In this post, we provide tips on how to check in on your mental health to find out how you're really doing. More importantly, how to take steps to improve your mental health or reach out if you need help.
With the new year underway, many of us are in a period of reflection, planning, or putting plans into place.
But in the wake of economic uncertainty, restricted social interactions, and feelings of burnout, it might be a good time to think about what patterns of thoughts and behaviours could lead to improvements in your mental health.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as a “state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to society.”
Poor mental health affects our physical health with increased risks of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease. Poor mental health can also lead to mental illness. All of us can have an “off day,” but looking back to see if the following behaviours are becoming a new normal can help you check in on how you’re actually doing.
Sleep Patterns: Are you sleeping more or less than usual?
Eating Habits: are you eating more or less or is your weight changing?
Energy Levels: Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling or watching another Netflix show instead of exercising, or organizing your space?
Concentration: Are you able to focus on what needs to be done?
Social Interactions: Are you participating in activities with others? While some activities may still feel uncomfortable, you can walk, hike, ski, or join a virtual book club meeting to connect with others.
Mood: Watch for signals like having difficulty getting out of bed because of feeling low. Are you feeling irritable or angry?
Setting Yourself up for Success
Next, look forward to how the future could look and think about what you have learned in the past about what contributes to -- and detracts from -- your mental health.
Identify the highest stress triggers: some triggers that you may have experienced during the pandemic may already be resolved.
Think about what you discovered during the pandemic: what did you miss the most? What did you discover? Some people found that the pandemic created space to slow down and focus on family or to develop connections in new ways. You may find that you tapped into inner strength that you didn’t know you had.
Digital Hygiene: delete apps from your phone that have contributed to mindless scrolling. If you’re still working from home, create boundaries between your personal and work life. Plan structured breaks from your screen for offline work.
Set Goals: Improving sleep, eating habits, exercise or activity regimes can be as simple as defining what an achievable improvement means and then holding yourself accountable.
Get Active: Regular activity and exercise is one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Recruit family members or friends, set reminders on your phone, and have a back-up plan for activities you can do inside when the thermometer dips. Even vigorous cleaning counts!
Improve concentration: Use a list to prioritize your top tasks for the day or week. Avoid jumping from task to task or trying to do many tasks at once. Take a break to organize your desk, or go for a short walk to declutter your space and mind.
Make Plans: As travel opportunities begin to open up, or other social events begin to occur, plan to dip your toe into visits with those who are important to you. What works for other people might not work for you, but self-compassion – and compassion for what others need to do to heal from a difficult time will be essential as we return to normal.
How do you recognize when you need help?
We may think our feelings aren’t important enough to address. But remember that if it’s important to you, it’s important. There is no threshold to meet before you can reach out to someone you trust or a medical professional.
Stress, burnout, anxiety show up in our physical selves. Stomach-aches, headaches, trouble sleeping can be signs. If you find yourself worrying more than usual, finding it hard to enjoy life, or having thoughts and feelings that make it difficult to enjoy life, it may be time to seek help.
At a recent session hosted by Vital Partners, Lindsay Recknell, Expert in Hope, shared some ideas to help open up if you find yourself struggling.
How to “Let’s Talk”
Here are some ideas to help get the conversation started. Sometimes having some prompts can help.
Reference a news story or public figure talking about mental health: “I was inspired by <public figure> sharing their mental health struggles, and I now have the courage to talk about mine.”
Bring a note from your doctor, mental health professional, or other specialist: “I’ve been to see my doctor and she’s recommended that I take a leave to care for my mental health.”
Acknowledge that it is uncomfortable to talk about: “This is awkward…maybe for both of us. But there are things on my mind that I would like to discuss with you.”
State the changes or outcomes you’d like to see as a result of the conversation: “Things at home are not awesome, and I know it’s been affecting my work. Can we talk about the role priorities and how I can better manage in the interim?”
Mental wellbeing has a huge impact on every facet of our lives -- from our physical health to our relationships with others. Taking steps to identify how you're really doing and then take steps to improve is within your reach.
Lindsay Recknell, President and CEO of Mental Health in Minutes
As a Certified Psychological Health and Safety Advisor, Lindsay works with organizations to increase their levels of psychological health and safety using Positive Psychology -- evidence-based practical tips and techniques to increase wellbeing. Lindsay empowers individuals strengthens teams and transforms organizations with her podcast, Mental Health in Minutes and digital subscription service, as well as her Burnout & Boundaries workshop series.