If you’re struggling with mental health, it’s important to stay on top of it. Keeping up with how you’re doing can help you to establish patterns, to recognize when things are actually wrong, and to see when things improve or get worse. That can be difficult because changes to mental health often happen slowly. Like the proverbial slowing turning up the heat on a pan to boil a frog, you don’t notice things getting back until they are so bad you can’t cope.

The 2020 National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health shows that 52.9 million Americans struggle with some form of mental health disorder. Of those, 14.2 million people have a serious (debilitating) mental health disorder. A significant portion of the population struggles with mental health. It’s normal and healthy to keep track of your mental health, to understand how you’re feeling, and to get help when you need it. These 10 ways to track your mental health should help you to get started.

1. Invest in Mental Health Literacy

Mental health literacy is the concept of having the words to talk about how you feel emotionally and mentally. While that’s often accessible and normal for women, it often isn’t so for men. In fact, many men have trouble recognizing and defining emotions, which can make it extremely difficult to tell or to discuss when things do go wrong. Building the tools to recognize and share mental health disorders can be crucial to not only being able to share them with others and to ask for help, but also in being able to recognize that your mental health isn’t doing well. And, while mental health literacy is a common problem in men, it also affects women – as not everyone is raised in an environment that allows a good perception of emotions, feelings, and mental health.

2. Keep an Emotional Journal

a woman writing down her moods every day on her emotional journalA mental health or emotional journal can help you to track how you’re feeling by literally writing down your moods as they occur. Here, you may prefer to use a notepad or notes on your phone. What you do want to do is note your general mood. You also want to record general shifts in mood, what inspired those changes, and what’s affecting you. The more sudden or more dramatic a shift in mood, the more important it is to record. The general idea is to paint a picture of what your mood is like each day, what’s contributing to that, and why. If that sounds like too much, the next option is a lighter way to get started.

3. Rate Your Mood Each Day

Simply rating your mood each day can help you to get a general idea of what you felt like on a general or given day. You can break this up into ratings throughout the day. You can also give each day a general rating, such as a 1-10 rating where 1 is very bad and 10 is very good. This will give you a good idea of what your general emotional mood is each day, over time. So, if you realize you’re experiencing only bad days or almost all bad days, you should do something about it.

This tactic can be less useful than an emotional journal. However, it’s more accessible if you don’t have the mental energy, literacy, or understanding of your own emotions to write about them.

4. Invest in Habits and Pay Attention to When You Miss Them

Good habits, like spending time cleaning, investing in exercise, or going for walks outdoors can help to improve your mental health. But, when your mental health is struggling, you’ll probably struggle to maintain those habits. Pay attention. If you start dropping habits, skipping cleaning, skipping taking care of yourself, etc., it may be time to look into getting help. Failing to keep up self-care habits is a self-defeating cycle, because you skip them because you don’t have energy or feel bad. The thing is, not doing them makes you feel worse and removes your support structure – causing things to spiral.

5. Spend Time on Mindfulness

Mindfulness, whether meditation, yoga, or an app like Headspace can help to clear your head. This should, eventually, give you more insight into how you’re feeling by helping you to stop worrying and to stop forcing concerns about the future onto yourself now.

6. Use Apps to Chronical Your Journey

photo of a young man going through the apps in his mobileMobile apps do not provide an alternative to therapy. However, they can help you to track your mood, motivation, and general mental state. Here, What’s Up and Mood Kit are extremely popular solutions. However, there are dozens of apps out there and you might want to do some research and choose one that suits your needs.

7. Ask for Regular Checkups with Your Doctor or a Mental Health Professional

If you know that you struggle with mental health, it may be important to regularly visit a doctor or mental health professional. Ensuring you get an assessment on a yearly basis means you are having a second opinion on your mental health, from a perspective. That can help you to stay on track. However, it often isn’t enough, especially if you’re prone to forcing yourself to be competent or to look like you’re doing well during assessments.

8. Listen to Others Talking About Your Mental Health

If your friends and family are talking about your mental health, listen. Often, family members try to warn us when they’re concerned about how we are doing, especially if our habits have changed, we’ve started using more drugs or alcohol, we’ve stopped taking care of our appearance, or in general show more signs of stress. While loved ones might often say you seem like you’re doing better just to be polite or because they don’t know what’s going on, usually mentions that they are worried about you should be taken seriously.

9. Establish a Baseline of “normal”

What is your normal mood? What do you feel like when things are good? What is your ideal state? If you don’t know that, you might want to go to mental health treatment to try to establish that baseline. Understanding what normal is for you is important in understanding when you go off track. While that’s impossible to define if you have a bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, it’s extremely useful for others, even with chronic mental health disorders, because it can help you to flag and get help when things start to escalate.

10. Go to Therapy

Eventually, there’s no substitute for regular therapy, even if it’s just for maintenance. You don’t have to be struggling to maintain habits to ask for help. Preventive mental health treatment can be just as important for your long-term mental health. Here, it’s important to find a therapist who can treat you based on taking preventive measures, who is willing to learn your mental health history, and who will help you to keep track of your health as it changes over time.

Eventually, if you struggle with chronic mental health problems, your mood and health will always go up and down. Being able to recognize when things are going wrong can help you to get into treatment to prevent things from spiraling out of control. Hopefully, these 10 tips help you with getting there.

Good luck with tracking your mental health and with staying healthy.

If you or a loved one is struggling, help is there. And, it can help you to get back to normal. If you need help with mental health treatment, drug rehab, or alcohol rehab Compassion Recovery Center is here to help. Contact us to ask about our mental health programs and how we can support your specific requirements as you move into treatment.