The idea of a self-care pack first came to me when I was at university. One of my oldest and dearest friends was going through a tough time and since we were both apart at university, I felt pretty helpless and wanted to do something to cheer her up. From this, my first self-care box was devised and though it did put a smile on her face, I’m not sure how much the Steps CD and all the sweets, chocolate and wine helped her overall wellbeing! Fortunately, after studying psychology I have homed in my self-care packages to include more items known to promote wellbeing and I have continued to gift these to my friends and family when I can.

It was before lockdown began that I decided I wanted to do this act of kindness for our frontline NHS staff, particularly for the critical care teams who are now having to step in and comfort someone in their final moments now that their families are unable to visit. Knowing this and having teary conversations with my best friend who is currently living in a hotel to shield herself from her family while she works as a pharmacist, it became apparent how needed it was to promote the wellbeing of our NHS staff working tirelessly looking after us in this pandemic. So, it was then I came up with the idea to put together a self-care pack specifically designed with our NHS heroes in mind.

I designed the packs to have 5 core gifts that are there to promote the mental health and immunity of our keyworkers. These include:

  1. Tea: known for reducing your stress hormone cortisol
  2. Sleep mask: sleep is vital for both mental health and physical health (see our previous blog post on sleep)
  3. Nutritious snack and smoothie: over 90% of your serotonin or ‘happy hormone’ comes from your gut
  4. Water bottle: water is essential for brain function and mood
  5. Cosmetics: face wash and moisturisers are there to help relieve the skin after wearing PPE and continuous handwashing but alongside a hot bath or shower will reduce stress

It took 6 weeks to get this idea from design to drop-off. I put together an email and contacted as many people as I could express what I wanted to do and the kindness and generosity of the companies who got involved were remarkable. Once the deliveries started arriving, the spare bedroom was turned into a warehouse and it didn’t take long for the room to be filled and we couldn’t shut the door! Once I had enough of each item, I started to pack them up ready for our first stop. If you’d like to see an unpacking of our first packs be sure to check out our Facebook and Instagram where I did a video and explained things a bit more.

On drop-off day, mum and I were up at 5 am to finish arranging the packs and get to this to the critical care unit at the North Middlesex University Hospital, where my mum works. We got there in time for the morning hand-over meeting (where the night staff going home let the incoming day staff the progress of the patients) so that we would see as many staff members as possible! Once word got out what we were doing, we had staff running down the corridors to collect their self-care packs and the gratitude we received was incredible. It was so humbling seeing them smiling behind their PPE and take a moment to thank us. I know that these self-care packages do not amount to what they deserve, but I hope that they do bring some relief in what is a physically and emotionally draining job.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who got involved and to those that continue to support us. If the donations keep coming then I will continue to send self-care packs for as long as I can! I can’t wait to deliver some more to our next hospital and continue to give something back to our NHS heroes.