Four Essential Tools for Your Mental Health

By Sheri Khan, LPC

A key part of my work as a therapist is helping clients explore a variety of tools that can help them manage and respond to daily experiences in a healthy and balanced way. It is helpful to learn about many different tools and practice them in your life so that you are able to find the ones that work for you.

Here are 4 tools for your mental health to consider:

Contain it – A key resourcing technique in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is the container, an imaginary “place” to put things in until you are ready to address them. Your container must have 3 characteristics: it must be strong, it must have a lid of some sorts where things can go in and things can go out, and it must be comfortable inside so things you put it inside wish to stay. Your container could be a colorful “basket” which is made of strong wood, with a lid, and lined with burgundy velvet. Your container could be made of speckled blue pottery with a corked opening and covered inside with emerald green silk. Once you have visualized your container, reflect on a recent experience and how it feels to have the option to put the difficult and overwhelming emotions from that experience into your container. The idea here is that in the heat of the moment when your emotions can be challenging to manage, you can put them in the container which creates just enough space to breathe and revisit at a later time.

Identify your values  – Values, such as adventure, love, family and authenticity, are principles that guide your life and reflect what is most important to you in life. Work with your therapist on this exercise or find a list of values via a quick internet search. Sort them intentionally and instinctually into 3 categories: Values that are Most Important to you, Less Important, and those that are Neutral. Once sorted, choose the values in your Most Important category and reflect why those are most important to you. This exercise can be both eye-opening and validating and a reminder of what matters most to you which is helpful in times of challenge and when decisions need to be made. Know that your values can shift over time and with different life experiences, so it can be valuable to revisit this exercise as often as you find helpful.

– Mantra on repeat – Ranging from one word to several phrases, a personal mantra is one that is in-line with your values, represents your best self, and speaks directly to your heart. When you use a mantra, it can be incredibly powerful and calming especially in times of distress especially on repeat. Work stress, anxiety, commuting annoyances, relationship struggles, all types of discomfort? Repeat your mantra. Consider a mantra of “I am calm” or “Calm,” if you desire a calm temperament. A mantra of “I am OK as I am” may serve to reinforce that you are whole as you are. What about a cheeky “Let this shit go” mantra to remind you that you truly control only yourself? Pairing your mantra with both deep breaths and closed eyes when you are able to maximize the benefit of using a personal mantra.

Track your moods – “Always or Never” thinking is when a person’s thinking is in the extremes of all or nothing. For example, “I am never happy,” and “I am always feeling down.” The thing is – we don’t feel only one way all of the time. Recording your moods on a daily basis over the course of a month or two can provide helpful insight into your moods over time. The recording can be a number rating each day or a few times a day with 0 representing no depression, anxiety, stress, etc., 5 a moderate amount, and 10 the worst you have experienced. You may also find it beneficial to add in your number of sleep hours and notes for each day on what you experienced that affected your mood. This data helps provide a clearer picture and combat always or never thinking. Discussing your moods with a therapist can help you find themes and connections which help form a treatment path.

I hope you find at least one of these tools beneficial to aid you with your commitment to mental health. In closing, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you be happy, and may you live with ease.