20 December 2018

20/12/2018 Support- Developing a ‘Personal Toolkit’.

I often use the term ‘having a personal toolkit’ to describe all those things we can use to support ourselves.  Whether you use social media, chats with friends, relaxation techniques or take long dog walks- these are all useful strategies to help us cope with difficult times.  We all have to find ways to cope with the ‘ups and downs’ of life and we make personal choices about what we use. What works well for one person may not for another.  

I started thinking about my own actual tool boxes.  I was never taught to use tools but have chosen to learn what I can over the years according to need or interest.  My toolbox ranges from lots of basic tools to a few power tools. Not comprehensive but enough for my needs. Some tools I use regularly and even have my favourites -now well worn. Some are specialised and rarely used but there if needed.  But ALL of my tools required me to practice and learn how to use them before I could put them to their intended use.  I needed to build my confidence and skills to feel I could use them. 

I think it is the same for our own personal support.  There are some things we need to do on a regular basis to take care of ourselves for everyday needs. At times of greater stress, we may need to add to our toolkit extra strategies to help us cope.  However, if we only ever use our tools in a crisis we may not feel confident they will work.  So, I advise people to practice techniques on a regular basis.  The repetition of practising self-care helps to build up the skills and confidence for when you need it more.

In the same way that I plan my actual tool box for what I need, I also suggest people plan ahead for anticipated problems for what will support them. If you know you are going to experience something difficult think about what you can use to cope ahead of the difficulty. Do you need some extra tools just in case? I am also not only talking about techniques but also how we use our social network for support. Sharing with trusted people more often can open the door to support at more difficult times because you build a more meaningful relationship.

In therapy we may discuss having a plan of how you can support yourself or get support.  But whatever you plan or think you need, in my experience practising and developing your skill is the best way to support yourself both daily and for the future.  You can consider:

  • What is your personal list of what you can do to support yourself or get support? Does it feel enough? Do you need to expand it?
  • Do you feel confident to use these skills or do you need to practice? What would be easier for you to start practising? 
  •  Are there people you can identify you would trust to share a problem with? How do you communicate with them?
  • Do you set aside regular time to practice self-care?  What do you do regularly? Is there anything you would like to try? What more might you need? 
Self- care is a life long need and setting time aside to support ourselves is an essential part of life. Whatever you choose to do it helps to know that you do have things in your toolkit that you can draw upon whenever you need it.