Create Your Emergency Self Care Kit

Practicing self-care is a preventative measure. It keeps us physically, mentally and emotional strong so we can avoid the negative effects of long-term stress and emotional strain. But, there may come a time where even the best self-care plans are not enough.

Helping careers by nature are prone to highs and lows. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of seeing a client succeed, having a patient recover or witnessing positive societal change. But with those triumphs, can often come tragedy.

For those difficult times, whether it be the loss of a patient, a particularly difficult client, or an overly stressful day, an Emergency Self Care Kit can help you manage. Having a plan for those worst days will help you get through them and make sure that they don’t have a long term deteriorating effect on your mental, emotional and physical health.

Here’s how to create your kit:

1. Find a container

Find a container that you like to keep your self-care kit in. This might be a shoe box, mason jar, tool box or anything else you have around. You don’t need a specific type or size of container, but you will have to fit all of the items in your kit into it, so make sure it’s not too small.

For my kit I used a large, sturdy cardboard box like this one.

2. Decorate Your Container (optional)

While it’s not required, putting some time into decorating your self-care box will make it more personal and increase your likelihood of using it. I decorated mine with positive affirmations (see below) and pictures of relaxing things from magazines.

3. Write Down 5 (or more) Positive Affirmations

When I’m in a place where I need to reach for my Emergency Kit, I want the first think I see to be reminders that things are ok and that I can get through this.

Write down 5 or more positive thoughts or affirmations to put in your self-care kit. These can be personal for situations that may come up in your work or they can be more general.

Once you have your affirmations written down, you can either place the list in your kit, tape it to the inside of the cover, or create a cool affirmation jar like this one.

Need ideas? Here are 100 examples of positive affirmations.

4. Add an Emergency Contact List

This isn’t the same emergency contact list that you post on your refrigerator or give your employer in case of injury. This is the list of people you can call to make you smile or laugh when you feel like nothing can make you smile or laugh. Write down all of the people you can call just to talk.

You can add details about who to call in different situations. For example, your friend Betty might be a great person to call if you need to laugh, but John might be better at listening to your feelings and making you feel like they’re ok.

5. Write down activities that make you feel good

Take a few minutes to write down activities that have helped you cope with stressful situations in the past. What has helped you relax? What has helped you take your mind off the situation? What has helped you process? These should be realistic and easily accessible.

Some examples:

  • Go for a run
  • Bake cookies
  • Meditate
  • Draw
  • Write in your journal
  • Take a Yoga class
  • Use a stress ball
  • Progressive Relaxation
  • Put on some music
  • Dance
  • Take a long bath/shower

6. Healthy Alternatives

When we write self-care plans we focus on things that are healthy for us: eating good food, staying physically fit, etc. In your emergency self-care plan it’s ok to give yourself permission to do something that might not be considered the healthiest choice if it will make you relax or help you get through a tough time. If having a glass of wine or eating your favorite candy bar is going to make you feel better, it’s ok! Go for it.

But, if partaking in in one of these activities is going to lead you down an unhealthy path, then don’t do it. If you know that you can’t stop at one glass wine or if eating that candy bar is going to start you on a sugar binge, then don’t set your self up for failure.

Identify activities that fit into this category and come up with positive alternatives. Instead of the candy bar, would making yourself a nice dinner meet the same need?

7. Gather Your Supplies

Once you have written down your lists of coping activities and healthy alternatives, gather all of the supplies that you will need and put them in the box. This might be craft supplies, stress balls, or that emergency candy bar. Make sure to add the list of activities to the box as well.

8. Add a scent (Optional)

The final thing that I like to have in my Emergency Kit is a calming scent. I keep a lavender scented bag in the box and every time I open it it reminds me of the smell of my house as a child. Small tubes of essential oils, potpourri, or scented candles are all great options.

9. Use it!

What’s in your emergency self-care kit?

About Jessica

Jessica Jacobs is a Licensed Social Worker based in Indianapolis, IN. She is passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of those in the helping professions through better self-care and more sustainable and supportive organizational environments. Jessica has worked in international and domestic disaster response, community mental health, nonprofit management and political advocacy. She can be reached at

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