Updated: Dec 10, 2020
This year has been a trying one for many of us and for some, it has really tested the boundaries of mental health, coping skills, resilience, goals and life’s meaning. We are also reminded by a number of entities from professionals to social media influencers to check in with ourselves and our mental health. This is great, although it is not always made clear what exactly we should look for when doing this. So I’ve decided to write this post on exactly that, making sure we check in on ourselves and how we may go about it.
Now, I will be listing a basic template of a checklist we can follow but this is by no means exhaustive or definitive. In essence, this is a starting point and you are encouraged to add to or edit this list to suit your needs.
I would also recommend answering these with the most objective and balanced view that you can and stick to the facts. This means avoiding catastrophizing or fatalistic ways of describing your situation. An example is saying things such “I’ve tried, it’s hopeless, I’ll never get this done”. These narratives are not helpful and are usually not factual. Generally, we mean “I’ve tried this ‘x’ number of times, nothing has worked so far and I am having trouble finding another way to complete this”.
I would also like to say that if after answering these questions you feel you may not be coping the best, I would suggest the next step is to please make an appointment with your GP, mental health professional or call one of the 24/7 crisis numbers listed at the end. Help is readily accessible if you need it.
How am I doing?
A basic overall question to start the conversation with yourself. Sometimes, this can begin with a statement of how you feel at the time such as “I don’t think I’m doing too great” or “Things feel pretty good right now”. I would definitely encourage equally validating times you feel good and going through the checklist in the same way. If we spend time trying to assess what is not going well for us, it is equally as valuable to look at and take note of what is going right.
How is my health?
How does my body feel? How much of this can I put down to my diet and exercise? Am I eating well or single-handedly keeping my local fast-food store afloat? As mentioned previously, physical health is a large determinant on well-being and certainly something to address first, especially if we feel we may be neglecting it.
How has my mood been? How do I feel?
Looking at the emotional side of life. Has my mood been all over the place? Have I been a little snappy lately? Again, does this have anything to do with my physical health? (i.e. enough sleep, eating well, too much caffeine etc.). If you answer yourself with something vague like “I just feel like sh*t”, then ask yourself what are the components of feeling like sh*t? Do you feel heavy? Unemotional? Tired? Answering this more specifically will help you acknowledge and express the feeling in a meaningful way and give you an idea of what may need to happen for you to not feel like that. Sometimes, we get extremely busy and end up putting things that we usually give little thought to on the backburner (sleeping/eating/self-care). Eventually, if we do not tend to what we put on the backburner, it will boil dry.
How have I been coping with setbacks, ill-feelings etc.?
Having a look at whether we are coping in a healthy way. If I am short on sleep, have I been looking at making time to get more sleep, or have I been consuming more caffeine to deal with the deficit? How long has this been happening? If you are experiencing depressive or anxious symptoms, how have you been managing these? Is this effective? Is this a healthy long-term solution? Objectively decide if you are doing things such as self-medicating (i.e. alcohol) simply to cope or if you feel a drain in motivation that you don’t usually experience.
How are my relationships?
As previously mentioned, a crucial factor in good well-being is good relationships, even a good relationship with ourselves. But we still have to ask whether we’ve been noticeably less attentive to others or if the chemistry of our relationships have changed. We would generally be more sociable (or at least as sociable as we can individually be) when we have high self-esteem and self-worth, so has this changed substantially? Do I need to pick up the phone and just say ‘Hi’ to someone for 5 minutes? Also, how is my relationship with myself? Do I feel good about what I am doing at the moment? What needs to change for me to feel good about this?
How are my goals/future outlook?
The constant state of unknowing change that this year has produced would certainly have changed the future and goals for many of us so please be mindful of this fact when checking in with yourself. The Covid-19 pandemic and the governing response is obviously something none of us planned so we can’t be too hard on ourselves if we are doing the best we can at this moment considering our individual situations.
In general, if we feel our goals have dissolved or turned invisible, we should see this as a suggestion from our inner-selves to return our focus to what is happening ‘here and now’ so these goals can become clear once again.
Remember, before we take our vehicles on a big journey, we would usually have them serviced and checked over with precision before leaving. The slightest irregular noise in the engine a week before leaving would spark immediate concern and attention. On a big journey, we would also give the car a good check-over after each day’s driving. In general, we should treat ourselves like that car by regularly maintaining our services and attending to the issues that can stop our car performing like we want it to. If the issues are unable to be tackled in our own garage, there are many service centres available that can offer help or advice including:
Beyondblue (anxious/depressed) – ph. 1300 22 4636
Kids Helpline (counselling for ages 5 – 25) – ph. 1800 55 1800
MensLine Australia (men, emotional/relationship concerns) – ph. 1300 78 99 78
Open Arms (veterans and families counselling) – ph. 1800 011 046
LifeLine (personal crisis) – ph. 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service (thinking about suicide) – ph. 1300 659 467
At the time of writing, all lines are open 24/7.
If you are not in crisis but feel you would like to work through some concerns, you can also make an appointment with myself at AHRLEE Counselling or with one of the many other amazing counsellors we have here in Australia. Let's keep that car cruising.