replace those thoughts with kindness and self-compassion.

Even if you’ve never struggled with self-harm, taking a few moments to gently smooth lotion into your skin, massage your hands, and enjoy the scent can be like a mini-vacation.

My favorite was a lavender-honey cream from Shea Moisture, but now it’s only available as a baby lotion in a pump bottle. These days, I carry this lavender hand cream in my purse.

14. Tea

I love coffee, but the heart palpitations and anxiety make it tough for me to enjoy more than a little bit every now and then. Thankfully, I also love tea: the fragrance, the varieties, the experience of holding a warm cup in my hands.

Green tea actually contains an amino acid that helps fight anxiety. My favorite is this pomegranate-flavored one. I also really like a matcha-coconut milk latte.

I absolutely love anything with a strong cinnamon flavor, so I’m obsessed with Hot Cinnamon (contains caffeine) and Bengal Spice (herbal – no caffeine) teas. Aside from that, I drink a lot of peppermint and lemon-ginger tea or whatever I find at the grocery store.

15. Bible & worship music

I almost didn’t include these because they almost seemed too obvious. But there have been many times, in the midst of a panic attack, that whispering Bible verses to myself or focusing on the words of a worship song have seriously soothed me.

What’s important is to find verses that speak to you. While there are tons of amazing lists of encouraging Bible verses out there, what matters is that the words you cling to in the dark are deeply meaningful to you.

…And anything else you like

Maybe you want to swap out a favorite movie instead of books. Maybe you like to watch funny videos on Youtube instead of reading funny things kids say. It doesn’t really matter: your self-care kit should include anything and everything that helps you get through hard moments.

What do you think? Anything you would add? Let me know in the comments!

18 Replies

  1. I have an essential oils necklace I found on Etsy. It is pretty and functional. My favorite for a boost of energy and focus is bergamot and sweet orange, then I can swap out the disk for one with lavender when I want to relax.

    1. Oooh, those are nice! And I love the scent of bergamot. I bet that smells delightful mixed with the sweet orange.

      1. BTW, this gave me an idea. My friend has to travel to a funeral with some toxic family members. She has anxiety and panic attacks, so I suggested we make her a travel care kit with her necklace and oils, some headphones, etc.

  2. Laura Naughton

    Love this idea of a Self-Care Kit. I have all of the things you’ve listed and use them, however, having the container as a ‘kit’ changes my perspective. I’m prepared for whatever comes. Now I feeling in charge of my self-care. I have “the kit” ready and available. Thanks.

    1. I love that this made you feel in charge of your self-care. That’s such a good place to be!

      1. Wilfred Wilson

        Of course, you should find that wayI have a financial problem but I will tryLet’s see the eye’s warmth Thank you

  3. Christine

    What a wonderful idea! Makes me smile to read such love . For me I will take theses suggestions and add a special only Teddy Bear that stays in kit which will make it much more special.
    I love Teddy Bears.?

    1. Oh yay, I’m so glad it makes you smile! And I think adding a teddy bear or snuggly stuffed animal is a perfect idea!

  4. Thanks love! This has helped me a lot. There are things on this list I have never thought of trying including a weighted blanket. So perfect!

  5. Amy faughn

    Great ideas.also going for a walk helps me a lot.Thanks once again for being vulnerable.

  6. Tamra

    That Winnie the Pooh fact is SOOO adorable!

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  9. Kenneth Gray

    Hi Sarah,

    I know that this may be off topic but I am struggling with questions that I asked God months ago. He still hasn’t given me an answer. I thought that you might have some insight on this matter. These two questions are kind of related.

    I have been reading about how God doesn’t like entertainment. I am trying to figure out first: Should I get rid of all my secular entertainment? second: How do I do that? Just throw out, give away, or sell. The problem arises with give away and sell.

    If I do either of those two ways won’t I then be contributing to someone else’s downfall. If it is wrong for me then isn’t it wrong for other people as well? Thus selling or giving away would cause sin. If I sell I could use the money to help pay off my credit card, thus freeing up resources I could use to glorify God with. No CC payment means a little extra money to work with.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated as God isn’t giving me an answer.

    Thanks and God bless you, in Jesus holy name, Amen.

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