A checklist for your mental health
We understand the benefit of keeping a watchful eye on indicators of physical illness but how many of us keep an eye on signs that our mental health might need some attention. The mental health foundation reports that only 13 per cent of people live with high levels of good mental health and nearly two thirds of people say they have experienced a mental health problem.
Lack of awareness and stigma around mental health means that we do not always actively check in with the state of our mind. Often times, common illnesses such as anxiety or depression can seem to suddenly appear, when we could recognise escalating symptoms at a much earlier stage. This is a wonderful act of self care.
In our busy lives we can carry on regardless until, in some cases, the symptoms begin to prevent us from living normal lives.
Below is a useful checklist for stopping and assessing your mental health. You can make time to reflect over the course of a week or make it a daily check, at the end of the day when you stop momentarily before going to bed.
Adopt a curiosity with kindness and compassion to self. It can be the first step toward making necessary changes or seeking support, even if that means sharing your feelings with friends or family.
Feeling out of breath, short of breath or that you cannot catch up with your breathing can be signs of anxiety. Be mindful of fast, short or shallow breathing in the upper chest area. Sometimes, sighing often can indicate stress levels are escalating. When we are anxious our breathing will be disrupted and checking in with our breath is a good barometer for mental health.
Just as strong social connections and relationships are good indicators of wellness, avoiding social situations could indicate something is amiss with your mental health. Being alone is essential self care but keep an eye on whether this is becoming isolation. Particularly if you are cancelling get-togethers and choosing to remain alone most of the time. Keep note of your social interactions and motivation for connecting with others. Is it just an off day or are you choosing to withdraw for longer periods to avoid others?
Lack of sleep is hard to ignore. If your sleep patterns have changed pay attention to what they are telling you. Whether you are sleeping too little, too often or waking in the night and struggling to get back to sleep it can be signalling an emotional issue.
Back pain, muscle aches, twitching, chest pain, palpitations, upset stomach and hot flushes are just some physical symptoms that can signal an underlying psychological issue. If these symptoms occur without good physical reason they could signal an increasing anxiety and low mood. Don’t ignore physical signs and be mindful of any changes.
Pay attention to changes in energy level. Notice when you feel continuous lethargy or struggle to relax. Consecutive days of restlessness or the desire to ‘run off’ energy can be telling. Similarly, the desire to rest or nap and not wanting to rise in the morning could be communicating a change in your mental health.
Eating well is a balance. If you find that your appetite is suppressed and you are losing weight due to an inability to feel hungry your nervous system could be the culprit. Alternatively you could be experiencing cravings for sugary or fatty food and indulging in excessive comfort consumption. Notice what is or isn’t on your plate.
Consumption of alcohol/drugs
Alcohol consumption can creep up without you noticing. Masking emotional issues, enabling sleep when stressed out and dampening down a busy mind. Likewise, prescription and recreational drugs can often be a method of self-medication that signals an underlying issue. Pay attention to your self soothing techniques.
Fuzzy thinking and not being able to think clearly are common symptoms of mood disorders. If you find that your mind is foggy or racing, running over the same concerns and scenarios it may be time to stop and access the cause.
If you have any concerns with your wellbeing or mental health you can consult your GP or health professional. Speak to a trusted friend or your partner. Seek out a coach or therapist who can give you the tools to help support a healthy mind.