Checking in on your Mental Health for Mental Health Awareness Month
Updated: May 16
The CDC reports that 1 in 5 people in the US are living with mental health challenges.
This can be anything from minor mental health challenges to more severe mental illnesses.
Our mental health is very important to take care of, because when it declines, it impacts almost every aspect of our lives: work, social engagements, and our physical health.
Caring for ourselves can be difficult and learning the signs of declining mental health and how to respond can be the difference between a brief period of struggle and long standing mental health challenges.
Here are some signs to look out for- and some steps to help get it back in a good spot:
Everyone varies on how much sleep they need to make it through the day, but when we lose sleep and are unable to give our bodies the time needed to recharge, operating in our daily life can be difficult, now battling fatigue. It is important that you set aside plenty of time to take care of yourself, to make sure that you are scheduling plenty of time to rest.
Set alarms, and put down electronics before bed so your mind has a chance to settle down.
If you struggle to fall asleep, a guided meditation on youtube or some deep breathing exercises can help.
Try out the 4-7-8 breathing method that can help you with sleep!
Close your mouth and quietly inhale through your nose to a mental count of four. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for a count of eight. Repeat the process three more times for a total of four breath cycles.
Constant feelings of depression
Loneliness, low moods, and sadness play a large role in how much we are enjoying our lives and at a given point in time. When we experience these things, we tend to operate with more of a negative viewpoint, and we struggle to see the good in life.
This is a good time to go ahead and make an appointment with a therapist, talk some things out, and maybe explore some dissatisfactory aspects about life. It is also a good idea to engage in journaling and activities that you are interested in.
Isolating from friends and family
We all need down time, but there is a difference between taking a break from friends and family to recharge and avoiding engaging because we don’t want to be around people.
Engaging with others is so important, because it helps us fulfill our innate social needs.
That said, make sure you are activating your support system when experiencing isolation. You may not want to, to properly care for yourself, you may need to call a friend and arrange an outing, go visit the family.
All of us have tasks we need to complete, and those tasks can become pretty daunting when experiencing a mental health decline.
You may find it hard to focus on completing something in front of you, leading to poor performance at school and work.
Make sure that you are allowing yourself breaks too, to yourself to purposely disconnect for a short period of time. If you’re able to, then schedule a longer break and get outside and connect with nature!
Change in appetite
Are you suddenly eating constantly, snacking too much, or noticing you might not be eating enough? It's Different from dieting or fasting- this is something where we just don’t feel hungry or we feel ravenous. Make sure that you are eating according to the needs of your body to live a healthy lifestyle. Focus on foods that make you feel better and try and stay away from foods that make you feel heavy and unsatisfied.
If you struggle to not eat, make sure that you are eating enough calories to keep your body going, even if it's through options like protein shakes.
Mindful eating can come in handy when considering food.
This means that, while eating, you are paying actual attention to your food- how you buy it, prepare and eat it. For instance, beginning to chew your food slowly and purposefully, noticing the flavors and textures of the food.
Persistent feelings of guilt
No one is proud of everything they’ve done in life. With all the time we’re on this planet, having some questionable or shameful decisions or actions in our past is kind of inevitable.
But hyperfocusing on our weaknesses or those regrets tends to lead to intense feelings of guilt, in a way that interferes with our ability to enjoy our lives. If you are experiencing feelings of guilt, it would be a good idea to focus on self-forgiveness.
Poor personal hygiene
When we stop caring for ourselves physically, that is a big warning sign that something is amiss. Mind you, we all have days when we are rushed out of the house, but making sure that we are engaging in personal grooming is necessary to feel confident about ourselves.
Make yourself a checklist and make sure that you are checking off the hygiene list everyday (you could make a word document or get a template online).
Try to reward yourself if you are able to make it through the day, or multiple days, completing that checklist. Sometimes external rewards are much needed incentives to get you back on track.
People are inevitably going to do things that irritate us. But when we start experiencing higher irritability than usual, it can be a sign that we are reacting inappropriately to what is going on. When experiencing increased irritability, make sure you are giving yourself a break to slow down, do some deep breathing exercises, and process why you’re really so upset. It could also be beneficial to identify some solutions to reduce irritability.
This is about as big as warning signs get, indicating that something is wrong.
When we are struggling to find purpose, meaning, or a will to live, it is definitely time for some therapy and activation of your support system.
If you notice these signs, then it is time to get help and focus on yourself. If you are not struggling currently, then it’s a good idea to include these practices in your daily life just to keep your mental health in tip top shape: journaling, meditations, taking care of yourself physically, engaging in social activities, and scheduling breaks for yourself.
“I keep moving ahead, as always, knowing deep down inside that I am a good person and that I am worthy of a good life.” ― Jonathan Harnisch