How to Keep Tabs on Your Mental Health Like an Expert
Keeping track of your mental health is a simple way to ensure that you continue promoting your own well-being. But keeping mental health tabs isn’t necessarily something that you’re taught in school. So how do mental health experts promote mental health awareness in themselves, their clients, and the public at large?
Following the simple guidelines set out below can help you keep track of your current mental health status. You can also know when to take action to better your mental well-being.
Track Your Mood and Behavior
The simplest and most effective way of keeping mental health tabs is to track your mood, behaviour, and thoughts over time. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists do this with their clients every session, as it’s a vital component of promoting overall health.
If you’re working to improve your mental health, tracking your progress is one of the most important things you can do. Improving your mental health doesn’t happen overnight. And people can get discouraged if they don’t recognize that the work they’re putting in is showing results.
Tracking your mood and behaviour can be done in several different ways. Some of the most common and simplest ways include:
Using a smartphone app to log your mood, sleep, and thoughts
Using a smartphone app to track your digital activity day-to-day, such as how much time is spent on the internet or social media
Keeping a journal where you log your mood and activities
Checking in regularly with a therapist or close friend to talk about how you’re doing
Since moods change rapidly, many people would benefit from tracking their state of mind on a regular basis. Use a smartphone application or keep a journal on hand to quickly track how you’re feeling and why you’re feeling that way. It takes just minutes, and it can offer insights that pay off over time.
Set SMART Goals for Yourself
When people begin keeping tabs on their mental health, they usually do so with a purpose. They do it for improving their overall sense of well-being. Setting realistic goals for yourself that you can work toward is important.
Creating a SMART goal is one effective way of setting a good goal for yourself. SMART is an acronym for goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. These qualities make up the key ingredients of an effective goal-setting process.
Set Specific Goals
The first step of a SMART goal is setting a specific endpoint for the goal. For example, if you’re struggling with mood swings, you can set a goal of improving your ability to regulate your emotions during difficult situations.
Creating a specific goal helps you stay focused on the task at hand and not become overwhelmed with trying to change everything.
Keep Outcomes Measurable
The next step of SMART goals is to have a measurable outcome. This is where the importance of tracking your mental health is of the utmost importance.
If you’re struggling with mood swings, you can keep a mood log or journal that breaks down how you’re feeling throughout the day. You could count the days on which you’re successfully able to regulate your emotions as successes. Days on which you swing rapidly between moods would be considered areas for improvement.
Keep Achievable Goals
When setting a goal, the endpoint must be achievable. Take the example of somebody who wants to run a marathon in three months. If they’re an experienced runner and have already run a half marathon in the recent past, this is absolutely an achievable goal for them.
But if a person who’s never gone on a run before decides to run a marathon in three months, they may be setting themselves up for disappointment.
The same idea applies to mental health. If you’ve lived your entire life with crippling social anxiety, setting a goal of speaking to an auditorium of people may be taking on more than you can handle, but setting a goal of giving a toast at a family gathering may be much more attainable.
Goals Should be Relevant
Relevance in terms of SMART goals refers to how the specific goal you’re setting is meaningful in your life. A SMART goal isn’t just a task to be accomplished but something that adds value and richness to your experience.
Of course, this relevance is dependent on the individual. Starting a goal of learning to knit could be incredibly valuable to one person, while it could just be a waste of time and effort for another.
Set a Time Boundary
When setting a SMART goal, it’s important to give yourself a time boundary in which you expect to have accomplished the goal you’ve set. Setting a time limit on your goal helps you to keep progressing along your timeline rather than continuing to push your goals off for another day.
Practice Self-Care Regularly
Self-care is another important tool for helping you keep tabs on your mental health and ensure that you can manage your stress levels. A self-care practice is an action you take to protect your sense of well-being and happiness. It can create a well of motivation and resilience for you to draw upon in your everyday life.
When choosing a self-care practice, consider the activities that both bring you joy and that you feel good about doing. Examples include:
If you’re new to self-care practices, start by setting a SMART goal for the activity you’d like to pursue. Self-care can be used either as a direct coping mechanism for stress, such as going for a massage after a difficult day at work or as a part of your regular routine to help keep your stress levels at a minimum.
Importantly, self-care is not a selfish or indulgent activity. These practices can help you keep your stress levels at a reasonable level, prevent you from experiencing extreme bouts of burnout, and help you live a happier and more productive life.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
If you’re struggling with severe mental health symptoms, don’t be afraid to reach out for professional mental health help. The tools listed above can help people manage general stress and mental health difficulties. But it might not be enough to help you overcome clinical depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses.
If you’re experiencing persistent negative symptoms that don’t seem to get better over time, reach out to a therapist or psychiatrist for mental health help. These professionals can guide you toward treatments and therapies. They have decades of research supporting their ability to help people overcome the symptoms of mental illness.
But you don’t need a diagnosis to see a therapist; nearly anyone can benefit from increasing their mental health awareness by talking with a professional. A therapist is part coach, part confidant, and part interventionist. They can help people with a wide range of challenges and struggles.
Embrace the Process
The path to overall wellness is a journey without a final destination. Embracing these practices can help you along the path and provide valuable tools and coping mechanisms, but they shouldn’t be considered to be a cure or quick fix. Instead, they should be part of optimizing your health and well-being on your lifelong journey.