I’ll never forget the day I realised I had a drinking problem.
Towards the end of my 17-year marriage, I started drinking a nightly glass of wine to calm my nerves. I told myself it was harmless because I wasn’t getting drunk, but the truth is, I was relying on it to stay sane and numb the pain.
The day I knew I had to stop self-medicating with alcohol was a few days after we were camping with friends and I downed an entire bottle of white wine in front of my kids in about 5 minutes. Upset and hopeless about my situation, the bottle was my new best friend. I remember feeling self-destructive and not caring about the impact my behaviour was having on anyone else, even my kids.
I’ll never forget the horror on my youngest son’s face as he watched me stagger around, crying. After that glorious parenting moment, he told me I wasn’t allowed to have more than one glass of wine a week. He knew it was a problem well before I did. A few days later, he took a glass of wine out of my hand at dinner and that was the day I knew I had a problem. He was only 8 years old.
I stopped self-medicating with alcohol after that, but even now I feel its pull when I’m stressed or upset, so it’s really important to have my self-care first aid kit handy. Below I share what’s in my self-care first aid kit. Hopefully, it will give you some ideas for yours. But first, let’s have a look at stress and why alcohol and other things become such a crutch.
What people typically do when they feel stressed
It’s not a huge surprise that alcohol, food and cigarettes and the primary go-to solutions for stressed-out humans around the world. According to a UK Mental Health Foundation study on stress:
- 46% of participants reached for too much or unhealthy food when stressed
- 29% stated they started or increased their drinking
- 16% said they started or increased their smoking
The impact of stress
The same report states that stress leads to increased depression and anxiety, as well as self-harm, suicidal thoughts and loneliness.
While some stress is normal and healthy, many people experience such high levels of stress that they get taken out of the game of life. Alarmingly, suicide rates have steadily gone up in the past 12 years (with a minor dip from 2019 to 2020). Overall, the rates increased by around 35%.
In the US, the economic impact of stress is estimated to be over $300 Billion per year. This figure includes: absenteeism, lost turnover, decreased productivity, medical costs and legal costs.
So what healthy things can we do to de-stress? The answer is to have a self-care first aid kit stocked and ready to use when you need it.
What to include in your self-care first aid kit
Self-care first aid kits are different for every person. Here’s what is in mine.
- 2 to 3 close trusted friends
- Essential oils
- My trail runners
- Baking supplies
- Cleaning supplies
There have been many moments where I’ve felt like I had no friends. In reality, I did. I was just really great at keeping them at arm’s length or pushing them away when they got too close. I learned the hard way that to have friends you can truly lean on in times of distress, overwhelm and sadness, you really need to be that for others as well. Loneliness is a thing when you feel stressed. It’s hard enough just having to get up, shower and eat something. That’s why I have friends in my self-care first aid kit.
The friends who are in my first-aid self-care kit know that when I ask them to come over, it’s a crisis. They are good at holding space, can listen to me rant and not feel the need to give me solutions. They can also call me on my BS when I’m in a self-destructive cycle.
I have found and nurtured these friendships through different activities. My friend Erica – we’ve known each other since our boys were babies. My friend Jane – We’ve only known each other for a few months. We met through an online health challenge.
The good news is that you can always make new friends, but when it comes to leaning on them, choose wisely and set them up for the crisis calls ahead of time. Ask them if it’s okay if they are on your call list. Offer to do that for them too if you feel up to it. You won’t always, and that’s okay. Neither will they.
I always keep dōTERRA Clary Sage, Aromatouch and Calmer oil blends handy for when I feel super stressed. Clary Sage is a hormone balancer, so if my stress relates to that time of the month or increased anxiety, I lather it on. I throw Aromatouch oil against my shower walls for an instant aromatherapy shower and I use the Calmer blend when I am having trouble focusing on work or feeling my anxiety rise. There are many reputable essential oil companies out there, but this is the one I use daily.
The one thing that really helps relieve my stress is walking. Whether it’s a 1 km walk down the road to the local cafe or a hike up a mountain, I always feel better when I move my body. And with the amount of hiking I do, having good trail runners and hiking shoes is a must.
One of the things I love to do when stressed is bake. I’ve loved baking since I was a little girl watching my grandmother make her mouth-watering blackberry pies.
Nowadays, my baking endeavours tend to be sugar and grain free. Having great basic cookbooks and baking supplies at the ready makes me feel creative, productive and deeply satisfied when the chocolate chip cookie aroma wafts through the house.
I don’t love cleaning unless I’m stressed. You’ll know when that is because every corner of the house sparkles. So, for me, having cleaning supplies handy and topped up is an absolute must.
What’s in your self-care first aid kit?
My list will likely look different to yours. Whatever is on your list, taking the time to ensure you have those resources handy when you need them means being a little intentional about how you look after yourself when life hits the fan.
What’s in your self-care first aid kit? Join our community and share your ideas.