What's in your "Mental Health Toolbox"?

Many of you don’t know, but I work fulltime at a University here in Canada. Yesterday at my Department’s bi-weekly Operations meeting we hosted a guest speaker from the Wellness Centre to talk to us about how to support our students and OURSELVES right now in terms of mental health, coping mechanisms, resiliency and campus resources.

One of the examples she mentioned really spoke to me. It had to do with coping mechanisms and the importance of having a DIVERSE toolbox of outlets and things that we can do for ourselves in times of stress or pressure. The analogy she used was “building your dream home”. You wouldn’t show up to the job site on the first day with just a hammer. Sure, you can tackle some projects… but technically only ones with nails! In order to be prepared for any project and any situation, you would need to show up with a full toolbox! To help you tackle a variety of different projects. Same goes for our mental health. You need to have a TOOLBOX of strategies, coping mechanisms and supports to be able to navigate various triggers, stressors, trauma and pain.

Need a more relatable scenario? Think of it this way: walking your dog might be a coping mechanism for you when you’re stressed. But what if you’re at work and the dog is at home? How is that coping mechanism going to support you in THAT moment? If that was your only tool to support you, you’d be screwed. It is important to have a variety of outlets and supports to navigate this wild, rollercoaster of a time we are living in right now. We can’t show up with JUST a hammer.


So out of curiosity, I asked you all to share what was inside YOUR toolbox! In hopes that we could all learn from each other, get some new ideas and be inspired to test some new tools! I was OVERWHELMED with the amount of responses. Some so simple yet effective, some super personal and specific to your own situation. One just as important as the next. You were all so strong and brave sharing these with me and I hope that your strength can inspire someone else who needs it <3

Submissions that really jumped out to me:
> When I DIY, it’s because I’m about to go crazy
> THERAPY: therapists need therapy too! Learn HOW to access tools in my toolbox.
> I used to respond to stress but now I don’t wait for it. I meditate and journal every morning. Stressful things still happen but I don’t feel it in my body in the same way
> Needing to “poop”… ie. Hide in the bathroom and self-talk in the mirror or cry
> I only have a hammer. I have no tools. I am not coping well at all right now. Spiraling into major anxiety.
> Swear words!
> Walking with friends all times of the year. There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
> I have a note in my phone of WHAT IFS. My worst fears and what I would do if they actually happened. Usually writing them out makes me feel in control knowing I can do anything
> Knowing the difference between a minor inconvenience and a major problem
> Dancing around my house in my underpants
Sometimes a swipe of bold lipstick gives me a major confidence boost
Just looking up into the sky and taking in how we are just a small piece of the universe
Setting a 30 minute timer and allowing me to feel all the feels. Then when the timer is up, I MOVE ON.
A good solid CRY


  • Working out
    • The sweatier the better!
    • Yoga
    • Running on the spot and counting the number of steps I took helps to calm me down
  • RAGE CLEAN while blasting music!
  • Walks
  • Laying in the sunshine or GET OUTSIDE
  • Following a good skin care routine
  • Long hot shower/bubble bath
  • Drinking water! Sounds so basic but stopping everything I a doing and hammering back a litre


  • Playing an instrument
  • Gardening or tending to plants
  • DIY projects
  • Macrame… who knew tying knots could be so therapeutic!
  • Music
  • Reading
  • Writing/journaling
    • Putting pen to paper to get the thoughts physically out of your brain is so helpful
    • Writing letters or postcards to my friends
  • Mind games like suduko or puzzles
  • Photography or painting (paint by numbers)
  • Cooking a healthy meal
    • Cooking dinner by myself while my partner takes the kids to a different room
    • Super detailed recipes that you really have to focus on
  • Thrifting
  • Driving my truck down dirt roads with oldies on


  • Deep, slow breathing
  • Meditation/sitting in pure silence
  • 5 sense trick
  • Box breathing
  • Repeating mantras or self-affirmations
  • Therapy
  • Naps
  • INTENTIONALLY taking breaks throughout the day
  • Super simple: but a little bit of quiet time at the end of the day to decompress


  • Bus stop chats with strangers
  • Facetiming friends/family
    • Schedule them on a regular and consistent basis
    • I still like to call my parents, even in my 30s!
  • Snuggles
  • PETS! Dogs, horses, cats
  • Having an accountability buddy


  • Listening to podcasts or TedTalks
  • Screen breaks – fully disconnect
  • Netflix binges
  • Noise cancelling headphones – overstimulated in an office space so it gives me space
  • Turning off notifications on my phone to limit App usages
  • Online window shopping – filling my cart but not actually buying anything
  • Revisiting happy memories from past vacations or looking at old photos on my phone


  • Organize and clean to remove the physical chaos around me
  • Have consistent rituals help to keep me on track no matter what
  • Quick lists of what is worrying me or what I’m grateful for
  • List 3 positive things and 3 things I’m excited about


  • Personal development courses that hold you accountable to focusing on ME and my dreams
  • Learning something new!


  • Wine + weed
  • Lavender essential oil! Super grounding and calming
  • Good ol’ cup of tea or homemade lattes


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