Mental health checklist

Are you ever going through your day and then you stop and think, “What happened?”

Maybe last week or last month you felt really good. Maybe you felt productive or happy. Maybe you didn’t struggle to get through the day.

Then, all of the sudden you feel like you’re trudging through your day. Like every moment, every situation is a battle.

I know that happens to me. And though it happens quite often, I am almost always shocked by it. But you know what, life is hard. Doing the things to keep ourselves well and in an upward motion can be really challenging. It’s almost comical how I’ll find myself feeling a certain kind of way. Then I’ll think, Shana you know you’re not doing the things you need to do to be well. #facepalm

One way to get back on track is to create a mental health checklist. Yes, if you want to feeling better, reference the last time you felt the way you wanted to feel. It will provide clues. We’ll make a checklist of those things.

Then, next time you find yourself feeling a certain kind of way, you will refer to your checklist. Better yet, refer to it daily. This checklist is specifically made by you, with your best interests in mind on how to get YOU feeling better. It might be difficult to make yourself do some of the items on the checklist, but if you can do them even without feeling like them, eventually I bet you’ll start feeling like it.

You see, when things seem like they’ve spiraled out of control, it might be that we’re just not doing the things that we can control. Those things might just be the key to sanity, to feeling better. The truth is, feeling better is an available option. And we have the ability to make it happen for ourselves.

I’m going to share some ideas to get your brain juices flowing. This is my checklist. Use the printable to create your own.

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  1. Sleep
    • Sleep is probably the number one contributor to poor mental health. When things are going wrong, think about how much sleep you’ve been getting. It can give you a clue to why things may be bad. It can also give you a “simple” solution to hopefully start feeling better. That’s empowering because it gives you a reason (potentially) and an action to remedy it.
    • Sleep helps you solve problems, it reduces stress, it reduces anxiety. Sleep makes your brain calm down and not see everything quite as overwhelming, scary or annoying.
    • Consider a nap if you’re feeling down. It’s a great investment for the rest of your day, both physically and mentally.
  2. Routine
    • Keeping a routine and daily schedule–and tracking it with paper or some system–alleviates some of the stress and anxiety in your brain. It dumps that information on paper and makes for less in-the-moment decisions your brain has to make.
    • Consider a morning routine. What things do you need to get accomplished in the beginning of the day to make yourself feel confident and at ease?
    • Knowing that you have certain things planned and accounted for and completed throughout the day can really help your mental health.
    • Consider a bedtime routine. Here you can review things from the day and plan the next day so your brain can rest at night. You can also incorporate #7.
    • When I’m knocked off of any sort of routine, I notice I start to get anxious. I start to feel a little lost. It’s kind of silly to think about it that way, but I’ve noticed it to be 100% true in my life. I know this was responsible for the major blues I had when I first became a stay at home mom (combined with #1, hello!).
  3. Exercise
    • Exercise releases a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) in your brain which kind of acts like a reset switch.
    • Doctors prescribe exercise to those with depression because it produces endorphins (feelings of happiness and euphoria) and serotonin (lack of is often linked to depression).
    • It doesn’t have to be a lot. Anything from a walk, a bike ride or something more strenuous. It will help.
  4. Get outside
    • Sunshine & nature help. A lot. If you’re feeling down, think about how much time you’ve spent in nature. I bet it’s not a lot.
  5. Community
    • I know thinking about being social can cause some even more anxiety. But social interaction is a big part of well being. So, come up with your favorite way to be social. One that causes you to be excited, not anxious. And do that.
    • Ideas are lunch with a friend, coffee date, go to a movie, go to Starbucks with headphones on, library (no one can talk to you!), phone call.
    • Our brains talk us out of social interaction when we’re feeling blue. But it’s a lie. Our brains are wrong in this case. You need it friend. You need folks.
  6. Pleasure
    • How many times during your day do you do what you actually want to do? Often we’re doing things we have to do or we’re doing things that are someone else’s version of fun. You need at least some time in your day where you’re doing something that brings you pleasure.
    • Pleasure is kind of like the buzz term self-care.
    • Examples might include a massage, shopping, a tv show, lipstick, a bath, video games.
    • Pleasure is a good thing, we just have to be a little careful. For example, yummy food is pleasurable. Stuffing yourself until you don’t feel well or eating a bunch of twinkies is too much pleasure. Watching a show might bring you pleasure. Binge watching all night isn’t a good thing.
  7. Joy
    • Joy is a completely different thing than pleasure. Joy comes from within, it’s self-sustaining and it doesn’t rely on external things like pleasure does.
    • One of the easiest ways to produce joy is to focus on gratitude. Write down three things each day that you’re grateful for. If you have time, expand on them. This is a very simple way to produce joy.
    • For me personally, joy comes from looking outside of myself to the bigger picture. If you’re a person of faith, that’s where you can look to find genuine joy.

There you have it. No, I’m not a counselor or therapist. I am a person who fights against depression and anxiety almost daily. I am a person who has figured out methods to crawl out of dark places and to say out. I am a person who wants to help others do the same. If you need to talk or would like to work together, fill out the form below.

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