Building The Perfect Self-Care Gift Kit
If there is anything that the stress of the pandemic has taught us, it’s that at the end of every day, all we really have is ourselves. And, with that global epiphany, self-care became one of the biggest conscious changes many American women have made this year.
As we close out this year, things are getting considerably better (thankfully). But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold onto the things we learned, such as the importance of taking care of ourselves — especially since honestly, not everyone has mastered it nor has the time to gather the needed supplies.
That’s where you, as a supportive friend, partner, or family member come in! Gift baskets, particularly custom ones, are labors of love and are always thoughtful gifts when they’re personally curated. Self-care is a perfect theme for those who spend entirely too much time nurturing those around them. It is a gentle reminder that they matter too and can be a way for you to show that you want to make sure that they’re also okay.
To design a great self-care kit, you want to focus on three specific types of senses and/or feelings: smell, touch, and treat. Pick and choose a few items from each category, wrap with a bow, and your recipient will find themselves grateful to be on the fast track to better care.
A beautiful presentation is the first sign that real thought went into the gift, and things that are lovely to behold are immediately soothing. You can grab a nice basket from somewhere like Michael’s to fill with recyclable shredded paper to use as the base for your gift. Alternatively, you can see if you can score a nice metal bathroom-friendly accessory basin or tin from your local HomeGoods. For either of these, you’ll also want clear cellophane and a ribbon or bow to really pull it together — and ensure that it doesn’t fall apart in transit.
Easier, cheaper, and no less thoughtful, you can also go the traditional gift bag route. Just make sure it’s sturdy and that small items don’t get buried at the bottom by the tissue paper. It’d be a huge shame if one of your more portable or lightweight presents goes amiss in the trash.
A lot of self-care is about centering oneself, and as surprising as it may sound, for that, your sense of smell can lead the way. Soothing, peaceful scents go directly through the nervous system to the limbic system in your brain. This is the part that controls emotions, which is why this element of the self-care package is so necessary.
Fortunately, it’s one of the easiest parts to fulfill. Scented candles are a favorite go-to for many a gift-giver, and they’re not out of place in self-care kits either. If you know the recipient’s favorite smell in the world, Yankee Candle is a fabulous resource to find it — its scent range is incomparable and its seasonal collectibles are lovely. However, they can get pricey, so don’t be afraid to save a few bucks by going the HomeGoods or Marshall’s route for some obscure scents or brands. One of my favorite solutions is actually to check out ALDI’s Huntington Home candles, which are even more affordable and honestly underrated.
Scented soaps with essential oils can also go over well, particularly when time alone bathing can often feel like a treat in and of itself these days. Goat’s milk soap has become trendy in the past few years, particularly since the fat in goat’s milk yields a pH level close to that of human skin. But, none does it better than Indigo Wild with its Zum line. I can tell you from experience that its soaps are superior to even the ones sold by the block at Whole Foods when it comes to impactful scent — they’re chemical-free and use high-quality essential oils that smell gorgeously natural. There are more than 32 types to choose from, including Lavender-Mint, holiday-appropriate Frankincense and Myrrh, Sea Salt, Sandwalwood-Citrus, and other tremendously herbaceous, nature-derived scents.
And, for those whose stress comes out in frazzled strands, Soapbox’s solid shampoo is another great add-in. In an effort to reduce my use of packaging (and also as a former frequent traveler), I’ve tried my fill of shampoo bars, and none has come close to the gentle cleaning, nourishing, and subtle but penetrating lather of the Coconut Oil Moisture & Nourish Shampoo Bar. It has a gentle, sweet smell to it and isn’t overtly tropical or coconutty. The company also carries a tea tree formula and an argan oil one, too. The latter’s Anti-Frizz Smoothing Serum is also light and effective.
Best of all, Soapbox donates a bar of soap with every single product — not purchase — sold. Every product has a unique code that you can pop into its website to look up what community-based project your buy helped to fund, allowing your recipient to care for themselves while you care for others.
According to Psychology Today,“sad times call for soft textures.” And, according to a study in The Journal of Consumer Research, the use of soft, fuzzy, smooth, and other tactile stimuli is a primitive comforting tactic … but honestly, we didn’t need a study to confirm that. That’s why we highly recommend making sure you have something snuggly in any self-care kit.
I live in my Comfy Dream, which doubles as a work-from-home ergonomic essential. But, if your recipient has the luxury of a spare few minutes to sprawl horizontally rather than having to settle for the blanket-cuddle feeling, invest in a weighted blanket. It’s a splurge, but buy from the right brand and there will be no confusion that its the main event and star of your gift bag. California Design Den eschews the boring flat panel texture for a significantly more plush chunky-knit handmade design that’s 100% cotton jersey and free of fillers that could spill and make a mess. Because it’s woven, it’s more breathable too. Plus, it stores easily in a low-key canvas bag.
Also with naptime in mind, the Headlever custom pillow is another great pick for effortless self-care. It doesn't look like much, but it’s designed to allow for cervical support for two different neck lengths and has a firm concave center that’s shaped precisely to cradle your head. What makes it different is the defined compartments in the pillow, all the better to keep your alignment from getting cattywampus.
It comes in various levels of thickness, but most importantly, it’s height- and weight-specific for optimal alignment in back and side sleepers. Honestly, I didn’t expect much when I received a sample in its minimal packaging, but it quickly became my pillow of choice. Plus, it’s machine-washable and hypoallergenic, which is ideal for heavy use.
Another great idea? Cozy pajamas. Fleece, modal, bamboo, and other plush or fine-combed materials are fantastic for feeling immediately better, and ’tis the season for them. Target usually has a lot of good seasonal designs, and so does Kohl’s. One of my favorite Kohl’s Finds, actually, is a long, oversize plush robe by Sonoma Goods for Life, but if you really want to go all out, don’t forget the store carries Koolaburra by UGG. Their robes come with satin accents for a dressier dress-down in signature softness. And, of course, don’t forget the socks. Few things feel more immediately relaxing than having those hardworking feet wrapped up in warmth and softness.
Then there’s the special treatment stuff, the wild cards of the kit. And, for this final puzzle piece, you’ll want to think about functional comfort. For instance, the HeadFloater, a headband-like piece of gear designed to reduce “tech neck” by relieving pressure in your neck and head. Unlike the passive hanging neck hammock, this invention has bungees that compress and decompress the skull while you stretch your neck out, as opposed to the usual stressing your neck out.
Massage guns have also become really popular gifts for pain relief. I own the Lifepro DynaMini Massage Gun, which charges via USB and holds it for pretty much ever. It’s at the ready whenever I am and comes with all the attachments you need to feel better in a jiffy. The smaller size of this model makes it perfect for a kit, and it even comes in a handsome storage case that’s easy to tote around. While I do wish the compartments held the pieces in place better, there’s no question that it’s a well thought out set.
This brand has also recently gotten into red light therapy. The AllevaRed Light Therapy Belt is an impressive piece of equipment with professional-grade near infrared and red-light options in a weighted belt ideal for alleviating pain in muscles and joints anywhere — not just around your waist. In fact, I have mine strapped across my back right now, targeting a spasmed muscle just above my shoulder blade.
Red light therapy has also been associated with improving skin, which led to the development of the VizaCure Light Therapy Mask. It looks pretty bulky and intimidating at first, but it’s actually quite easy to get used to and wear. What seems like a thin, clear plastic mask with striations across it is actually a series of light channels that reportedly work to brighten up skin tone, reduce and prevent wrinkles, minimize the appearance of pores, improve blood circulation, and support better skin elasticity. The real wow for me was how comfortable and unintrusive it actually is to have on. It’s built with comfortable ear pieces and nose grips, and there’s not too much reflection of the light as you read, watch TV, take a bath, and take care of your skin in the meantime.
If physical ailment isn’t a top priority for treatment (and bless you if that’s not the case), there are always the classic standbys of one-time use luxuries. Bath bombs, hot tea blends, gourmet healthy treats, and other feel-good items are perennially popular for good reason. Also, they may look silly but those metal head scratchers that were so trendy at shopping mall kiosks? They’re still fantastic.
Remember that the goal is to keep it as effortless as possible this year (and the next) with self-care. You don’t want to add more to their “to do” list or pressure the recipient to carve out more time that they don’t have. Things they have to set up, put away, or actually do — like manicure kits, for example — may just end up sitting in their boxes unused, so think about ready-to-go gifts that require little to no maintenance, cleaning, downtime, or charging. So, take care in choosing your take-care gifts. Your recipient will thank you for it.