It recently occurred to me that those of us who suffer with our mental health have to regularly ‘check in’ with ourselves in order to see how we are doing, where we are at and what we need to do to keep ourselves well. These check ins often happen in the big moments of high stress, life events and sometimes they can be when it’s too late.
This got me thinking about the world we are living in and how much it is affecting the mental health of people worldwide. Let’s be honest living through a global pandemic is in many ways one of the big things that has directly impacted the lives of pretty much everyone. We have lost people, changed the way we live and there is no end in sight.
The way things are now are being described as the ‘new normal’ and we are being expected to go back to some level of normality all the while navigating unchartered waters, keeping ourselves sane and continuing to be useful as people, parents and to the economy. If that’s not stress inducing I don’t know what is. On the one hand we are being told to still stay at home as often as we can but on the other that we need to be boosting the ever suffering economy. We are to work from home but actually should start going back to offices because town centres are too quiet. We are to wear face masks to shop for essentials because that’s safer but we can go to a pub and sit next to people and not wear a mask and that’s okay.
All these messages are overwhelming, stress inducing and quite frankly it doesn’t surprise me at all that the wellbeing of the nation both adult and child is being affected.
So the crux of it is that I am finding myself needing to perform these ‘check ins’ much more often just to get through the days and keep my mental health in check. It’s so easy to feel anxious and stressed and I think that we all need to consider checking in with ourselves more often.
What is a check in I hear you ask and how can one help me? Well in the big times I mentioned earlier a check in for me would be working out if I needed to seek help, if my physically wellbeing was being affected by my mental state and working out what I could put in place to offer myself support and to move forward through what I was going through. My check ins now are on a slightly smaller scale as they seem to be happening more often due to the ‘new normal’. To give an example I find the supermarket a very stressful place now. I don’t like wearing a mask as they make me feel very anxious. I don’t like the lack of distancing and the way that people seem to be less kind now than before covid. It’s like because we represent a risk to each other we are to avoid each other and that includes small talk and niceties which I find really hard. So after a supermarket trip I check in. I have a note book I can write in to log how I am feeling in the moment which really helps to relieve stress (I don’t always use it but I have it in my bad incase). I give myself a couple of still moments to breathe, regroup and remind myself that it’s not only me who is finding all this tough and it’s okay to feel unsure and scared about it all. I give myself a break and make myself a cuppa and enjoy the small moments more as I realise they give me peace.
Performing these small check ins mean that I am so much more aware of how I am feeling in the moment and I can make decisions for my MH based upon them. So if I’m not feeling great and I work out that being in a busy area where I would have to wear a mask would likely make me feel crappy I plan accordingly to avoid it. I don’t put myself under so much pressure and that really helps. I also tell myself that it’s okay to feel the way I am and by being more aware of the small things I am also taking care of the big things.
You too can check in as often as it is helpful to you. I would recommend doing this at times when you feel like you could be getting stressed, tense or things are getting to you more than they normally would. Taking that time out even if it is just for five minutes will slow your breathing, help you process your thoughts and give you an element of control over how you are feeling. If of course when doing this you realise that actually you are feeling worse than you thought or you are struggling to find ways for yourself to be mindful then it may be time to seek additional help to get you through.
We all have an obligation to keep our mental wellbeing in check because sadly no one will do it for us. This is something I’ve realised through huge amounts of therapy. We have people around us who care about us and will notice and try to help but if we don’t take a personal responsibility to help ourselves by entering into therapy willingly or seeking online advice and resources we will not improve and will continue to struggle even with good support networks around us. In this crazy world full of new things to get used to we each have to take our obligations to ourselves seriously and I hope that this post might have helped you to realise that by performing a small few minute check in with yourself you are actively assisting your mental health and benefitting yourself on a daily basis. Children can check in too and I will be encouraging the boys to do so especially as they go back to school to restrictions and life being very different to how it used to be.
I keep noticing in shops signs that talk about ‘pressure points’ and when you find one needing to stop, take stock of what is happening around you and deciding what you need to do to keep yourself safe in that space. Do you stay there? Do you move to distance from Others? What do you need to do in those pressured moments? You need to check in!
I hope this has made you think about small ways you can help your own mental health through these times and I would love to hear if this has helped you in any way. I also want to say that it’s totally okay to not being coping well or to be feeling low or anxious with the world and life right now. There are places that can help and if you need additional support you can find it online through mental health charities such as Mind and the Time to Change Campaign. You can also self refer to talking therapies in your area without a GP appointment and if you search talking therapies in your area on Google you can fill in an online form.
Keep doing those small things whatever they may be to keep your head above water. Gardening, exercise, fresh air, colouring, gaming, photography, cooking or whatever it may be they are not just hobbies they are therapy in its simplest form. They are the endorphin producing activities that make you smile and lift your spirits. Never feel bad for making time for them.
Take care of you, keep in touch if you need to and remember the next time you see one of those pressure point signs in a shop to check in with yourself! Lots of love, Lucy xxx