Am I OK? How to do a mental health check-up

  • 2020 caused a lot of people to experience distress, confusion, hopelessness and grief
  • In the same way you see the doctor or dentist for a check-up even when you feel OK, learn to do a regular analysis of your emotional well-being
Associated Press |

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Check in with your mental health

Mental health care has been more in the spotlight than ever since the start of 2020. With pandemic affecting everyone around the world, as well as social issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, food poverty and threats to democracy in the news every day.

People are often told to check in with others when they notice someone struggling. “Just reach out” we say. But what about reaching in? How often do you ask yourself, “How am I doing?”?

Mental health experts say everyone should perform regular mental health checks to assess their own well-being. There’s a process for determining if you are OK, and it’s not unlike what you would do if you were concerned about someone you love.

Think about the sort of questions you’d ask a friend if you were worried about them. It’s time you start asking them of yourself.

Here are five steps to help you perform a mental health check.

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1 Find a quiet place

It can be hard to listen to what our brains are telling us when we’re working, caring for others or distracted. To check in with your mental health you need a peaceful spot.

Modern life involves so much multi-tasking, we often don’t give ourselves space to sit and reflect. Schedule a regular time, in a suitable spot, to carry out this check.

2 Start with the big picture question

An important measure of well-being is whether you’re able to function in daily life.

One of the biggest signs you’re having trouble is if you’re struggling in your day-to-day life. Are you able to be your best self as a student, sibling, child, friend?

If you’re really having problems in areas of life that weren’t previously difficult, that’s a sign things are off track.

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3 Look at your feelings and behaviours

No one’s baseline normal is the same as anyone else’s, so experts say it’s important to look for changes in your own mood.

Questions you can ask yourself:

* How have my behaviours changed?
* How have my feelings changed?
* Do I still find joy in the things that once brought me joy?
* Am I being irritable or snapping at people?
* Am I really down more than I usually am?
* Do I find that I’m catastrophising more than I usually do?
* Am I avoiding people?

Also consider the duration of your symptoms. Everyone has bad days.

But experts say from a diagnostic point of view, if you’re feeling down for longer than two weeks, that’s cause for concern and may mean its time to seek professional help.

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4 Look at your body

Our bodies try and communicate when our brains are not well. Mental health and physical health are inextricably linked.

You should ask yourself:

* How am I sleeping?
* Am I eating well?
* Am I grinding my teeth?
* Do I feel muscle tension in my neck or shoulders?
* Am I being active the way I usually am?

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5 Don’t wait until things are bad

In a perfect world, people would do these check-ins even when they weren’t struggling. It’s much easier to prevent a crisis then it is to climb out of one.

People go to see the dentist, optician and doctor for check-ups, even if they’re feeling fine. It’s time we start approaching our emotional well-being in the same way.

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