Podcast episode 22 How to make your own mental health first aid kit


Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.

I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.


Welcome to episode 22 and before we begin I have an announcement. I will be pressing pause on this Pressing Pause podcast for August. So I’m taking a break from recording new episodes just for one month and I will be back with a brand new episode on Wednesday 5 September. Although these are short, solo episodes they do take quite a lot of time and work and after posting 22 episodes on the run I’m in need of a break. I can’t talk to you about mindfulness and self-care if I don’t practice it myself, can I? Take this as a great opportunity for you to catch up on any episodes you missed or re-listen to any that struck a chord with you. 

I’m not taking August off from my work or life so I will still be posting on the blog and Instagram and running my two online courses with are all about helping you to overthink less and enjoy life more. They grew out of what I’ve found makes a real difference in reducing how much I worry. I created these courses, as I do with everything I create for you, to share with you what I know and have experienced myself. So in Exhale, my beginners’ guide to meditation for overthinkers, I take you step by step into starting to calm your busy brain with only three minutes practice a day. It really is the course I wish had been around when I was struggling with overthinking and thought meditation might help me. Spoiler alert: it really does. 

And then in A Thankful Heart I show you how you can really worry less and enjoy life more by creating a regular gratitude practice that makes you more optimistic and builds your resilience so you can better cope with life’s challenges and curveballs. My daily practice is so precious to me because not only do I know what a difference it makes to my life, it’s also a really lovely thing to do.

Both Exhale and A Thankful Heart are currently available for you to join and you can take them at your own pace, there is no falling behind with my courses. What I teach is based on positive psychology research and backed up by my own experience. It works for me as an overthinker so it can work for you too. Hop on over to gabrielletreanor.com/courses to find out more and if you have any questions ping me an email to gabrielle@gabrielletreanor.com.

Okay, so, on with episode 22. As this is the last episode for a few weeks I thought it would be a good idea to get super practical and talk about something you can put together to help yourself when you’re feeling really challenged and your overthinking is going into hyperdrive.

Now, there’s a good chance that you have a first aid kit of some sort knocking around at home. It probably consists of plasters, antiseptic cream, painkillers, and maybe an odd bandage that you’re never going to use. You might keep your first aid kit in the bathroom cabinet or perhaps you keep a few first aid items in your bag in case of a minor emergency when you’re out somewhere. At any rate if you get a cut or a scrape you can lay your hands on something to treat your injury.

Now, what about if you’re feeling mental or emotional pain? Where can you turn to when you’re feeling mentally bashed and bruised by life?

A traditional first aid kit isn’t going to be of much use when you’re feeling mental anguish. A sticking plaster hasn’t been invented that can stop the stream of anxious thoughts running around your head or lift your sad spirits.

We need a different kind of kit for this – a mental health first aid kit. Something to turn to when it’s your mental or emotional rather than physical health that’s taking a beating. A kit that is personal to you and will provide the comfort and relief you need when you’re feeling beaten down emotionally.

So, this mental health kit can include physical and digital items. It can have a special place in your home, you can keep it in your bag or you can spread the contents all over the place so you can access whatever you need wherever you are. The important thing is that your kit is ready to provide you with support whenever you need it.

I put together a mental health kit for myself quite a while ago, when I was writing Be Here Now, my mindful living course, and I think it’s really useful because when you’re having a tough time you have something you can turn to for help straight way.

So, what kinds of things can you include in a mental health first aid kit? Let me give you a few ideas.

First of all, you can use your smartphone, you’ll probably have it with you wherever you go so it will always be handy. You can have a folder of meditation apps or if you’ve taken a course with me you can save the recorded meditations into a folder, so if you need to take a few minutes to calm your mind or nerves you can listen to a guided meditation. 

You can also create a comfort playlist of favourite tunes that lift your spirits and your heart or that feel soothing and calming, whatever you might need. It doesn’t matter how uncool you might think your selection is, the playlist is for you not anyone else to listen to. 

Our phones are where we keep most of our photos now because we don’t always get round to printing them so put together a digital album of photos that make you smile as you flick through them. It could include photos of occasions that bring back happy memories or scenes that you find uplifting as well as your family, friends and beloved pets. My photo album is called Heart Swell and there are a lot of photos of my dog in there.

If you have a voice memo app on your phone you can record a message to yourself which you can replay when you’re feeling particularly stressed or low.

So that’s the digital stuff, let’s come on to the tangible items in your mental health first aid kit.

A notebook and pen is always useful to have handy in my opinion, that could be a hangover from my journalist days. There can be all kinds of reasons why you feel the need to dive into your mental health first aid kit and if you have a thousand thoughts running around your head it can be helpful to empty your brain onto a piece of paper. Whether that’s as a stream of consciousness, lists of all the things you’re trying to remember to do, reasons for and against an argument, whatever it is, having a notebook and pen to write it all out can help slow the thought tornado. 

You can also use paper and pen to jot down what you appreciate in your life, what you feel thankful for and what makes you smile to encourage your brain to think of the positives rather than the negatives and give you a break from the stress. Plus, by having written them down, on another occasion you can flick back and read the gratitudes you noted and by doing so recall those positive moments in your life. 

Okay, so, my next suggestion for your mental health first aid kit is essential oils. They can have a quick impact on you because when you inhale the scent it goes straight into your limbic system, which affects your emotion and memory. That’s why a whiff of a smell can change your mood and bring back memories in an instant. Chamomile and lavender are well known for being calming and soothing, although more lavender than you need can actually have the opposite effect. Peppermint is refreshing and grapefruit is uplifting. You can choose to keep a little bottle handy to have a sniff of when you need it or you can get a roll-on blend that you roll onto your pulse points. Neal’s Yard Remedies and Tisserand both make roll-ons. 

My final suggestion for your kit is what I call a soul soothers list. When you’re struggling it can be quite hard to know what to do to help yourself. What you really need is someone, or something, that can tell you what to do that will comfort you and support you and help you deal with whatever is going on at this time. So, a great way to do this is to have a list of all the actions you can take to soothe yourself. You can write the list on a piece of paper and keep it somewhere handy or you can write it as a note in your phone so you can read it anywhere and at any time. What you write on the list is entirely personal to you, it’s what you know will make you feel better when you’re having a tough day. Jotting down a wide variety of actions means you’ve got a range to choose from to suit what you’re struggling with as well as wherever you are or however much time you have.

So these actions could include phoning a friend, going for a walk, listening to your comfort playlist, meditating, taking a nap, reading a chapter of your book or doing something creative. It’s worth putting down the basic stuff too because we can forget simple things that will help us such as drinking a glass of water, making a cup of tea, eating something nourishing or taking a few deep breaths in and out.

So those are just a few suggestions to start you thinking about what you could include in your mental health first aid kit. Remember it’s whatever works for you and you can add to and adapt the contents to suit your needs. All that really matters is that your kit is going to help you when you’re struggling and need something to soothe your mental or emotional rather than physical pain.

I would love to know if you have a mental health first aid kit already, or if you’re going to make one, and what’s in it, so drop me a line at gabrielle@gabrielletreanor.com.

As I said at the start of this episode the podcast is taking a break for August so I will be back with a brand new episode on Wednesday 5 September. In the meantime there are 21 other episodes you can catch up on and you can find lots more to help you overthink less and enjoy life more, including my online courses, at gabrielletreanor.com. I will still be writing and sending out my weekly emails so you can sign up to receive them at my website too. And of course the show notes are at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast. If you enjoy these Pressing Pause episodes it would mean a huge amount to me if you would leave a review on iTunes, it helps other people find the podcast and benefit from it too.

Thanks for listening, lovely people, enjoy your August and I’ll be back in September.