Sis, be honest — how often do you check in with yourself? As women wearing multiple hats while navigating uncertain times, we can’t afford not to sit down and take inventory of how we’re doing and how we’re processing what’s happening around us. This month, we reached out to highly sought-after mental health advocate Dr. Anita Phillips for insight on how to make the most of our midyear check-in. We also talked about the importance of checking in regularly. Ladies, you’re gonna want to take notes!
WTAL: Last month was Mental Health Awareness Month, but as we enter the middle of the year, can you explain the importance of making time to check in with yourself regularly?
Dr. Anita: We live in a culture that has trained us to believe that the path to success means being busy every second of the day. We believe that we must always achieve more, downtime is laziness, and sleep is for the weak. These lies are dangerous. Even during the worst days of the pandemic, when we needed to be paying attention to its impact on our mental health, the pervasive message was to use the time to do more.
This addiction to “busy” means we can go days, weeks, or longer without stopping to pay attention to our wellness. Too often, we don’t stop until something stops us. It’s like driving for months with the “check engine” light on in your car. The car seems to be running fine and then suddenly it stops working, except it wasn’t really sudden; you just didn’t heed the warning. With all that is happening in the world, everyone’s “check engine” light is on!
WTAL: When the engine light is on, what should our check-ins look like?
Dr. Anita: In a perfect world, we would check in with ourselves every single day and engage in self-care rituals. But, don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to do that. The last thing most of us need is to have one more unattainable standard tossed in our lap. Am I right?
If this is new for you, start with a weekly check-in. Saturday morning, Sunday morning, or Sunday evening are all great times. Weekends are usually a little slower and offer the opportunity to both reflect on the previous week and set your intentions for the week to come. Take an internal inventory, shine a light on what you are grateful for, note what areas you would like to improve, and choose a kindness (or two, three, or 10) to show yourself on the days between check-ins.
That kindness can be anything that always makes your day better: journaling, prayer, a morning walk, reading a book on your lunch break, going to bed early, doing yoga, or anything else that uniquely blesses you! And, please remember that kindness is a gift you give to yourself, not an obligation you beat yourself up about.
WTAL: What questions should we reflect on while taking inventory of ourselves?
Dr. Anita: I think it’s great to be objective whenever possible, so I suggest giving each dimension of your life a score. On a scale of 1 to 10, how are you doing spiritually, emotionally, and physically? Identify all that you are grateful for in each area and then, for each score, answer these questions: Where are you compared to last weekend? What would it take to rate each area one point higher? Two points higher? Three points higher? This approach helps us to look at our overall well-being, practice gratitude, and break potential changes into small, specific, manageable goals.
WTAL: How do we get back on track if we’re not where we want to be?
Dr. Anita: Is anyone ever completely where they want to be? Most of us are on a journey toward living our best, most powerful life. That journey will ebb and flow. There will be progress and there will be stumbles. Sometimes the storms of life will blow us off course. Don’t worry! Success isn’t about running the perfect race from beginning to end. You don’t need to “start over.” You just need to keep going. Catch your breath, gather your strength, and pick up where you left off!
WTAL: Those reminders about not being too hard on ourselves are so needed! What resources would you recommend to help during this process?
Dr. Anita: The good news is, if you begin your check-ins using the simple process that I suggested here you likely already have everything you need. Sometimes we spend more time preparing to do simple things when we could just do them! That being said, I encourage you to seek out resources specific to the journey that your unique inventory maps out for you.
WTAL: What advice would you give to someone on the fence about going to therapy?
Dr. Anita: Your emotional health is paramount. Our emotional well-being impacts every other part of our lives. Proverbs 15:13 tells us that a broken heart can break us spiritually. We also know that unresolved emotional pain lives in our body and can manifest as a number of chronic illnesses. On the flip side, emotional wellness can position us to live a more spiritually powerful and physically healthy life. Therapy is an excellent way to heal and strengthen our emotional lives, so I believe that everyone should have a therapist! Therapy isn’t for mentally ill people; therapy is for all people. If you have been struggling for a while, please find a licensed mental health professional to work with before things get worse. If you are doing great, I recommend finding a therapist who you check in with once or twice a year just like you go to the dentist for cleanings or your doctor for a physical. As the old saying goes: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
WTAL: For those of us who are overwhelmed with uncertainty or decision fatigue, what can we do to continue to move forward?
Dr. Anita: The world is literally saturated with uncertainty right now. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There are many decisions that need to be made with very little reliable information about the future. If you are feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to take immediate action to reduce the emotional intensity you are living with. Start by taking basic care of your body. Eating at regular intervals throughout the day, drinking more water, and getting a few extra hours of sleep can work wonders. Reduce decision fatigue by developing routines that limit the number of decisions you need to make each day, delegating some decisions to others, and relinquishing control over things that are not your responsibility. If straightforward changes like these don’t offer improvement, or the changes prove too difficult right now, it may be time to get help. Some ways to find a great therapist are to ask for referrals from family and friends, check with your health insurance provider, or use an online directory like PsychologyToday.com/.
WTAL: After we’ve evaluated ourselves during our midyear check in, how can we ensure that we will make changes?
Dr. Anita: Our chance of achieving the changes that we would like to see in our lives depends largely on how we set those goals. It’s important to set SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. The more clearly your goal reflects each of those five elements the more likely you will achieve it. Celebrating small wins along the way helps us to stay motivated. Finally, set change goals that inspire you! Too often our goals feel more like punishment than inspiration. Remember this: You can’t hate yourself into being better, but you can love yourself there!
About Dr. Anita Phillips
Trauma therapist and life coach, Dr. Anita Phillips is an expert at unraveling the human experience. Her work, known for its paradigm-shifting insights at the intersection of mental health, spirituality, and culture, is guided by one simple idea: Most things that seem complicated are actually just hard. From overthrowing anxiety to reimagining the path to equity, Dr. Anita helps people, groups, and organizations accomplish hard things.
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