At my last job, we used to have regular check-ins with our manager to see how we were doing. He’d ask if there was anything he could help with, any tools we needed, or issues we wanted to discuss. Sometimes, I’d have nothing to say. Other times, I’d ask for more assistance with a project, or I’d take the opportunity to vent about something that was bothering me.
These little check-ins made me feel much happier at work. I always got everything off my chest and ensured I had what I needed to do my job well.
Until one day, after a particularly great session, I wondered why I having check-ins with my manager, and yet never with myself.
I’d check-in on friends, I’d check-in on family members or colleagues, and yet I was never taking the time to ask myself these same questions.
So I decided to change that and introduce daily check-ins for my mental health. It was hard to initially build the habit and push past the discomfort of confronting myself, but then I started to notices the effects of these personal check-ins, and I even began look forward to them.
Nowadays, our lives can be so fast-paced. We’ve got a million things to do and a never-ending to-do list. Everything is go, go, go.
And even in our time ‘off’, we’re never really switching off or enjoying the silence. Rather, we fill it with other people, rewatching shows or consuming any media we can get our hands on.
We’re never tuning into ourselves. We’re never stopping to take note of where we are, how we’re doing, what we need. This is why we’re at risk of emotional burnout and burnout in general, as well as other mental health issues.
Taking a moment to check-in with yourself allows you to assess your own needs. Are you happy with how your day is going? Are you happy with how your life is going?
Questions like these can feel silly but ensure that you’re actively choosing the life you lead rather than simply slipping into it. Don’t allow yourself to take the backseat in your own life. Pick your destination, type it into Google Maps (as where would we be without GPS?) and put your foot on the gas pedal.
A daily check-in can take many forms, depending on what you’re looking for. So here are a few formats for daily check-ins that can benefit your mental health.
This is one of the easiest types of daily check-ins. Once a day, write down a list of things you’re grateful for. I aim for three per day, but I know people who do five or even ten.
For example, this was yesterday’s list:
And here is today’s list:
As you can see, they’re not particularly thrilling. But they’re things that made me smile, moments I felt grateful for. It’s been proven that gratitude lists can help your mental health, sleep, mood and immunity.
I have a friend who swears by affirmations. She claims that doing daily affirmations has transformed how she feels about herself. She tells herself every day that she loves her body and all it does for her.
In a way, this is its own daily check-in. Because she is taking a moment for herself, where she reminds herself of what is important to her.
Affirmations work because they’re a personal step forward and they encourage a positive mindset.
So decide what matters to you, whether it’s self-love, your ambition, or another reminder you need, and tell yourself that every single day as your check-in.
A classic format of checking in with yourself!
Journaling gets a bad reputation. We assume it’s simply teenagers whining in a diary with hearts doodled around the corners. But it can also be a place for adults to whine or doodle hearts, there’s no reason teenagers should be the only ones to enjoy the benefits of journaling.
I journal each evening before I go to sleep. I write down what I achieved that day, what I hope to do tomorrow, and any thoughts i have lingering. I started doing this when my depression worsened last summer, as I was struggling to stay productive. This showed me all my small wins within a day, even if they were just getting out of the house or cooking food rather than ordering in. It also helps me to stay focused as I plan for tomorrow, and to release any lingering thoughts in my mind and make sense of them.
Journaling doesn’t have to be sprawling diary entries about your innermost thoughts and feelings, it’s merely an opportunity to stop holding everything inside of your head. It can be very practical, almost a to-do list, or a form of free writing. Discover what works for you but give journaling a chance.
This is something my therapist suggested. She thought it would be helpful for me to be able to mark my changes in mood throughout a day - especially as BPD is known for frequent changes in mood.
So whenever I feel my mood change suddenly, or I become aware of a prominent feeling, I note it down in my designated notebook. This can be elation, sadness, loneliness, anger or any other mood.
It’s not as scheduled as other forms of checking in, but it reflects my journey within a day. It allows me to acknowledge each feeling and begin to spot patterns.
While knowing that something is important should be enough to make us actually do it, this unfortunately isn’t always the case - or ever.
We know that going for more walks or drinking more water will help us to thrive like the puppy we are inside, and yet we just don’t do it. Maybe it’s procrastination, maybe it’s self-sabotage, or maybe it’s just too much to carry only in our mind.
So don’t try to do daily check-ins, make them happen. Don’t look for the time, make the time. And here’s how you do that:
I used to always put appointments or plans with friends into my calendar, and naturally those would always happen. Firstly because someone else was depending on me and I’m a chronic people pleaser, and secondly because I had put it out into the world.
I then tried it with exercising. I decided which days I would go for a run ahead of time and wrote it in my calendar. And guess what? I started actually going for runs rather than forever claiming I would.
Putting pen to paper, or finger to phone screen, allows a task to become real in our eyes. It also helps unburden one extra item from our mental load. So make the time for your daily check-ins by committing to them.
Pick a time in your calendar and make an appointment with yourself to check-in.
As mentioned, it can be pretty hard to drink water regularly. If I was a plant, I would have wilted a long time ago.
But then my sister introduced me to habit stacking.
Habit stacking states that the easiest way to build a new habit is to connect it to an existing one. This means you’re not creating an entirely new pathway in your brain, you’re just catching a ride on one that’s already going full-speed.
It’s kind of like hitchhiking onto a habit.
I could never remember to drink water, even with a massive water bottle on my desk. But you know what I always remembered to drink? Coffee, a lot of it!
So I decided to stick my healthy habit onto this one. Every time I made a cup of coffee, I drank a big glass of water before I could enjoy that coffee. That was three extra glasses of water each day - four when I was very busy and stressed.
Stack daily check-ins onto an existing habit. That could be with your morning coffee, right next to a big glass of water. It could be right as you wake up, to delay getting out of bed for another moment.
We have all of this technology nowadays and plenty of discussions about how bad it can be for us. But what about the ways in which technology can help our well-being?
Perfectly Happy is an app that allows you to create personalised vision boards and set your own affirmations. I find this so much easier on an app than real life, as it means I always have it on me, even when I’m travelling or simply going about my day. It also means I can choose pretty pictures to match all my goals.
I particularly like that it doesn’t just focus on career goals, and instead covers all areas of your life, including relationships, friendships, family, fitness and anything else you choose to prioritise.
Then you choose two times a day to be reminded to go through your affirmations and vision board. This ensures you never forget your daily check-in, and can do it right there, right then.
You can even pick background music for going through your daily affirmations, which makes it a very relaxing moment.
As mentioned previously, when we make a plan with a friend, we’re likelier to see it through. So take this opportunity to rope a friend into your latest well-being escapade.
You could both plan to do your daily check-in at a certain time, or notify each other once you’ve done it. This will hold you both accountable. Especially because hearing that they’ve done it will give you the swift kick you need to do your own.
Or you could do your daily check-in to the friend. Why not each make a voice recording, once a day, as your daily check-in? It’s slightly less private, but if you focus on things you don’t mind sharing with this person, it can still be a chance to summarise how you’re feeling. If you do this each day, it’ll almost feel like a private podcast for the two of you!
Introducing a daily check-in is the best way to tune in to the frequency of how you’re feeling. There is so much background noise in our lives, so find the method that works for you and shut it all off for a moment. Work out how you’re feeling so you can understand how to improve it, what’s missing, or what do you need to remove from your life. Whether you need to introduce boundaries to your friendships, or try something crazy like showering in the dark, find what works for you, not for everyone else.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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