I promise minimal period talk
I use an app to track my monthly cycle. When you hear “monthly cycle,” you probably think I mean my period, but I mean the whole month, the whole cycle. Each day, the app prompts me to log symptoms such as mood, aches and pains, external factors such as illness or travel, discharge (gross, sorry), and sexual activity (fun AND gross, not sorry).
I enjoy tracking things like this. In fact, for a while, I put a daily event in my Google Calendar called “health,” and I updated each day with any particular health issues I had that day. So, in theory, if I went to the doctor for a symptom, I could look at my calendar and see how long I’ve been suffering from it.
But my favorite part of the cycle-tracking app is that occasionally when I put in a symptom, a little chat box pops up and I have a sort of conversation with the app bot. It’s really just questions, and I select answers, but it’s displayed as if it’s a chat. For some reason this makes me feel like I’m talking to someone about myself and that what I’m saying matters.
Is that sad? I don’t care.
Sometimes I am feeling depressed, and all I want is to tell someone. Often, I know many strategies, coping skills, and distractions that could help, but depressed-me is not in a state to talk myself into what I need to do. So, I made myself a survey that I take at least one time a day, and I specifically try to remember it when I am feeling down.
I created this survey to ask how I’m feeling, and to suggest coping skills based on what I need. I call it my Mental Health Check-in. The language in it is validating and encouraging. Here’s some examples:
You matter. How are you today? Good. / Recovered. / Okay, not great. / Teetering. / Not okay.
You are important. You are more than your symptoms. What’s up?
Do you know what you need right now?
My general formula for each question on my Mental Health Check-in is: Validation–Ask about a need–Make a suggestion.
You deserve to feel good. Your body needs fuel. (Validation) Are you hungry? (Ask about a need) How about a protein bar and/or an apple? Maybe it’s time for a full meal? (Make a suggestion)
And at the end of the survey, I have this prompt:
I hope you found something helpful. Or found a way to improve this survey. This is a chance to write your feelings. It always helps. Try Feel/Emote/Think or just stream-of-consciousness. Or criticize this form.
This chance to express myself often becomes my favorite part, no matter how I feel. The question gives me permission to share any emotion, even negative ones. It encourages me. And it is outside my own head, so the prompt is more effective than it would be inside my own head.
Then, of course, there is the tracking aspect. As of this writing, I have taken my mental health survey 41 times, and I can tell you (and more importantly myself) some helpful information.
Over half the time, I feel good or recovered.
Fatigue is my most common symptom.
Rest or media distraction are my most helpful coping mechanisms. Meditation is a close second.
Useful to know, right?
What questions or suggestions would you put on your own mental-health check-in?