Decompression Session: How to Build ‘Happiness Kit’ to Manage School Stress

Happy woman opening box.

You can box wine, but can you box happiness? We say yes. Hear us out.

The West Coast University Decompression Session series is all about managing the stress of being a student, and that includes finding healthy, delightful, manageable, and even productive ways to boost your morale when school gets you down. To that end, we thought we’d recommend putting together what we call a “Happiness Kit.”

Who doesn’t love a care package? Maybe you’ve sent one, maybe you’ve received one. But have you ever assembled one for yourself? That’s the idea. Take a box, or a backpack, or even a small drawer and fill it with small delights you can dip into when you need a lift.

Even if you’re not feeling low, getting a little pre-packaged endorphin rush is a great way to break up your study session, combat boredom, or remind yourself that you deserve to treat yourself.

Here’s a list of ideas to pull from, but we encourage you to think of your own…

Your Favorite Movie

Most of us don’t buy a lot of DVDs these days, but maybe make an exception for this one (or invest in a digital copy). What’s that movie you never get sick of watching? Pick something funny or nostalgic. Here are a few WCU staff picks for movies that really hold their happiness value: When Harry Met Sally, Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, Friday, The Princess Bride.

A Gift Card

For many (if not most) students, money’s tight, and retail therapy isn’t a regular option. Going online to buy yourself something pretty (or funny, or cool, or useful) is a delicacy. So, invest what you can ($100, $50, even $25) for a little future splurge, in the form of a gift card. It can be a to your favorite store, or just a prepaid credit card that you can spend on anything. Stick it in your kit and when the time comes, treat it like free money. And if it will make you happier to get yourself something practical (think a decent piece of cookware or a cooling pillowcase), that’s okay, too.

An Unopened Letter

There are two ways to do this one, and one of those ways requires some outside participation. Ask someone close to you to write you a letter. It doesn’t have to be a high-pressure assignment—it can be as simple as a short hello, a “remember when,” or even just a silly sketch. You can also do this for yourself. Next time you have an odd thought, jot it down, or write your future self a little affirmation. Whether you’re the author or not, seal it and address it to yourself. Then put it in your kit and open it down the road.

Something Delicious

Relatively non-perishable, obviously. You know what you like. If you’re a candy fiend, keep a bag of sour gummies, a box of malted milk balls, some pop rocks—whatever’s your favorite sweet treat—for an indulgent munch when you need it. If salty is more your thing, some microwave popcorn or spicy cheese puffs are good options. Or you can stow away a beverage like a single glass bottle of grape soda, or even a bottled cocktail. Your kit, your palate.

A Treasured Photo

Nowadays most of our memories are digitized, but there’s just something about holding a photo that brings it back. Either pick one out of your online album and print it or, better yet, ask a family member or old friend if they have an old-school pic you can have as a keepsake. Maybe it’s a polaroid of you and your bestie as small children, or your parents’ wedding photo. Nostalgia is a great escape from the pressures of the present.

A Found Object

We all pick up shells at the beach or interesting rocks on hikes. Start keeping an eye out for an artifact when you’re out and about. Something from nature is good (don’t remove anything you’re not supposed to from a protected area), but you can also take home any little thing you discover in your travels – an odd postcard, a discarded toy, a lucky penny. You never know what you’ll come across.

Something to Play With

Include a tangible object: a simple toy or game you can use as a solo diversion. We love a timeless plaything: a deck of cards, a Jacob’s ladder, a yo-yo, a mini jigsaw puzzle. Ideally this is a very simple pleasure and something you can interact with physically without having to think too hard. You’ll be surprised how much fun you can have with something as simple as a rubber bouncy ball.

These are just a few ideas. Swap in your own fun stuff or add to this over time. Just making your happiness kit is an act of self-appreciation and a reminder that you deserve an emotional reward, for any reason whatsoever. It’s fine to be in a bad mood—healthy even—but if you decide you’d rather have a little happy time, you’ll always know where to find it.

Want to share some happiness with fellow WCU students? Come hang out with us on Facebook and Instagram!

WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.