10 things you need in your bad-day toolkit

March 23, 2020 Providence Health Team

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We're all trying to make sense of the current state of the world. It's challenging to face each day in isolation and without our normal routine.  But these uncertain times can be worse for people with mental health needs.

Keep resources handy, including phone numbers for trusted confidants.

Learn techniques that will encourage a positive mindset.

These are trying times because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, but for those of us who struggle with a mental health issue, the uncertainty can cause a serious bout of anxiety or depression. The most valuable thing to remember is that you are not alone — one in four people will encounter a mental health problem during their lifetime, according to Well Being Trust. 

The other crucial thing to remember is that there are plenty of resources and methods available to help you stop that downward spiral and prevent a bad day from becoming a very bad day, or a bad week or even a bad month. Be prepared by putting together a bad-day toolkit, so you have the tools ready to get you through the rough patch. Here's what you should have on hand:

Inspirational mantras. It can be easy to convince yourself you are a failure if you make a simple mistake. Positive self talk can change those negative thought patterns that can be so destructive to mental health and well being. Write down some encouraging words that highlight your best qualities ("I am a good and kind friend," "I am creative") or remind you that the situation is only temporary ("I can grow from this mistake," "This situation doesn't define who I am"). Keep them handy so you can read them when needed; it may also help to speak the mantra aloud in front of a mirror if you need extra affirmation.

Lavender oil or mist. This calming essential oil is great for a relaxing bath that can release tension. It's also good to put a little bit on your pillow to promote a good night's rest, which can help improve mood as well as your overall physical health.

Workout clothes. If you're feeling down, sweat it out. Running, biking, dancing and other types of moderately intense physical activity produce an endorphin rush that is a proven mood booster. Exercising outside gives you the perfect chance to practice mindfulness techniques, such as clearing the mind, positive visualization or repeating your mantras to yourself.

A joy list. If something goes wrong in your life, does it tend to color everything else with that same darkness? If so, write down a list of the activities, people and things that bring you joy. Pull the list out to remind you of the many good things in your life--and then go out and get some joy, whether that's a coffee date with a cherished friend or painting a landscape on the weekend.

Chamomile tea. A cup of tea is a nice way to take a few minutes to sit quietly and unwind, and chamomile in particular has compounds that can elevate your emotional state.

Healthy snacks. If you're feeling depressed, you may lack the desire to eat, or the thought of making a meal sounds exhausting. Starving yourself won't help matters, so keep some healthy food on hand that will give you some sustenance and won't require cooking and prepping. Whenever possible, stay away from processed foods such as nutrition bars or energy drinks and go for whole foods instead, such as nuts, fruits and lean protein.

Mental health apps. There are so many mental health resources right at your fingertips thanks to smartphones. There are apps that offer everything from meditation to relaxation techniques to anxiety management tools. 

Mood music. Is there a song that lifts you up or makes you want to get down and boogie? In either case, music can help you strike a more positive note. Create a playlist of all your favorite songs, so when you hit that bad day you can press play to lighten things up.

A good comedy. For a good laugh, keep a couple of your favorite shows cued up on the DVR or on your streaming service, or just find an old "Seinfeld" rerun. Laughter can reduce stress and make everything seem not as bad as you thought.

A phone number. Whatever you are struggling with, you don't have to do it on your own. Keep a trusted friend's number on speed dial if you need a quick text or chat session. Perhaps it's the number for your therapist, or a spiritual counselor. If you are prone to severe depression, you may also want to have the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255).

Read more of our insights on mental health and well-being. If you want to find a health care provider near you to talk with about a mental or emotional health issue, visit:

AK: Providence Medical Group Behavioral Health Services

CA: Providence Psychiatric Services

MT: Providence Behavioral Health

OR: Providence Behavioral Health

WA: Providence Psychology, SpokaneProvidence Medical Group, Olympia PsychiatrySwedish Behavioral Health

Well Being Trust, a national foundation dedicated to advancing the nation’s mental, social and spiritual health, was launched by Providence St. Joseph Health in 2016. For more information, visit the non-profit’s website.

Recommended for you:

7 healthy strategies for getting over someone

Don’t be afraid of your mistakes

Yoga tools that raise your game

Dr. Carrie Milligan from Providence Behavioral Health in Portland, Oregon, talks about anxiety and depression in women:

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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