We are encouraged to check our breasts or prostate. Watch out for physical symptoms of unseen disease. We understand the benefit of keeping a watchful eye on indicators of physical illness but how many of us keep an eye on signs that our mental health might need some attention. The mental health foundation reports that only 13 per cent of people live with high levels of good mental health and nearly two thirds of people say they have experienced a mental health problem. Lack of awareness and stigma around mental health means that we do not always monitor how we are doing. Often times, common illnesses such as anxiety or depression can slip over us like a dark veil when we could address the issue at a much earlier stage. Many people are not aware they are suffering mental health issues. Symptoms which may be communicating changes are needed. A call to focus on our state of mind and how external influences are affecting us. In our busy lives we carry on regardless until, in some cases, the symptoms begin to prevent us from living normal lives. We often suffer in silence.
Below are 8 areas to remain aware of:
Feeling out of breath, short of breath and like you cannot catch up with your breathing can be signs of anxiety. Be mindful of fast, short, shallow breathing and sighing often. When we are anxious our breathing will be disrupted in this way. Check in with your breath.
Just as strong social connections and relationships are good indicators of wellness, avoiding social situations could indicate something is amiss with your mental health. Particularly if you are cancelling get-togethers and choosing to remain alone. Keep note of your social interactions and motivation for connecting with others. Is it just an off day or are you choosing to withdraw on a regular basis?
Sleep is hard to ignore. If your sleep patterns have changed pay attention to what they are telling you. Whether you are sleeping too little, too often or waking in the night and struggling to get back to sleep it can be signalling a mental health issue.
Back pain, muscle aches, twitching, chest pain, palpitations, upset stomach and hot flushes are just some physical symptoms that can signal an underlying psychological issue. If these symptoms occur without good physical reason they could signal an increasing anxiety and low mood. Don’t ignore physical signs and be mindful of any changes.
Pay attention to changes in energy level. Notice when you feel continuous lethargy or struggle to relax. Consecutive days of restlessness or the desire to ‘run off’ energy can be telling. Similarly, the desire to rest or nap and not wanting to rise in the morning.
Eating well is a balance. If you find that your appetite is suppressed and you are eating less or craving and indulging in excessive amounts of food, it could indicate an underlying mental health issue. Notice what is or isn’t on your plate.
Consumption of alcohol/drugs
Alcohol consumption can creep up without you noticing. Masking issues, enabling sleep and dampening down a frazzled nervous system. Likewise, prescription and recreational drugs can often be a method of self-medication that signals an underlying issue. Pay attention to your alcohol consumption and question why it may be increasing.
Fuzzy thinking and not being able to think clearly are common symptoms of mood disorders. If you find that your mind is foggy or racing, running over the same concerns and scenarios it may be time to stop and access the cause.
If you have any concerns with your wellbeing or mental health you can consult your GP or health professional. At the same time look at your schedule. What’s on your plate and how it may be improved so that you are kinder to yourself. Speak to someone such as a friend or your partner. Seek out a coach or therapist who can give you the tools to keep your mind healthy and well.