11 Simple Ways We Can Monitor & Maintain Our Own Mental Health

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woman sitting by window thinking

Self-care can be difficult to prioritize, no matter who you are.

But here are some ways in which we can monitor our mental health and when we need to take a break.

Here are 11 simple ways to monitor your mental and emotional health

1. Check in with yourself

Sometimes we just don’t know that we are in a negative head space. And it may take a while before we are aware of it, perhaps after we have already had some form of meltdown.

One solution to this is setting a timer or an alarm to intermittently go off so that you can prompt yourself to check in with yourself. Are your shoulders tense? Are you clenching your fists? Grinding your teeth? It can be beneficial to check in with yourself to allow you to release any tension before you explode.

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2. Ground yourself

Let’s say you check in with yourself and find that you need to decompress. One thing that you can do is ground yourself by taking in your surroundings with each of your senses. Some call this the 5-4-3-2-1 method, where you find:

  • 5 things you can see
  • 4 things you can hear
  • 3 things you can touch
  • 2 things you can smell
  • 1 thing you can taste

I like to tell clients not to worry so much about counting these, as this can increase anxiety for some. Instead, I tell clients to focus on each of their senses — this is to bring them back to the present moment.

3. Slowly drink cold water

I have had a number of clients tell me that, when having anxiety or an outright panic attack, slowly drinking cold water has been calming for them. This is both due to the act of mindfully drinking the water — bringing you back to the present moment in doing so, as well as the temperature of the water “shocking” your nervous system and releasing endorphins (or the “feel good” hormone) to decrease symptoms of anxiety or depression.

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4. Splash cold water on your face

Like drinking cold water, splashing cold water on your face can be calming. The benefits of cold water date as far back as 400 BC. Hippocrates believed that cold water could reduce instances of fatigue. It is believed that the effects of cold water can have benefits to your cardiovascular health as well.

5. Pencil in your worries

This may sound ridiculous, but there is merit to this. Scheduling a block or two of time in the day to address your anxieties can make such thoughts less intrusive throughout the day. I like to recommend two times a day: one at the beginning and one at the end. That way, if an intrusive thought pops up, you can remind yourself that either you have already given time to this thought or you will give time to the thought later in the day.

6. Budget time for yourself in your calendar

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be hard to find time for yourself. It is also difficult to truly set aside that time for yourself. But we need this time for ourselves to decompress.

7. Be aware of your boundaries

Oftentimes, we work ourselves to the bone. In addition to setting those timers or alarms in order to keep yourself from exploding, it is important to know what your boundaries are so that you know how to communicate them to others so that you don’t work right to or past your limits.

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8. Make a list of your needs

Not just your needs to survive, but also your needs to thrive. What do you need in your life right now? What needs are being met, and what needs are falling to the wayside?

9. Practice self-compassion

I am not one to spout toxic positivity your way. If saying “I love you” in the mirror is beneficial to you, then do it. Everyone needs self-love. But not everyone is ready for it.

So instead, I like to talk to people about practicing incorporating neutral statements into their lives. Tell yourself things like, “I am a person, and therefore, I am worthy of respect,” or, “I am a human being, and that means I will make mistakes.” These examples are objective and more difficult to argue against.

10. Be active for 5-10 minutes a day

I’m not saying that you need to have an intense exercise regimen; however, studies have shown that being active — be it walking around the neighborhood or simply dancing in your kitchen, can improve your mood.

11. Expand or reach out to your social circle

No one person is an island. We all need support. Reach out to your friends, family, and significant others … you are not a burden.

Of course, sometimes we need more support. Reaching out to a therapist can be helpful for forming a game plan to navigate through obstacles that hinder us from being healthier versions of ourselves. And that’s OK. Do what is right for you.

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Miki Anderson is a licensed clinical mental health counselor in North Carolina, with in-depth knowledge on anxiety, depression, trauma, ethical non-monogamy, and kink lifestyles.