Self-Care Tips

5 Questions You Can Use to Check in on Your Mental Health Every Day

Photo: Stocksy/ Lucas Ottone
When you go in for a check-up at the doctor, there are things they usually do: tap your knees for proof that your reflexes are working, check your blood pressure and heart rate, press your tongue down with a compress to peer at the back of your throat. When it comes to your mental health, you can use context clues and insightful questions to check up on your head and (proverbial) heart, too, according to Minaa B., LMSW, licensed social worker, author, therapist, and speaker.

"It's common for us to schedule a routine visit to the doctor when we aren't feeling our best, so it should be common for us to check in with our mental health to ensure that we are physically, mentally, and emotionally in tune," she explains. Mental health check-ins are also exceptionally important when 19.86 percent of adults in the U.S. are experiencing a mental illness of some kind, according to Mental Health America. That amounts to about 50 million people, with 4.91 percent of them experiencing a severe mental illness.

It's true: a 2018 poll conducted by Well+Good found that of the 2,700 people surveyed, 95 percent struggle with stress, and 92 percent struggle with anxiety. However, 20 percent had never shared their feelings about either because they believe such mental obstacles are no big deal. The daily grind has a way of distracting from the basic human need to take an emotional time-out.

However, you definitely deserve the space to care for yourself, mentally and physically. It's not always easy to gauge something you can't see before your eyes like you might see a cut or scrape or rash, but your mental health deserves to be checked on, too. The following questions from Minaa B.'s practice as a therapist can help you explore how you're feeling, what your needs are, and how to go meet them.

Six mental health questions to ask yourself every day

1. How am I feeling today (mentally and physically)?

"Did you know that when you are dealing with a mental illness like depression, trauma, and anxiety, not only does it affect you mentally, but you can feel it in your body? [It] manifests in ways like headaches, stomach aches, dizziness, and more," writes Minaa B.

You can be stressed without necessarily knowing it, so check for both mental and physical factors before moving about your day. Physiological sensations can help you assess what's going on and what you might need. If you're struggling with depression, sometimes you might not feel as hungry as usual, according to the Mayo Clinic. Using information like when you last ate to inform your decisions is also useful when your bodily sensations might not be super helpful.

2. What's taking up my headspace, and is it affecting my mental health?

Part of mindfulness is taking a step back and evaluating exactly what you're giving your attention to. Make sure you take some deep breaths, in for four and out for 4, and think about what you've been focusing on today, she adds. Have you been festering about a conflict with a roommate or fretting about an upcoming meeting?

These can be activating for your nervous system, but taking a step back and writing a list of your priorities and things that you know to be true can help you ground yourself.

3. When was the last time I drank water or ate?

Again, your body and mind can play tricks on you when you're not feeling your best and vice versa. Have you ever felt like the world was about to cave in beneath your feet, only to eat a sandwich and feel like you were brought back to life? Hunger can cause a lot of emotional symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic. Food and water are unavoidable human needs that you will undoubtedly benefit from meeting. Even if you can't solve a super upsetting bill or a fight with a partner, taking control of what you do can help you feel better physically and give you a sense of agency over your day.

4. Am I tired?

"Being sleep deprived doesn't do our health any favors. It's okay to rest. Your mind is depending on it," writes the coach. Since so many of us are TAAT (tired all the time), this question may be answered with an internal scream of "yes! absolutely!" In that case, clear your evening plans and make sleep the priority.

5. Can I step out of this if it is harming me?

Previously, Minaa B. told Well+Good that she's not afraid to remove herself from a situation that does her mental health a disservice and stop to ask some of these mental health questions. This includes setting boundaries on the job. "I'm someone whose work has triggered anxiety and depression, and when that happens, I'm out of the door. I'm very firm with boundaries," she said. It's your right to do the same.

6. What can I do to bring myself joy today?

Choosing positive acts of care or ways to spend your time can help you feel better in the moment and over time. Minaa B. is a big proponent of things that bring her joy, so much so that her wellness strategy is listed prominently on her website. She includes things like walking her dog, reading novels, and asking for help when she needs it. Coming up with your own wellness strategy (like asking yourself some mental health questions) of things that always reliably make you feel better can make you feel more prepared when a dark day strikes.

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