I had a high school English teacher who told me that everyone would benefit from seeing a therapist at least once in their life. The comment came after I told her I wouldn’t be able to make forensics practice after school because I had to see my psychologist.
Mental health is often on my mind, because I have anxiety, depression and a bit of OCD. Even on days when I feel good (which, honestly, is most days), I still need to take my medication due to my mental health issues. I’m reminded of how important it is to check in with myself at least daily – if not hourly sometimes – to assess my emotions.
Starting to feel anxious? Take a moment and breath. Feeling depressed? Watch a funny YouTube clip. Having an obsessive thought that all my teeth are going to rot? Redirect my thoughts and remind myself, “Thoughts are not actions.” Having a good day? Awesome.
But, for those people who don’t suffer from any type of mental illness, how often do they check in on their mental health? Do they realize how important it is to take care of their mental health, much like physical health?
My high school English teacher may have been on to something when she told me everyone should see a therapist once in their life. How great would it be if we all had a yearly mental health checkup, like our annual medical physical? Each year, we’re supposed to see our doctor to make sure our body is running in good condition. I’ve only had a few yearly physicals, something I should really get in a better habit of doing, but these visits have been a time to run some blood work to check on cholesterol and glucose levels, making sure the knee reflex is still going, stepping on the scale, etc.
So, why not make an annual checkup with a psychologist to go over the state of our mental health? A certified professional could ask questions about what type of stress people have experienced in the last year and make sure we know effective coping skills because, let’s face it, there’s a lot in life that can cause stress, whether it’s a major shift in life or something as simple as the annoyance of traffic. Imagine if we all learned better coping strategies for traffic-related stress – maybe people would be less inclined to engage in road rage.
An annual psychological checkup could include screenings to determine if we have underlying mental health issues that should be addressed by a professional. So many people still feel there is stigma associated with mental illness and don’t get treatment, but if it was normal for us to have an annual mental health checkup, maybe it wouldn’t feel as if a mental health issue makes us damaged.
Until we find a way to get annual mental health checkups for everyone, it’s important to check in with our mental health. Ask yourself how you’re feeling each day and take note of patterns or try some certifiable at-home mental health screenings (not something posted on Buzzfeed or WebMD).
One of my favorite ways to work on my mental health is taking a me day – a day where I focus on relaxation and not do any household chores, work-related activities, anything that causes extreme stress, etc.
Another one of my favorite’s is daily asking yourself, “How are you doing?” like you would ask your friend. Talk to yourself and really listen to yourself. It sounds strange, but give yourself the same advice you would give a friend who comes to you with a problem. It’s little steps like this that can have a great impact on your mental well-being.