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I spent months before my mission deciding what should go in my missionary bag. I read so many blog posts and articles with “Things I wish I knew before my mission…” and was determined to be the best prepared, best dressed, and best organized missionary. Well, if you know my story at all you know how that turned out 😂 In the beginning I had a beautiful bag with specific pockets devoted to pass-along cards, chapstick, hair ties, stickers for kids, and oil blotting sheets for my face (HA HA HA  I realized I should have exchanged those for a bath towel once I got to Texas).

By the end of my mission I was carrying around a ratty backpack on one shoulder that held mostly bubbles, sidewalk chalk, a worry rock, and my trusty yo-yo because all of those things helped me during my most fearful, depressed, anxious days. I carried with me the things I ACTUALLY needed at that time.

I recently created a new bag that I call my first-aid kit, inspired by a group therapy program I’m doing right now. It is filled with things that can help ground me when my thoughts begin to spiral out of control, uplift me when the darkness threatens to overcome me, and remind me of my purpose when the way seems unclear. It can be a bag, pencil case, shoebox, whatever you can store and access easily in a moment of crisis. I believe everyone should have one, diagnosis or not, so I thought I would share some of the things in mine.

– First, I put in a letter to myself with encouragement and specific instruction. Rachel Hollis talks about the idea that in moments of decision we reach for our lowest level of training. Basically when we’re overwhelmed with emotion or lacking motivation we go back to our homeostasis- what we have practiced and what our body knows. That usually means I stuff my face with chocolate and crawl in bed to wallow. So I put in my letter step by step instructions for choosing healthy things to do instead. That way I can override the instinct to reach for my old bad habits as I create new, healthy neural pathways.

– I have this rock that I picked up on a riverbank last summer. I went there to pray and meditate and make sure that marrying John was the right choice for me. I felt God so strongly there and decided to pick up something that could always remind me that this choice was right and that God loved me. *Spoiler alert* Marrying John was the best choice I’ve ever made 💖

– I put in some of our wedding pictures because I think John’s so cute and also they are the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. They remind me that there’s beauty in this world.

– There are also some precious notes in there from people who love and value me, which remind me that I am worthy of love and belonging even when I feel broken.

What if every adult in the world had a first aid kit to turn to when they are feeling angry, sad, frustrated, lonely, or anxious? How would that change our reactions to our emotions? I believe it would help us make MUCH better decisions.

What if every kid had a first aid kit to help them find their center, remember their worth, and know what to do when they are experiencing hard emotions? I imagine a beautiful world full of emotionally aware kids with healthy habits who are happy and achieving great things. All we need is a first aid kit for everyone in the whole world…not that hard right?

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