Most people know what to look for when focusing on their physical health. We can feel pain and discomfort, making it easier to understand when something is wrong physically. We might wake up and think, “oh my back hurts. I must have slept funny.” Or “my stomach hurts. Maybe I ate something I shouldn’t have.” “My leg is sore today. I remember bumping it on the car door.” Little cues like that throughout the day help us understand what might be going on physically with our bodies. Many of us even have a daily routine focused on improving our physical health. Some common examples of daily physical health checks are... we brush our teeth, weigh ourselves, take a shower, wash our hands regularly, take our vitamins and medications, schedule our doctor appointments, etc. Those are all great things to do.
Are you doing the same for your mental health? Mental health checklists are just as important as a physical health checklist. Noticing when our mental health is not up to par is not always as easy to recognize as when something is going on with our physical health. We might just feel a little sluggish or emotional. We might not even realize something is off with our mental health because we are too busy focusing on other things that need to get done throughout the day. Let me suggest a few easy things you can do daily to keep your mental health in check. You might even notice that most of them are good for our mental health AND physical health.
Have I gotten enough sleep?
I think we all know how important sleep is. A lack of sleep can cause us to feel irritable and overwhelmed, not to mention exhausted. I encourage you to pay attention to how much sleep you are getting and how often you are waking throughout the night. It can be affecting your overall health! If you are struggling to get enough sleep, try developing a healthy sleep routine. Here are a few examples: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every night. Limit electronic usage at least an hour before bedtime. Keep a journal of how many times you awoke during the night and how many hours you slept. Keep your sleep space decluttered. Practice brief meditation, gratitude, and positive thinking before bed to get your mind in a calm state.
Have I eaten enough food?
Most likely you have heard the term “HANGRY?” Hungry Plus Angry Equals Hangry!! Maybe you have even experienced “HANGER” yourself. I know I have. Our daily lives are so busy, sometimes we forget to eat or skip a meal without even realizing it. Our hunger can lead to us feeling angry and irritable. Protein packed meals and snacks can help us feel full longer. If this is a problem for you, try keeping healthy snacks in your desk drawer, your car glove compartment, or somewhere within reach so you can grab one while still being productive.
Have I showered?
This might seem silly to some, but a hot (or cold, if that is your preference) shower can be so therapeutic. I like to think of a shower as a time to release all my pain, all my frustrations, all my anger, all my sadness. I let it flow out of me and wash it all down the drain. That does not mean you may not still feel those emotions after your shower, but it can help release the things we often are holding in. Not to mention it is a really good time to be alone with our thoughts. I organize my thoughts and plan my day in the shower. I encourage you to do the same.
Have I gotten any fresh air and sunshine?
Getting outside and connecting with nature is so important. Vitamin D from the sun can help improve our mood but even when the sun is not shining, breathing in the fresh air can be so beneficial to our mental health. Whether you are going for a walk on your lunch break or getting outside to plant your garden and do yard work, I encourage you to set a goal for yourself to spend time outside every day. Now that Spring has FINALLY arrived in Michigan, we all need a little fresh air!
Have I spent too much time on social media comparing myself to others?
Let me remind you that social media is a platform for people to show their HIGHS. Typically, we do not see the couples who have lost their “spark,” the kids who constantly fight, the messy house because we cannot keep up, the canceled plans because we are too tired to engage with people. We see the loving partners, the fun-filled vacations, the happy families, the “look at how much weight I’ve lost” posts. If we compare our real lives to the highlight reels we see on social media, it is sure to take a toll on our mental health. If you find yourself doing this, I encourage you to take a brief hiatus from social media and remind yourself that nobody’s life is perfect!
Have I moved my body intentionally?
Working out is a passion of mine and if you have ever met me, you know that I truly believe that mental health and fitness go hand in hand. Developing a healthy fitness routine and moving our bodies intentionally every day can be so beneficial for both our physical and mental health. The endorphins that are released help improve our mood almost instantly. It can be something as simple as a walk around your neighborhood or a full-blown workout, just MOVE THAT BODY! I have set a personal goal to walk every day this month for at least 30 minutes. I encourage you all to set a goal for yourself and do your best to stick with it. The sense of accomplishment is a really great feeling.
Have I connected with a loved one?
Now more than ever, because of COVID-19, we may be feeling socially disconnected and even isolated. It is important to connect with your friends and family regularly. Use that support network. We may not be able to visit with them face to face, but we can still talk on the phone and video chat.
Have I loved myself and been kind to myself?
We are our toughest critic, right?! Why do we say things to ourselves that we would NEVER say to someone else? The way we talk to ourselves and the thoughts we have about ourselves have a huge impact on our mental health. It is not easy to change our internal dialogue, but it CAN be done with practice. Even as a mental health professional, this is something I am still working on daily. It sounds corny, but I spend 2 minutes every morning giving myself positive affirmations in the mirror. The more we practice self-love, the easier and more natural it becomes, and it spreads to other areas of our lives. You will start to feel more confident, make better choices for yourself, and improve your relationships with others, just to name a few. If you do not already practice positive affirmations, I strongly encourage you to start.
I hope you will start incorporating some or all of these daily mental health checks into your normal routine. If you are still struggling PLEASE reach out and let us know how we can help.