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  • Writer's pictureDr. Joe Novak

Conduct Your Own Mental Health Checkup

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. It is an opportunity for all of us take a moment and check our mental health pulse. For many of us, being homebound and away from our social village and our normal routine over the past six weeks has pushed the limits of our emotional endurance. So, let’s take a few minutes to think about how we would answer the following questions. Focus on the last two weeks:

  • How has my sleep routine and overall quality of sleep been?

  • How well have I been able to manage my daily stress level?

  • How often am I feeling inner restlessness or feeling fidgety?

  • How anxious have I been over the last week?

  • If I have been more anxious than usual, how quickly have I been able to calm down?

  • How has my energy level been? Specifically, do I feel sluggish most of the time or am I able to recharge and bounce back after resting?

  • Have I been able to successfully cope with the loss of my “normal” or do I feel sad or angry most of the time?

  • Have I been eating healthy or am I eating more due to boredom or to instantly feel better?

  • Have I noticed I have been using alcohol more to manage my day?

  • How am I feeling about myself overall, positive or negative?

  • Am I reaching out to others inside and outside my home, or have I become quiet and started keeping to myself more than usual?

  • Am I finding joy in the things I am doing, or are these things just tasks and ways of filling time?

As you think about your answers to these questions, remember to seek out help from a mental health professional if you find you are overwhelmed. If you are feeling unsafe, immediately confide in someone you trust so, together, you can get the help you need.

For most of us, thinking about these questions helps put our current emotional wellness into perspective. If you find you are not coping as well as you could be, here are some tips to help you recover and improve your emotional health:

  • Improve your outlook and establish a positive mindset by giving yourself a break, maintaining a daily purpose, and planning your day with things you can accomplish. Celebrate your day every evening.

  • Take care of your daily stress by maintaining a consistent sleep routine, taking a walk or establishing an exercise plan to relieve inner energy and trigger positive brain chemicals.

  • Watch your daily diet and be careful to not eat as your “go to” for feeling good.

  • Try meditation and relaxation tools that are available online or apps like Calm, Headspace or Kardia Breathing.

  • Be more mindful by using your five senses to experience moments without judgment. Notice the constant background of life we tend to overlook, like birds singing, trees blossoming, or squirrels playing.

  • Breathe, breathe, breathe. Take a series of at least six, slow deep breaths in and out to regulate your body.

  • Address feelings of loss by taking care of yourself, talking to a trusted friend or family member, or keeping a journal of your thoughts. Don’t forget that grieving takes time.

  • Reach out to your social village as often as possible through phone, internet, or social media.

  • Give yourself permission to delay major decisions right now. Think about the things you need to do and prioritize what is immediately important.

  • Be creative and explore things you can do for fun.

  • Pace yourself with work and home challenges.

Your mental health matters and needs attention. Give yourself the time to reflect on how you have been doing, and get started improving your emotional health.

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