Photo by Annie Spratt
Search the web, and psychological tools, self-checklist and pseudo-assessments abound. Depression and Anxiety, Stress rating scales, etc.
While these measures that you see in magazines and even non-profit organisations websites helping people in distress are well intended and oftentimes useful, there is also a more PERSONAL way to gauge your mental health.
I propose you to run through these five questions below.
#1. Ask yourself how is your inner life like?
Notice the inner-chatter that you hear.
We mistake these voices as us.
You are not the voices. You are the person listening to the voices.
Figuring out your inner life is a highly efficient, though not easy a litmus test on your mental health.
It does require a very important ability to cultivate: Meta-awareness. This means not just the ability to be self-aware, but the ability to notice what, how and why you are thinking a certain way. It requires the ability to PULL yourself out of the inner-chatter and have perspective outside of yourself.
#2. Ask your loved one, “What is one thing that you are worried about me?”
The truth is “It takes two to know one.” There may actually be a more reliable way to gauge your mental health.
Go ahead, ask someone you trust, “what is the one thing that you are most worried about me?” First, the person might be taken aback. Be open to what they have to say because their responses will be revealing.
Suspend a need to explain yourself and provide a rationale. Instead, listen.
Often, others can see what we fail to see or even admit.
It takes a combination of courage, humility, and intelligence to ask someone what he or she might be worried about you. It’s a powerful conversation starter.
Thank this person that you trust.
#3. Measure How You Rest
Are you able to sleep? Can you wind down without the use of substance?
Can your mind switch off when it needs to?
Sleep is often neglected and underrated. Sleep helps not only your mood, but also learning and cognitive ability. Not to mention the impact on your immune system, testosterone levels, and prevention of cancer. (For more, see:
Sleep is not a waste of time. Don’t waste your life by depriving yourself of sleep (even if it means letting go of that extra episode of Game of Thrones).
#4. Measure How You Function
I’ve intentionally left this as near the bottom of the list. More mental health practitioners focus on a patient’s ability to function as a key metric. I think it’s important, but I think the above three points get left out too easily. Besides, most people who are suffering inside and in silence can function. Sometimes, they pour themselves into work. Sometimes, they overvalue the ability to work very hard as a sign that they are ok. Only to lead to a disastrous burnout and/or symptoms of high irritability and chronic fatigue.
#5. If You Are Not Able to Answer Any of the 4 Questions Above…
… Chances are, you’d benefit from connecting with someone, be it a pastor, a counsellor/psychologist, confidante, or someone you can turn to.
Meaningful and personal conversations has the ability to touch, heal, and inspire.
Psychotherapy is not “just talk”. Psychotherapy consists of two Greek words: psyche (soul) and therapy (care). It’s a form of conversation that is caring for your inner life. It’s often a mistake to refer psychotherapy as a talking cure. It’s also not a listening cure. It’s a relational cure.
(For more about the effectiveness of psychotherapy, see Three Surprising Facts About Psychotherapy You and Your Doctor Need to Know).
On the Flipside:
There is a paradox in our individual psychological health: By and large, our MENTAL HEALTH IS DETERMINED BY OUR SOCIAL HEALTH.
If we have no idea what our inner-life is like, it is likely we would benefit from having a deep conversation with a trusted friend or a professional.
If you are unable to ask someone the question “what is one thing that you are worried about me?” it means that you might miss an authentic connection with another human being.
If you can’t take notice how you are resting, you are probably overloaded and/or on the brink of burnout (if not already).
If you can’t evaluate how well you are functioning, it might just help to seek advice, and not get lost in the cork wheel of work. After all, there is nothing worse than climbing up a ladder and later realising that, you’ve placed it again the wrong wall.”
What’s your biggest challenge in dealing with your mental health? Love to hear from you in the comments below.
Happy World Mental Health Day!
P/s: Don’t forget to be playful.
 Quote is from Gregory Bateson
 Actual quote from Joseph Campbell: “Sometimes you climb the ladder to the top, only to discover tt u’ve placed it against the wrong wall.”