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Be Kind to Your Mind: DIY Mental Health Checkup

Though we often keep tabs on our physical well-being, our mental health tends to take a backseat. Instead of waking up worrying about your weight or wondering how to fit in your daily workout, take a moment to ask yourself the self-care questions that follow. The answers may just bring you one step closer to achieving mental clarity and contentedness.

What am I feeling in my body right now?
Often, before we can verbalize what we’re feeling, our body beats us to the punch by reacting physically to our emotions. You might notice that your jaw is more clenched or you have a pit in your stomach when you're feeling anxious. Perhaps you feel tightness in your chest or heaviness in your shoulders when you're feeling sad. Breathe and lean into the feeling in your body for a few moments to see if you can identify what is happening emotionally.—Yasmine Binghalib, LMFT,

What three things went well today?
So many times, we have a long list of things to do in a day, which are often unrealistic. At the end of the day, it’s easy to get frustrated with yourself or anxious about getting to them the next day. Another reason we often look back at the end of our day with discouragement is if we received bad news: Your child is failing a class; the car repair is twice as much as expected. Rather than ending your day with "all that's wrong," make it a habit to focus on what went right. If you can list three things, your mood will shift to be more positive.— Nancy Ryan, MA, LMFT,

Taking up some "growth" practices can make fruitful use of tough times.


What impact does social media have on my life?
As more people watch The Social Dilemma it becomes apparent how social media controls our thoughts and sucks up time that could be better spent engaging in self-care activities and strengthening relationships. Do the math. Look at your daily time spent on social media and multiply it by 365 to see how much time every year you give to technology. Now, imagine replacing that time with a hobby you’re passionate about and think how much you’d improve at it by the year’s end.—Christopher Taylor, MFT,

How am I taking care of my mind?
Check in on the "landscape upstairs." Are you tuning out? Overly glued to the news, social media, or something else? Regular investment in mindful practices like meditation can help keep an eye on mental burnout and distraction. Taking up some "growth" practices—reading about new things, enrolling in an online class, or learning a language, art form, or musical instrument—can make fruitful use of tough times.—Greg Sazima, MD,

Do I really need to say "yes" to this?
We often have many things in our lives that we have to do, and because of this we often lump everything into the "necessary" pile without assessing it first. Before you say "yes" on autopilot to a commitment or action, check in with yourself and determine if it's necessary. If it's not, ask yourself: “Do I want to say yes?” Learning to protect your time and boundaries is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, because no one else can do it for you.—Yasmine Binghalib, LMFT,

What self-care activity will I schedule in my day today?  
We often start our day jumping out of bed to the alarm, grabbing coffee, and checking emails. We forget to center ourselves and become mindful of planning our day versus letting it control us. Try to start with just a few minutes of contemplation before email, social media, or the news. Ask yourself where in your day you can fit in a 10-minute meditation, a walk outside, a phone call to a friend, or planning something to look forward to over the weekend. If you're spiritual, start the morning with a centering prayer. Watch your mood lift.— Nancy Ryan, MA, LMFT,

Am I actively engaging negative thoughts and what emotions are those creating?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the gold standard in treating almost every psychological ailment, no matter how big or small.  The first step is awareness of what your actual thoughts are and how they feed negative emotions. Once awareness is gained then you can create replacement thoughts, which, over time, will create more automatic positive thought patterns.— Christopher Taylor, MFT,

How am I taking care of my connections to the world?
We often overlook—especially in times like a pandemic—the care and feeding of our connections to the world and relationships outside of us: family, friends, community, and beyond. Tuning regularly into whether you’re staying connected, even if virtually, will help you overcome loneliness, isolation, and helplessness. Especially potent is finding some ways to be of compassionate help: make phone calls to those in need, send letters to relatives, and Zoom into volunteer groups and meetings.—Greg Sazima, MD, 

by Megan Wiskus

Header photo ©sewcream - Meditation photo ©Prostock-studio -