I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a wee while, as I haven’t been writing about mental health as much this year but the team at Thrive got in touch and asked me to review their app so I thought this would be the perfect time to share this with you. I wrote this post as I thought it might be a good idea to put together a few key things to keep an eye on if you’re worried about your mental health. I have listed some of the things I monitor and keep a track of when it comes to managing my own mental health. Please note that I am not a professional when it comes to mental health, and I can only talk about what works for me in the hope it helps someone else. Of course, keep in mind that the signs are different for absolutely everyone and this post may not be relevant to all, but you might find something that you haven’t really thought about or noticed before.
Are you sleeping too much or sleeping too little?
Sleep is a really good indicator for the state of your mental health, only you can really monitor it, and only you can see it. A lot of people dismiss a bad sleep as a one off or can even think everyone else must have crappy sleep too but it really is important to keep an eye on your sleep as it can give off a few tell-tale signs that you might need to seek some help or advice.
When I’m going through a low stage, I usually find myself exhausted no matter how much I sleep, and I sleep A LOT. I mean, sleeping 10 – 12 hours a night and having naps in the mid to late afternoon if I need to. I sleep away my weekends, laying in til lunch time and then enjoying an afternoon nap and still waking up groggy. I have also struggled with the opposite in the past, when I was a teen I had insomnia due to anxiety and I just could not sleep. It would be 3 or 4am before I could catch a few hours of sleep before getting up for school the same day. I don’t know how I managed it (as I need my 8 hours these days). I also used to have reoccurring night terrors quite often. Others have spoken to me about having really interrupted sleep, finding themselves waking up every hour or every few hours and struggling to have a continued sleep. These are all signs that something isn’t quite right. It doesn’t always mean that your bad sleep is directly linked to your mental health (it could be a whole host of things), but more often than not stress, over exertion and trauma affect the quality of your sleep. Sleep is your time to heal and rest your body, if you’re not getting good sleep, you’re not healing.
Feeling lethargic or overly agitated or energetic?
Your energy levels are another good indicator for the state of your mental health. Again, it’s something you can keep an eye on yourself. Having low energy levels can get mistaken for laziness, or a ‘I can’t be bothered’ attitude, and being agitated so much so that you can’t sit still can be read as ‘hyperactive’. Much like sleep, your energy levels are something that give off some signs that you might need to seek some help. If you notice a change in your energy levels during a stressful period it could be that something isn’t quite right.
I’m the lethargic type, I don’t want to do anything. I can’t concentrate on anything, I want to vegetate in my bed and probably sleep. I have absolutely no energy, to the extent that I can’t even bring myself to properly concentrate when I’m watching TV. It’s almost like I am on shutdown mode. Let alone get out and get some fresh air, or exercise. It’s a wake up at 8, go to work, and come home to sleep routine that falls into place. Others have the complete opposite, and this is not uncommon. Some of my friends have described how they can’t focus on one thing because their brain is so over active that they cannot keep their mind on any one task. Some people have described to me that they need to be constantly occupied, and constantly doing something whether that be exercise, tapping the desk or just keeping busy with random tasks. One friend says that they just cannot sit still, at all. That they are always fidgety, always uncomfortable and always tapping their feet.
Your thoughts are something once again, only you can keep an eye on. Only you really know what is going through that beautiful little (or big) brain of yours. It’s important that you take care of them, because if you tell yourself something enough you’ll start to believe it. So you want to make sure everything up there is positive.
I’ve always been relatively good at recognising my bad or illogical thoughts, but like most people, in low periods I struggle when it comes to controlling my thoughts. I had a batch of CBT when I was at school to help with my anger and it worked wonders for pointing out and helping me to recognise which thoughts were irrational. Thoughts are a miraculous thing. One minute you can be thinking about the beautiful day trip you’ve got ahead of you and the next you could be spiralling into everything that could possibly go wrong. One minute you can be extremely happy, and the next you can think everyone in the room or everyone you know is completely against you. The scariest part is that the more you tell yourself it, the more you believe it. I think most people will have experienced the small niggling thoughts in the back of their mind, like ‘Did I leave the straighteners on?’, ‘Did I lock the front door?’, but it’s when things like this and other negative thoughts start to pre-occupy the best part of your day that something isn’t quite right. When you notice a change, or you notice yourself feeling weighed down by what’s whizzing around your head that it might be best to schedule in an appointment with your GP to have a check over on that.
Behaviour & Mood
Are your moods up and down? Hating the things you used to love? Are you angered by the tiniest of things?
Your behaviour and mood is probably the biggest key, and the most obvious sign of a change as others can also notice it and will hopefully not shy away from pointing it out to you.
My moods are all over the place when I’m in a low; up, down and round and round. I’m either very emotional or very closed off. There’s no real in-between. I also used to struggle with anger when I was young, and act out in very angry ways rather irrationally. It’s the irrational behaviour that’s a good tell-tale sign that something is off. Are you finding yourself reacting in unusual ways to situations? Bursting out in tears or storming off? Are you all of a sudden being more and more irresponsible? Risk-taking? Making dangerous or not very well thought out decisions or choices? These are all signs that your mental health might not be in the best of places. Anything that is completely out of character, and continues for a period of time could indicate that you’re maybe missing something or that it might be a good idea to chat to someone about why you are making these decisions or what has changed in your behaviour. Sometimes just talking to someone you can trust can help.
If you’re not a journal keeper, or you prefer to keep your most sensitive information or thoughts with you at all times, then using an app like Thrive can really help you keep track of your mental health. I’ve been using it to keep a track of things that bother me and have a direct effect on my mood. Each day, it asks you how you feel and depending on your response it asks you a series of questions to assess where your mental health is currently at using the mood meter. It asks you about your thoughts, and gives you options for a better way to think about things using the thought trainer. This has actually helped my anxiety over the past few weeks of moving to new city, as it provides rational responses to my irrational thoughts. Once you’ve done your assessment, it takes you to the home screen where you can do a number of activities to boost your mental health. Things like breathing exercises, mediation, deep muscle relaxation and some games. My favourite is the wise words game, each level has a positive word that you have to find to move on to the next level and each time you find an additional positive word you get extra points. It’s a really good distraction from negative thoughts, and I can get absolutely lost playing it. I love that you can monitor your progress, and over time you can track if there are any re-occurring issues to keep an eye on.
The things above don’t even begin to scratch the surface on signs for showing that your mental health might be in a bad place, but are a few things that I think are easy to keep an eye on and that you can manage yourself. The examples just go to show that mental health can affect you in a whole variety of ways and every single person experiences it differently.
If you do start to notice changes in any of the above, keeping a track of everything in an app like Thrive, a journal, diary or even in the notes on your phone can help you to monitor any changes or signs and help you to keep track of whether these things are reoccurring or if you’ve just had a one-off really bad day.
If you want to read more of my posts about mental health, you can find them here.
Love, Ysabelle x