Building a positive toolbox

Building a positive toolbox

by D. Penman
Stripes Japan

Closing my eyes made the spinning thoughts in my head swirl faster. I got out of bed and tried anything I could to make myself fall asleep. I tried watching television, counting sheep and reading a book, but nothing was working. Maybe sleep is overrated. I fed the baby, dropped the kids off and went to physical training. Then there was the firing range, the uniform review, the barracks inspection, reports to turn in, guard duty, errands to run … and the car broke down.

I reflected, When did I have time to breathe today?


With so much going on in our lives, it is easy to forget about self-care and the concept of C.Y.B., Covering Your Behind, because no one else will. Cultivating harmony in our daily lives through self-care is an important part of this C.Y.B. business. Self-care is a term used to describe the act of caring for oneself in a healthy, nurturing way in order to live each day more fully and productively. Every person has different circumstances and responsibilities. No one situation is identical. Self-care is something you can start at any time. Why not start today?


Below is a partial list of some ideas and resources I have found useful. Select whichever ones might interest you and add them to your positive self-care toolbox. You can customize your toolbox as you wish.


• Amazingly, the more fresh leafy green vegetables we add to our meals each day, the more nutritious foods the body will crave. Collect some new recipes and try to avoid processed foods.


• Say “no.” If we don’t have the time or resources to do that favor for someone, then it is OK to say “no.” We should not be afraid to decline for fear of someone not liking us anymore. We should acknowledge our human capabilities and take care of our well-being.


• Color, draw, knit or crochet. These types of activities soothe the soul.


• Practice changing negative self-talk to positive self-talk. For example, change “I never get it right” to “With some practice, I can get it right.”


• “The Healing Energies of Music” by music therapist and teacher Hal Lingerman is a great book! I enjoy listening to Baroque music for clearer thinking. Other recommendations include music to aid in digestion at mealtime and cope with sadness.


• Exercise (but make sure you consult with your doctor first). Join a dance class, start a group, go for a walk and stretch every day. This will help rejuvenate your body.


• Create or find positive affirmations and place them by the front door or in your wallet, so you can read them each day.


• Take time to visit with someone.


• Suffering from depression or anxiety? Learn more about mental health at, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.


• The “Action Planning for Prevention and Recovery – Developing a Wellness Toolbox” booklet can help a person develop more proactive habits.


You don’t have to be an artist to do either of the next two, which were inspired by “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.


• Schedule weekly “me-time,” or as Cameron says, “an artist’s date” for yourself. It can be anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours. Bring a few euros to a local flea market to see what small treasures you might find, or take your mountain bike on a new trail.


• As soon as you wake up in the morning, and just before going to sleep at night, try writing two to three “morning pages” to help clear the chaos in your brain. In a notebook, write any thoughts that come to mind. What you write doesn’t have to make sense. You’re not thinking about it. You are just doing it.


We cannot accomplish our goals and take care of other people as effectively if we are feeling fatigued, stressed out, exhausted or inadequate. Reach for harmony. Try to implement small practices in daily life to make you feel more positive, useful and confident. Let’s try to treat ourselves more kindly.


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