Stress & Self-Care

50 Ideas for Your Overwhelmed Kit

When life gets too daunting and you feel overwhelmed, it can be deeply comforting to have some tried-and-true tactics for regaining your sense of equilibrium. One option I strongly recommend is to build what I call an Overwhelmed Kit, – that is, to gather, or at least list, your tools and props for when circumstances throw one rotten banana after another in your direction.

Overwhelmed Kit | Pauline Wiles


What’s in My Kit

From your previous comments, I’m getting a strong sense that lavender is high on your list of coping strategies! If you’re curious, here’s my kit:

  • Smell: Lavender hand cream from New Zealand (yes, I’m a lavender fan too!) ; Anything fig-scented.
  • Feel: A baggy cashmere sweater, pinched from my husband ; A hot-water bottle shaped like a reindeer (we Brits love our hotties!) ; A cream knitted throw with soft, springy texture.
  • Sound: A Spotify playlist (link coming).
  • Sight: Candlelight ; This video ; Horses in a field near my office.
  • Taste: Sleepytime tea ; Small pieces of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate ; Starbucks chai latte (if I can justify the calories!)
  • Place: Filoli Gardens ; My local library ; My bed ; Cafe at this bookstore.
  • Activity: Running (yes, really) ; Jigsaw puzzles ; Playing piano ; Pedicure ; Stargazing.

Gather Your Kit

You’ll need to decide whether to actually collect these items in one place, or instead keep a list handy. To help you gather your own kit, I’ve put together this list of over 5o suggestions. Click to download your free copy, or see the text listing below.

50 Ideas for Your Overwhelm Kit




50 Ideas for Your Overwhelmed Kit


  • Lavender sachet
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Bubble bath
  • Pine cones
  • Vanilla
  • Body lotion / hand cream


  • Candle
  • Art
  • Treasured photos
  • A mantra
  • Fish tank
  • Bird feeder
  • Feel-good video
  • Flickering fire


  • Herbal tea
  • Chewing gum
  • Dark chocolate
  • Strawberries
  • Fresh fruit
  • Frozen fruit pieces
  • Chai latte
  • Steamed milk
  • Toast with butter or jam


  • Playlist
  • Wind chimes
  • The ocean
  • A fountain
  • Audiobook from childhood


  • Satin eye mask
  • Cashmere sweater
  • Soft throw
  • Fresh pillow case
  • Teddy bear
  • Hot water bottle


  • Garden or park
  • Your bed
  • Bath tub
  • Library
  • Quiet coffee shop
  • Museum or gallery
  • Church or place of worship
  • Bookstore


  • Knitting, embroidery, quilting
  • Coloring, calligraphy, painting
  • Jigsaw puzzle
  • Scrapbooking, crafts
  • Fishing, birdwatching, photography
  • Praying, meditating
  • Journaling
  • Walking
  • Reading something familiar
  • Yoga
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Baking
  • Manicure, pedicure, facial, massage
  • Stargazing
  • Crossword puzzle

Triggers to use your kit

There’s no point having a kit if you don’t reach for it in times of need. Be sure to focus on recognizing the signs that you’re becoming overwhelmed, so that you turn to comfort tactics before you feel too frazzled to remember to take care of yourself. What are the triggers you need to watch out for? These might be snapping at other people, skipping your regular self-care habits, or simply feeling so stressed you don’t know what task to do next.

I hope you’re enjoying thinking about your kit, which could also be called a tour of your favorite things! If you haven’t already commented, I’d love to know what’s in there.

Watercolor bubbles

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3 Comment

  1. Reply
    Julie Valerie @julie_valerie
    February 6, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    I’m sharing this blog post with everyone I know.


    Pauline, what would you suggest for my college-aged daughter who lives in a dorm, has limited financial resources, and limited space? I’m thinking I might mail her a care package and would love your thoughts.

    1. Reply
      February 7, 2017 at 1:21 pm

      For dorm living, ear plugs and a pretty eye mask would seem to make sense. Possibly also a favorite tea/hot drink if she has one – maybe a more expensive tea than she would usually buy. Little bottles of essential oil don’t take up much space; if she enjoys massage, a gift certificate would be a lovely item too. And I’ve never forgotten the kindness of the person who gave me cashmere socks!

  2. Reply
    Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie
    February 7, 2017 at 3:14 pm

    Brilliant! Great ideas.

    How about a stash of chocolate? Yes? Can’t go wrong with chocolate.

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