For those of us with mental health issues — and in that category I'm including everything from low mood and stress to disorders requiring daily medication — self-care is often a huge part of the battle to remain functional. Doctors, therapists, support groups, friends, and family help us to move forward, but we have to take care of ourselves, too. Self-care is a huge category, encompassing everything from pleasurable activities like massages to the very basics of getting dressed and fed, but the need to feel nourished in all ways is a crucial element of your health, and studies show that good self-care can reduce the frequency and severity of relapses.
This is a curated collection of products, apps, books and accessories that target many aspects of self-care, from practical therapy aids to luxurious self-pampering designed to make you feel worthwhile and healthy. Unfortunately not even Scrooge McDuck-level moneybags could buy you perfect mental functioning, but a few items here and there could make the really bad days a little less black.
'Self-Care Journal' by Rachelle Abellar
Abellar runs the Self-Care Zine, which is wildly popular on Tumblr, and this is a journal and activity book for people suffering from mood disorders. It’s not a journal in the strictest sense: rather than note down feelings, owners are encouraged to write down their support networks, self-care plans, daily mood, and health achievements. It’s also got games, mazes, space for mix tape playlists and word searches.
San Francisco Bath Company Lavender Bath Salts
Lavender’s link to mental health goes back to medieval herbaries, but we still use it today for its calming properties; it’s been compared to the best anti-anxiety drugs on the market. Combine it with one of the best self-care activities out there, a hot bath, and you’ve got a recipe for a truly stellar bit of mood boosting.
Image: San Francisco Bath Company
The Little Book Of Mindfulness by Dr Patrizia Collard
Mindfulness — practice of bodily awareness, consciousness. and stress control through daily 10min meditations — is being touted as the next big thing in helping anxiety, mood swings, and depression. This small book explains the principle behind it in completely non-wishy-washy terms. If you’ve heard of it but are suspicious, this is the book for you.
Image: Gaia Books
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supplements
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, have been linked by scientific studies to the improvement of mental health, from depression to schizophrenia. A daily intake, supervised by your doctor or medical professional, is a good way to boost your brain, particularly if you really don’t like fish.
Image: Dr Tobias
Sephora Instant Nail And Cuticle Care
Manis and pedis are often on the lists of women’s self-care activities. They’re simple, inexpensive, take concentration, and immediately produce a self-esteem boost. You can buy kits that replicate salon conditions and have more bells and whistles than a Porsche, but if you want to keep it simple, Sephora’s line is lovely.
TriggerPoint X-Factor Massage Ball
Not all of us can run out and get a massage the second we feel like throwing cutlery. Luckily, however, there are self-massage products on the market, so that we don’t even have to rope in a significant other to make us loosen up our muscles. This one by TriggerPoint is designed to replicate what it feels like to be pummelled in the deep tissue, so use it wisely.
Green & Black's Organic 85% Dark Chocolate
Seriously dark chocolate is a good mood booster, as it enhances serotonin production. The sugar’s not the point here, though: it’s the cocoa that does the work, so a bar of milk or white chocolate won’t do the work. Green & Black’s is an organic beauty made in England, but any good organic chocolate with high cocoa levels will do.
Image: Green & Black’s
Lesci Warming Pillow For Neck & Shoulders
One, this is adorable. Two, muscle tension is a classic symptom of anxiety disorders, and post-panic attack, your neck and shoulders can hurt like hell. This heated warming pillow will help loosen the muscles and reduce the ache.
The Mindful Way Workbook by Drs. John Teasdale, J. Williams, Zindel Segal & Jon Kabatt-Zinn
This is a workbook that combines mindfulness with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is one of the most common methods used in therapy to change the disordered thinking behind a lot of mood disorders. You can do it with a therapist or on your own over an 8-week period, progressing from writing down difficult thoughts to learning how to tackle them.
Image: The Guildford Press
Wild Republic Stuffed Three-Toed Sloth
Interaction with animals calms humans down, and hospital nurses report that if they can’t get visits from actual therapy animals, stuffed animals help the mood of their patients. Plus how could you resist cuddling a sloth when times got tough? Thought so.
Image: Wild Republic
How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
One of the first things to go in self-care is preparing food. It’s difficult, it’s messy, it takes time and attention, and then you have to wash up. This is a cookbook for those people who find cooking an alien experience: baking in particular, with its need for precision and attention to detail, is known as a mentally healthy activity.
Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Heavenly Tea Green Leaves Sampler
Small studies indicate that green tea may boost brain function, and it’s been linked to all kinds of physical wellness from cancer prevention to liver disease. This is a kit for people who want to get to grips with green tea’s different flavors, from sweet sencha to chun mee, otherwise known as eyebrow tea.
Image: Heavenly Tea
40 Blinks Sleep Mask
A good night’s sleep is critically important for those battling mental health problems. Serious insomniacs will need to seek medical help, but if you’re just in need of a decent bit of shuteye, this effective and stylish sleep mask is your ticket.
Image: 40 Blinks
Bodywisdom Yoga For Beginners DVD
Yoga, particularly for adolescents and young people, has been shown to have a role to play in controlling anxiety, low mood and stress. Starting out with a full-blown class can be too much for people with social anxiety, but a simple at-home DVD introduction is a better idea.
America's Great Hiking Trails by Karen Berger
The great outdoors: it’s good for you. Studies show that outdoor activity, particularly in green areas, helps all kinds of mental health difficulties, including self-esteem. If you’re not sure whether you want to go all Cheryl Strayed just yet, pick up this book and see if there’s anywhere in your area for a quick hike.Image: Rizzoli
Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt And Coloring Book by Johanna Basford
Feel the need for something intricate and involved to focus your brain on for a while? Pick up this adult’s coloring book, which combines detailed coloring pages (the linework is incredible) with a treasure hunt for tiny creatures in the foliage.Image: Laurence King
Radiant Monkey Mood Tracker App
There are several apps about that help with cognitive behavioral therapy, but this is a simple one, particularly for people who’ve just started the journey to diagnosis and self-care. It’s a mood diary for phones, where you can input time, date and your mood. (There’s a Jung psychology questionnaire that you can get into if you like, but the tracking bit’s more applicable to everybody.)
Image: Radiant Monkey