DIY Self-Care: Make-It-Better Box

October is National Anti-Bullying Month, and I’ve found that life is full of bullies. Sometimes bullies are the mean kids at school who treat you like crap, but sometimes they are bills you can’t pay anymore, people who harass you on the street, or the way society makes you feel about yourself. Sometimes they’re a monster storm system that floods entire cities. If you’re dealing with all the bullies that life throws your way, here’s a project that might help.

The usual disclaimer: I do not have a doctorate, nor am I a licensed therapist. When I give you advice on how to deal with complex issues like PTSD and anxiety, it comes from my own experience, not from a medical background. Is my word still legit? I sure hope so. If I take off my bandages and wrap them around your wounds, they’re still bandages, right? And now they fit you.

I believe that sharing is caring, and as a community of people who have to work extra hard for acceptance and success and basic survival, the more we can share with each other, the better we do. I also believe that while many of our struggles are faced alone and feel like they have to be faced alone, that particular form of isolation can be a struggle in itself. If we share our love and our strategies for loving with one another, that love becomes radical and life-changing. I would be nowhere without the amazing queers and survivors who passed on their wisdom to me when I needed it the most, and so I pass my own knowledge on as part of that circle. I hope wherever that wisdom trickles to feels itself nourished and sunned and grows a little taller as a result.

Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. – Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light

If you’re someone who deals with some of these things, from anxiety to dysphoria to PTSD to any number of triggers, you know that self-care is essential to survival. Self-care comes in many forms, but here’s a simple DIY project specifically for addressing it. You can make it on your own or in a circle of friends. You can fill it to the brim with things you love or make room to collect things as you go. It’s called a make-it-better box and it’s here to help!

Make-it-better boxes are for moments of crisis. You can reach for your make-it-better box when you need instant comfort, when you’re triggered or when you’re feeling particularly down. They can be decorated by hand, with collages or paint or if you’re me, Lisa Frank stickers. Fill them with objects that make you calm, that remind you of good times or times when you’re absolutely sure of yourself. These objects could be:

  • Photographs
  • A matchbook from your favorite restaurant
  • Seashells
  • Dried flowers
  • A thimble
  • An earring that belonged to someone you love
  • Thread
  • Buttons
  • A cheesy postcard your sister sent you

The box can be small enough to carry in your bag, or a shoebox for under your bed. Every little detail of this project is up to you.

To make your own make-it-better box, you will need:

A container of some kind. You can go as big or small as you want! I’m usually fond of cigar boxes, which can be really beautiful without further crafty embellishment.
Crafting supplies like scissors, glue, stickers, markers, paint, GLITTER, other things you might want to use for decorating.
Treasured little things for going inside the box.

I used the box that my sister’s iPod came in because it’s just the right size to keep in my backpack for on-the-go make-bettering.

I found this engraving of a William Blake poem called “Lost Little Boy” that shows the little boy in a pink dress, so obviously I wanted this to cover the box itself.

I filled the box with an antique key that reminds me of a day where nothing was bad for twenty four hours and four quartz crystals that I got from a giant quartz deposit along the northern Hudson. It’s one of my favorite places in the entire world, and being there makes me calm and happy.

If you’re looking for make-it-better inspiration, here’re a couple other ideas to get your thought factory working.

STAMPS!!! via Bombus

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COWGIRL BOX!!!! via Extraordinary Boxes

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MEDIEVAL LADY BOX!!!! via Green Leaves

Happy making it better, babes!

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Hard-lovin' butch made of tears, sweat, and spit, in that order. Professional lonesome polecat. Kate is living proof that you can take the hillperson out of the mountains, but she's still probably going to run back to the mountains anyway. Kate prefers the trashy to the classy, and the tender to everything else. Full-time writer, part-time lover. Heart got so big and soggy that she had to cut off all her sleeves.

Kate has written 124 articles for us.

30 Comments

  1. Thumb up 19

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    “If I take off my bandages and wrap them around your wounds, they’re still bandages, right? And now they fit you.”

    i love this. your writing is so wonderful. you are so wonderful! and this idea is totally wonderful for someone (like me) who is trying to make it through grad school when a lot of days it feels like the most i can do is convince myself to get out of bed. thank you!

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    This is a great idea! I’m totally making one. I used to have a shoebox under my bed in middle and high school, filled with pictures of celeb ladies. This kind of reminds me of that, lol. Except that box was for holding my then top-secret homo feelings, and this one will be for who knows what.

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    What a great idea! Please check out my anti-bullying music video “My Song for Taylor Swift” that was just released. Filmed with a cast of over 150, the video empowers kids to use their voices to speak up when they see bullying, and to be a friend to someone who is being bullied. Even Taylor Swift was bullied, but she overcame it to pursue her dreams. The video has already been seen in 97 countries, and recently premiered to a crowd of 10,000 in Atlanta. Please check it out, and if you like it please pass it along to all of your friends- we want it to help as many kids as possible. Here is the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPR_-zDMD8A. 100% of the net proceeds from the sale of the song are being donated to a national anti-bullying organization (the song is available on itunes and amazon). Thank you!!!

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    As I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized that all the things I would put in such a box are currently stuck to/hanging from bulletin boards in my room. I could take them down, but I like the idea of my room being a sort of feel-better box in itself. Maybe I’ll make a little one just with pictures and bits of writing.

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      Your room should definitely be a giant feel-better box.

      I did that with my entire apartment once, actually. I was about as depressed as I’ve ever been in my life when I moved in, so I painted the whole place in bright colors and hung up pictures everywhere and scavenged furniture from curbsides and re-painted or re-covered it. When I was getting ready to move out, I invited a lady who had just left her husband and was looking for an apartment to check it out. I offered to paint it all white again and she said, “No! I love it! It’s so HAPPY!”

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    This is an awesome idea! Right now I carry around the book version of Sarah Kay’s poem “B” that I bought, which always makes me feel better after reading it when my anxiety tries to get the better of me. My things that make me feel better are sort of stored all round my room right now, it would be a cool idea to make a fun box to keep em all in.

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    i struggle with an addiction and PTSD (in fact, yesterday was my ‘big anniversary’, six years since the assault, 3 and a half years sober), and i use this as one of my tools for recovery.

    My box (which i call my “Box of Hope”) is the memorabilia box from the Switchfoot: Vice Verses album– their music is a go-to on my recovery playlists. And in it, i have: an empty Xanax bottle (that held my last stash before i flushed it all), my NA chips, a copy of the “Just for Today” prayer. i have letters and drawings from a friend. i have the book “The Language of Recovery”, it’s got all these quotes about recovery. i have ticket stubs from movies and shows. And i have Play-Doh, because everyone needs Play-Doh.

    i’ve also kept a journal over the past 3 years– it’ll full of notes and letters from friends, thoughts on recovery, other ticket stubs– like a chronicle of what i’ve done in the past 3 years to help me remember all the progress i’ve made.

    Every now and then, and especially when i’m having a difficult time, i go through it all… it feels good, it reminds me that as terrible as it’s been, there are still better days ahead.

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    This is a great idea. I want to make a sparkly gay box of pride that I can go to when all the negativity, fear & inner hatred gets to me. I’ve also been toying with the idea of starting a specific sketchbook for this too.

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    Just when my depression is getting to the point where I don’t know what I can do/need to do with it, this post pops up. Thank you so much. Really. Thank you. Today has been one of those days where I go around feeling not quite human, and not knowing what to do about this, and this post hs filled me with a large amount of hope.

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    I made what I called a bad-day box for my friend last year, full of things like snacks and allergy pills and reading materials and ginger chews for her migraine nausea, but I think I am going to make her dig it out of her car and add emotional things to it too.

  10. Thumb up 2

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    Everyone should have one of these!

    This reminds me, I need to look through my own memory-box more often when I could do with a smile. It has my Grandad’s comb and my Gran’s powder-compact and my name-place-card-thing from my best friend’s wedding and other little bits that only mean something to me.

    If only mine had little lights under the lid that light up when you lift the lid up, that would just finish it off perfectly.

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    This is a great idea. I once made a “shrine” of people I thought were rad and inspiring and who have (at least on some level) dealt with the same kind of stuff that tends to bring me down. Because I don’t believe in god, but I can pray to Divine for the courage to be amazing and not give a fuck.

    I also hear glitter jars are a good self care thing. You take a mason jar and fill it with glitter, colored water, and other items/decorations of your choosing. Then, when you’re mad or sad or whatever you shake it up as hard as you can and put it down on a table and stare at it while trying to keep your mind clear for as long as it takes for the glitter to settle.

  12. Thumb up 1

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    A Box! This is kind of perfect. Right now it is an overflowing lisa frank feelings folder that is falling apart full of kind e-mails, letters, notes from my pigeon hole at ACamp, letters from my Dad when I was at summer camp and college, silly pictures from annual snowed-in sleepovers,broken friendship bracelets, and other kind thoughts and on the front it has a quote from my best friend Hales in glitter pen,
    “For when the world hates you and you agree, You still have me.” I can’t wait to write that in glitter on this box my new Doc Martens came in!

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      I had a similar binder while I was in secondary school! There were a few fucked-up things going on and to help feel better I printed out a pile of positive encouraging emails that I could look at when down. It’s back in Malaysia now but worth another go.

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    Love this idea. I have odds and ends scattered around but a central box would be better (and a fun craft project!). Lots of my emotional clutter is paper, and I have most of that scrapbooked or in binders. I also have a lot of sentimental FABRIC that I am saving and working to create a crazy quilt with (need to get on that!! Part of my hesitation is I have a lot of patches I would like to include and need to decide if I can handle hand-sewing them (from a hand strain perspective, but better for washability?) or glue them to the fabric. We have cats and dust allergies so although I don’t anticipate using it like a blanket (maybe a wall hanging?), would be nice to be able to wash every now and again.

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    This is such a good idea, time to condense all my feel good things. My box will have all my favourite things on it, glitter, cupcakes, polkadots, vintage clothes, cats, red lipstick, ladybirds, foxes. It will be the queerest, most garish thing in the world and I’ll love it :)

  15. Pingback: Suggestion Saturday: November 10, 2012 | On The Other Hand

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    I kinda have one of those going already, it has half of a marble from when I was 8 or 9, I was out during recess play marbles with a girl I still have a giant crush on and on of the marbles just randomly broke and she gave me half of it. The box also contains both of my nametags from my stint in culinary school, one with my old name and one with Elissa on it which the school was totally awesome about!

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