Dry January® Mental Health Support Kit

January 2024 | 8 minutes

If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health, you’ll know that there can be times when life feels overwhelming. Feelings of anxiety, low mood or panic can seem like they come out of the blue and it’s hard to know what to do in these moments.

If you can relate to this, you might want to consider putting together your own mental health support kit to help you through difficult moments. Changing your relationship with alcohol can feel daunting, especially at the start of a dry month, so it’s even more important to look after your mental health and wellbeing as you make changes to habits and routines that you might have developed over many years.

A mental health support kit is a practical and personal way to prepare for the days when you’re not feeling 100%. From objects you can keep close at hand when you’re feeling vulnerable, to quickfire self-care suggestions to help restore your balance. You could put the physical items in a bag, box or drawer and maybe write up or print out some of the grounding, breathing and stretching exercises for future reference.

Check out the suggestions below for ideas on how to build your own. Remember, everybody is different, so feel free to switch up our kit suggestions to make it personal to you.

Things to help you relax or feel calm

  • Noise cancelling headphones to help you block out external sounds and tune into something calming. This could be a nature sounds playlist (freely available on lots of the largest streaming sites), a mindfulness podcast, or maybe a song personal to you that you find brings you a sense of calm.

  • A relaxing playlist that you’ve curated to use with your headphones.

  • Essential oils or other scented things you find comforting work by releasing mood-boosting chemicals in the brain.

  • Try breathing deeply for five minutes, allowing your belly to rise, and count steadily from one to five as you breathe in and repeat as you breathe out. Find more detailed
    instructions on this on the NHS website under Breathing exercises for stress.

  • Try out the 5-point grounding exercise: Name five things that you can see, name four things that you can touch or feel, name three things you can hear, name two things you can smell, and finally name one thing you can taste (if you can’t taste anything, try thinking about your favourite flavour or food instead).

  • A grounding charm, to help guide you through the five-point exercise. (You can find lots of affordable options on Etsy or other popular hobby and craft sites).

Things to help you feel good again

  • Your favourite book or audiobook to help you decompress.
  • Your favourite snack. Not only to help give you a boost, but this can be helpful if anxiety or panic has left you with low energy.
  • A bottle of water to keep you hydrated.

  • A notepad and pen for getting difficult thoughts or worries out of your head. Even if you’re not sure of the solutions yet, writing a simple list might help lighten the load.

  • If you feel able to, get outdoors and grab some fresh air to naturally boost the brain chemicals that help us feel happy, relaxed and less anxious.

  • If you can’t get outdoors, clear a small area with enough space for you to try one of these simple stretching practices from the NHS. You’ll see lots of different ability levels included in these practices, as well as safe suggestions for those with varying medical conditions, so try to pick the one that suits you best.

  • Call or message a loved one you trust for a catch up. Even if you don’t feel comfortable to open up right now, speaking to others about shared interests and their plans can be a great way to ease you into sharing.

  • Try to recall things that have helped you feel good in the past. What worked when you last felt like this? Maybe you found occupying your hands with something repetitive like knitting did the trick. Maybe you put pen to paper and drew something to unwind. Maybe you played a round of your favourite game on your phone. Could you lean on these things again and add it to your kit in preparation?

Things to help distract yourself

  • A fidget spinner or fidget toy to help you take your mind off uncomfortable feelings and allow you time to calm down.

  • A pack of playing cards to keep your hands busy, if that feels good for you.

  • Plasticine or modelling clay if you want to relieve tension and stress.

  • Organise a drawer or tidy a room and focus on the good feelings finishing the task brings.

What to do if you need further support

We hope your mental health support kit is useful for you at any time of the year, but please remember that if you are feeling anxious, low or experiencing any other symptoms that concern you speak to your doctor, and get further advice and help at http://www.mind.org.uk.