The Self-Care Jar

I often have a hard time remembering to take care of myself.
That may sound ridiculous from someone that literally runs a blog all about self-care and mental health, but when you're in a bad space mentally, paradoxically all you can sometimes think about is staying there because pulling yourself out of that space is hard work.

Over the past couple of years, I've been trying to put together tricks to make it easier for me to take care of myself when I'm feeling low or panicking. Things like having lots of pens and paper around so I can write out my feelings quickly if need be, or having checklists to go through when I'm in a bad place pinned up on my cork board. The thing about pens and paper, however, is remembering where you left them in a state of panic. The thing about those pinned lists, is I take them down to read and never put them back up again.


What I have been using recently, that has seemed to work well, is a wonderful device called a Self-Care jar.

What is it?

Just as the name suggests, this is literally a jar full of self-care. Specifically, pieces of paper with little self-care activities written onto them, so when I'm either feeling low, coming back from a low point, or feeling good and want to maintain that, I can reach into my jar and pull out something to help me. I often take a few out in my purse, so if I need a boost through the day I have an idea right there with me. In the past few weeks I've found it incredibly useful as a constant reminder to take care of myself, and of all the different ways I can do that.


There are different types of self-care jars out there. Some people fill theirs with motivational quotes, or nice things people have said about them throughout the week/month/year so when you're feeling down you can read through them to remember that people care about you. I even had the idea for an Emergency self-help jar, filled only with quick solutions for immediately panicky, dangerous, or harmful thoughts. All of those are fantastic, and I encourage you to pick a type of jar that makes the most sense for you. The creation process is still, pretty much, the same:


Find a jar, either around the house or purchase one you like. Get pieces of paper and either write or type onto them self-care activities for you to do. I also have my list available for people to use and customize if they would like, linked HERE.
There may be a couple of activities that aren't immediately understandable, but I'll link to details here as well:
Worry Time (x)
3 Minute Breathing Space (x)
5 Senses Exercise (x)
Value Elicitation (x)
Worry vs. Reality Table (a future blog post)
Mindfulness Exercises (x, x, x)
CBT exercises (a future blog post, think breathing exercises)


Cut those activities out into individual pieces, fold them up, and place them into your jar. From here, you can customise!

Customisation

WIP Stage



One of my major rules with the jar is that it's a no-pressure situation. If I pull something out of the jar and cannot do it immediately, that's fine. Some of the options, like "baking" for example, require preparation and for me to set out times to accomplish them. The idea is that self-care shouldn't be a job that I have to do, but something I can ease comfortably into my everyday life. Stressing about not meditating straight away because I'm busy is contrary to the point of meditating. However, don't let my outlook hinder you. If set times and deadlines make you feel more at lease, give your self a time frame by which to complete your self-care activity. you can treat yourself if you manage to do it every day for a certain amount of time, or any other ideas you might have to turn taking care of yourself into a habit. The wonderful thing about this exercise is it's completely customizable.


Try decorating your jar in a pleasing way. Maybe use a certain colour of paper for your self-care activities, maybe hand write them in your favourite pen or type them out neatly. You can literally cover the jar in glitter or keep it as plain as you like, and if you have any kind of religion or spiritual practice you can adorn your jar, or the space where you keep your jar, with symbols that might make you feel at peace. A mandala, a dream catcher, a crucifix, an Ichthys, or crystals that have a calming or healing effect.
Basically, feel free to Pinterest the hell out of this jar, friends. You're supposed to look at it and feel happy, feel relief, feel calm.


My jar personally is full of multi-coloured pieces of paper, each with a self-care activity typed onto it, the jar itself is a plain clip-top jar, (surprisingly) labelled 'Self Care Jar'. My favourite thing about the jar is that it's scented. I first half-filled the jar with the pieces of paper, and put on top of that layer a small mesh bag full of torn pieces of fabric that I covered in lavender oil. I then put in the rest of my pieces of paper and closed the jar. This way, every time I open it up I get the calming smell of lavender so as to get me into the correct head space for some self-care time.


A Meditation


Completed Jar

Turn the process of making up this jar into a meditative moment all on its own. Create a space in your day dedicated to this only, clear an area for yourself and in it leave all the tools you will need for your jar. Put on music, incorporate some candles possibly? You could also set up time to get your friends to help you make the jar, or hang out together and each make your own. I actually took a bunch of my bits of paper and spent time on the train or bus folding some, because after a while the repetitive pattern becomes fairly meditative and peaceful. You could also match it with breathing exercises or affirmation you might already do (e.g.: breathe in as you fold and out as you place one into the jar perhaps.)


Make sure your working at your own pace, never turning a project of joy into one of stress, but letting it still be a goal to achieve. When you finish the jar, you should feel good about it, and all that good energy you've put into it can be pulled out whenever you're feeling low, or even to maintain a good feeling.

there are links to my social media in the circles below every post, so feel free to send me your self-care jars if you make them, or ideas for self care tips and tricks if you have them I'd love to know what you all think and see what you do!


Jacqueline Atta-Hayford