I wish I had started asking myself these ‘5 Questions to Support your Mental Health’ a way back in my career. I know at various times I’ve committed a lot of time and energy to my physical health – particularly when I was in the those big roles like CEO. It’s important right, to look after ourselves physically? I know of course that it is, but I also know, particularly as I mature, that looking after my mental health is just as important. I also know how easy it is as an executive, with a team to worry about, our own responsibilities, the political environment we operate in, and of course all the things that go on in our life outside of our job, to skip over what’s going on for us, to push forward, maintain momentum and keep on keeping on.
And I also know what the inside of an ambulance looks like and what it feels like to be wheeled on a stretcher from your office by paramedics after experiencing, as it turns out, a breakdown.
So the “what” is clear – look after our mental wellbeing, and in pondering that, I thought about the “how” – how do we practically do that? I have come up with 5 questions we can ask ourselves on a daily basis. You can write down your answers, in a journal or notebook, or you can think through the questions on your daily commute – whatever works for you.
Self aware is my take on self care – really understanding ourselves and what we need.
These 5 questions will help us to become more self aware and understand where we’re at and what we need – before the ambulance is anywhere in sight.
1. Self-Reflection: How Am I Feeling Today?
Begin your daily mental health check-in by contemplating your emotional state. It may sound elementary, but how often do you genuinely pause to assess your feelings?
Use a simple 1 to 10 scale to quantify your emotions. Consistency in this practice is essential; record your daily score in a journal or simply keep track mentally. A consistent drop in your score is a clear signal that your mental health requires attention. Or, think of a word or three to describe how you are feeling in the moment – and write those down.
Also, pay attention to the physical manifestations of stress which can include headaches, body pains, skin rashes, muscle tension, and appetite changes.
2. Identifying Stressors: What’s Been Worrying Me Lately?
Take a moment to reflect on the specific sources of stress or worry in your life. It could be work-related, concerns about family, or financial pressures. Pinpointing these triggers is a critical step towards addressing them effectively.
For instance, if it’s the constant barrage of events around the world causing distress, consider taking regular breaks from media and engaging in relaxation activities like journaling, meditation, or a walk in nature or around the block.
If work-related stressors are a concern, keep a journal to identify what situations cause the most stress. This will enable you to develop constructive strategies, such as taking short breaks or establishing clear boundaries.
Remember, understanding your stressors is the first step to managing them.
3. Meeting Basic Needs: Am I Providing My Body With Its Essentials?
In the hustle and bustle of our daily life, it’s easy to neglect fundamental self-care practices like eating, exercising, and sleeping. I know, I’ve been there. Yet, these are pivotal for maintaining both your physical and mental health.
Ensure that you:
- Consume nutrient-rich meals, incorporating fruits and vegetables and staying hydrated.
- Engage in physical activity daily, whether it’s a brisk walk or an online workout session. I am loving at home YouTube yoga practices – in my own time and space.
- Get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
Remember, your mental and physical health are interconnected; attending to both is vital for overall wellness.
4. Pursuing Joy: What Am I Doing to Bring Myself Joy?
Amid the demands of your professional life, it’s easy to relegate leisure activities to the back burner. However, cultivating happiness is crucial for your mental well-being.
Ask yourself what you’re doing to infuse joy into your life. If you draw a blank, it’s time to make a change. Some strategies to introduce joy include:
- Maintaining a gratitude journal, listing three things you’re thankful for each day.
- Planning a brief getaway, like a camping trip or a staycation close to home.
- Exploring your creative side with new recipes, painting, or crafting projects.
- Enjoying a comedy film or television show.
- Connecting with loved ones who bring a smile to your face.
- Spending quality time with your pets.
- Soaking up the sun for 15 minutes outdoors.
Prioritising these activities can significantly enhance your mental health.
5. Building a Support System: Who Do I Have In My Corner?
Having a reliable support network is fundamental for your mental health. Identify the individuals you can turn to in times of need, whether it’s a partner, sibling, healthcare provider, or a trusted friend. They should possess qualities such as offering sound advice, trustworthiness, respect, and a genuine interest in your well-being.
Support groups can be invaluable in finding like-minded individuals who understand your challenges and can offer their support. They serve as a valuable resource for expanding your support system. You could also try formal coaching or mentoring for support.
Make Mental Health Check-Ins a Habit
Remember, forming a new habit takes time. Initiating daily mental health check-ins might feel unusual initially, but with persistence, it will become second nature. And trust me, it’s worth it.
By making this self-reflection a routine part of your day, you equip yourself to navigate life’s challenges with a resilient and balanced mindset. Your mental well-being is a cornerstone of your success and effectiveness as an executive or manager, as a partner, friend, parent and sibling.
You can find more information on Workplace Wellbeing and Mental Health Training here.
Written by Michelle McFadyen