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7 Check-ins For New Year’s Mental Health

  • January 07, 2022
  • Patients and Families

We often focus more on treating illnesses, both physical and mental, than on staying healthy. But the absence of mental illness does not necessarily mean good mental health. And we’ve all been dealing with the ups and downs, losses, uncertainties and changes brought on by the pandemic. The start of a new year is a good opportunity for self-assessment with a brief mental health checkup.

According to the World Health Organization, mental health is “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

A Brief Mental Health Checkup

While not exhaustive, this list provides a starting point to examine how you’re doing emotionally and mentally. If any of these items raise a concern, talk with your physician or a mental health professional.

  • Concentration – Are you able to focus on the task at hand and get it done in a timely manner? Or do you find yourself overrun with missed deadlines and undone chores? Poor concentration is a hallmark of ADHD, but it can also be a symptom of depression or anxiety.
  • Tuning In – One characteristic important to good mental health is knowing yourself or being “self-aware.” How “in touch” do you feel with yourself? Are you experiencing emotions and don’t know why? It’s not uncommon to get so busy that you don’t have time to process what is happening on an emotional level. However, taking time to process events and emotions by writing in a journal or talking with a friend can be important to good emotional health.
  • Mood – Do your moods feel pretty stable, or are you experiencing significant mood swings (highs or lows)? Are you crying more than usual? Feeling persistently depressed for two weeks or more could indicate clinical depression. Talk to your physician or a mental health professional.
  • Energy – Do you feel that you have the energy to do the things you need and want to do? Fatigue can be a sign of depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses, but it can also be a symptom of many physical illnesses. If you find that you are feeling unusually fatigued, contact your doctor.
  • Sleep – Are you getting enough sleep and sleeping well at night? Do you wake up rested? Poor sleep can be a sign that there is something troubling you emotionally. Lack of sufficient good sleep can also contribute to mental health problems. When under stress or dealing with a more serious mental illness, many people have trouble falling asleep or wake frequently during the night.
  • Tension, Stress – Are you feeling tense and stressed all the time? Is it hard to unwind at the end of the day? Many of us experience stressful lives. However, if you’re unable to take mental breaks and relax for a few moments, then your stress could be approaching dangerous levels. Relaxation is a skill that many of us have to learn and practice. Meditation, yoga and progressive muscle relaxation are just a few ways to try to relax.
  • Balance – Is there an appropriate balance between your home life and your work life? Many of us have made adjustments, or multiple adjustments, during the pandemic. Take the time to assess where you are now at the start of a new year. Are you getting in some “me-time,” including physical exercise or spiritual pursuits? Achieving perfect balance is probably not possible, but it’s worth striving for

Adapted from a previous series of posts from by Gina Duncan, M.D.

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