How to Do a Mental Health Checkup

by - January 22, 2018


Stuffy nose? You’ve got a cold. Throwing up? Lucky you, you’ve got the flu. 

But what about your mental health? How do you know when your mind isn’t feeling well? Growing up, we’re not trained to monitor our mental health. It remains this mysterious thing in our brains, and we don’t recognize the symptoms until it becomes a full-blown disorder with a scientific name. 

I vote that we start giving ourselves mental checkups. Let’s unravel the crazy going on upstairs and make sense of it.

In the midst of all the emotional roller coasters I'd ridden in the past several years, I began to notice patterns in my health, mood, actions, etc. When I would get depressed, I would retreat into myself and avoid people. Sleepless nights, crazy eating habits, constant illness, inability to focus, and a general lack of interest in life became the norm. From my experiences with doctors and therapists, as well as my own research and self-evaluations, I made a list of seven areas that I use to inspect my cerebral state. In order get a good read, you need to know what your baseline is: what is normal for you. If you have trouble figuring that out on your own, ask a trusted friend or family member. Chances are good that they have picked up on these things, even if you haven’t. 

  1. Concentration-Are you reading this sentence again? Are you reading this sentence again? Are you reading this sentence again? Seriously though, can you focus on your daily tasks? Or are you constantly having to reroute your mind? I’m not talking about ADD. I’m talking about your concentration being less than it normally is. Most of us have short attention spans these days with instant gratification so readily available, but again, how does your focus now compare to your average day?
  2. Sociability-Are you avoiding people? Or are you avoiding yourself? Some people retreat from the social scene when they are having a hard time. Others throw themselves into work, school, social activities, etc. to avoid having to be alone with themselves and they’re feelings. While there is a natural ebb and flow to how social we are, look for significant differences compared to your natural level of sociableness. 
  3. Mood-Have you noticed any drastic changes in your mood? Does it feel more or less stable? Do you find yourself crying more or less often? Are you more or less anxious? How about irritable? Mental and emotional discord can manifest as grouchiness. Are you depressed
  4. Physical health-Our mental health can affect our physical health. How are your energy levels compared to normal? Are you fatigued? Getting sick more often?
  5. Sleep-Sleep both affects your health and demonstrates the state of your health. Are you sleeping more or less than usual? Are you having trouble sleeping, or do you feel like you could sleep anywhere at any time? 
  6. Eating-As with sleep, what you eat and how much you eat affects your health, but it also reveals what’s going on upstairs. Are you eating more or less than usual? Are you eating more or less healthfully than usual? Are you too distressed, anxious, sad, depressed, etc. to eat? Or are you eating to relieve these same feelings? 
  7. Overall interest in life-How do you feel when you wake up in the morning? Do you want to wake up in the morning? Not all of us wake up singing while sunshine streams through the window, but we should have at least some motivation to get out of bed other than not wanting to get fired and fail a class. Do you enjoy the activities you usually enjoy? Do feel connected to people and the world around you? Or are you disassociating? 
Sometimes we just have the mental equivalent of the common cold, which is no fun, but doesn’t require a trip to the doctor. Other times we have a chronic disease that requires constant, consistent care. Keeping track of these symptoms can help accurately pinpoint and treat what is going on in our minds. If you have a record of what's been going on, you don't have to walk into the doctor or therapist's office empty handed and unsure. I know I always feel better when I can give details about my symptoms and not babble about just not feeling well.

I'm still working on my own tracker, mostly focusing on sleep, physical health, and mood, since those are the areas I struggle with the most. Here and here you can find some ideas for tracking your mental health in a journal. I haven't tried any apps yet, but I might try a few to see if they're more convenient. 

Do you keep track of your mental health? How? Analog or digital? Which do you think works best?

Stay healthy. Stay amiable. 

-Amy

You May Also Like

2 comments

  1. Well put, Amy. What you listed here is almost exactly what I do. Insomnia, eating less, and becoming increasingly ocd or anxious are noticeable triggers for me. I've never thought about using an app to track mental health. Interesting idea!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Kalie :) I never thought of using an app until I wrote this post. I'm going to try out a few, and I'll let you know if I find some I like!

      Delete

Get your Mental Health Emergency Kit Workbook!

* indicates required