Life moves so quickly. Sometimes it can feel like days, weeks, and even months can pass without really getting a chance to stop and check in with yourself. As a mum, when things get busy, I tend to push my own stress to the back burner and focus on making sure everyone around me feels their best. However, I’ve found that long periods of time without checking in on my mental health can lead to feelings of burnout, anxiety, imposter syndrome, or depression. Rather than letting it pile up, I’ve tried to start checking in with myself regularly to evaluate how I’m really feeling and what I need to feel my best. Here’s my guide to a mental health check in.
When to Check In
The biggest challenge of adulthood is the never ending to-do list. Whether there’s playdates on the schedule, an event to attend, cleaning to be done, home repairs to make, or laundry to fold, there’s always something that needs to be done. For me, I shudder whenever someone suggests adding something else to my schedule.
When I thought about scheduling regular mental health check ins, I wanted to avoid setting an unrealistic goal for myself. Because of this, I decided to schedule a weekly mental health check in. This frequency ensures that I’m catching mental health issues before they become overwhelming, but I’m also adding something doable into my schedule.
Set a check in frequency that works for you! If you like sticking to a daily routine, you can definitely complete this check in daily. If you are already overwhelmed with daily or weekly tasks, try scheduling this once a month.
No matter the frequency you choose, make sure you’re setting a reminder for yourself. I like to add it to my phone’s calendar so that I get a notification once a week to complete a mental health check-in.
How to Check In
A mental health check in consists of a short list of simple questions that force you to reflect on how you’re feeling. Because everyone’s mental health is different, you can customize a list of questions that helps you get to the heart of your emotions.
There are a couple of common approaches to the mental health check in:
- As part of a journaling practice. Use your journal to write out the answers to your mental health check in questions.
- Mentally. Ask and answer the questions in your head to catch urgent feelings or emotions. This works best when you’re doing the check ins frequently (once or twice a day).
- Long Term Tracking. Use a separate journal or planner to log just your mental health check ins. This can help you identify patterns in your thoughts or emotions. This is a great choice if you’re working with a mental health professional like a therapist or counselor because it can help you communicate your thoughts and emotions during an appointment.
Mental Health Check In Questions
When you create your personal list of mental health check in questions, you’ll want to pick questions that you know will evoke an answer for you. For example, I know that if I just ask myself “how are you feeling?”, I might answer too simply to avoid digging deep. I need to use questions that force me to think a little more critically about my feelings. You might need targeted questions that help you address specific issues you deal with: taking care of yourself, worry or anxiety, sleep issues, etc. Here’s a list of potential questions that you can choose from to create your personal mental health check in:
- How is my body feeling physically?
- When did I last eat a nutritious meal?
- How have I been sleeping? Have I had any sleepless nights?
- Have I been communicating my feelings to someone else?
- What emotions have been the strongest for me lately?
- Have I been having fun lately?
- Have I been having anxious thoughts or worries that feel overwhelming?
- Am I giving myself enough credit? If not, what is something that I’m proud of?
- What’s something I can do to help myself feel better on bad days?
- What’s taking up the most of my mental energy?
- Do I need a break from social media?
- How have I been speaking to myself? Have I been using positive self talk?
- What am I avoiding?
- What do I need right now?
- What am I excited to focus on? What project, event, task, or hobby am I looking forward to?
Once you choose 4-5 questions for your mental health check in, write them down somewhere safe so that you can look back at them when you’re ready to check in!
What Happens Next
For the most part, your mental health check ins will be just that: a quick check in that helps you re-center. However, if you notice that your answers to a specific check in are especially negative or if you notice a decline in your answers over a period of time, you might want to take additional action. This could look like talking to someone who you feel supported by (like a partner, friend, or family member) or it could look like taking the next steps toward getting professional mental health support from a doctor or therapist.
Remember, mental health issues aren’t anything to feel embarrassed or ashamed about. Getting help is amazingly brave and strong, not a sign of weakness. Always reach out for help when you need it!
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