Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mental Health Checkup: Tension, Anxiety and Tuning In

By Gina Duncan, M.D.

Continuing my Mental Health Checkup series, here are some additional factors to consider as you evaluate your mental health:
Tension and Anxiety — Are you feeling tense and wound up all the time? How about nervous and anxious? Is it hard for you to unwind at the end of the day? We live in a fast-paced society and stress has become a common part of our everyday lives. If, however, you are finding that you’re unable to take mental breaks during the day where you can feel totally relaxed and worry-free even for a few moments, then that could indicate that your stress is approaching dangerous levels. Relaxation is a skill that many of us have to learn and practice. There have been some great previous posts with relaxation tips as well as ways to cope with anxiety and stress.

Writing in ajournal is one way
to stay "in touch" with yourself.
Tuned In — In general, how “in touch” do you feel with yourself? Do you feel like you’re experiencing emotions and you don’t know why, like being angry or crying “for no reason”? It’s not uncommon to get so busy that you don’t have time to process everything that is happening on an emotional level in real time. However, taking some time to write in a journal or talk to a friend can be critically important to good mental and emotional health, particularly when you find yourself in periods of great transition or change. The danger of being out of touch with yourself emotionally is that you may respond to difficult situations in ways that you later regret (such as impulsively sending off an angry email to your boss, or taking out your frustration on your kids). It is also difficult to advocate for yourself and your needs when you don’t know what those needs are. Being able to take a moment and identify that “I feel angry because _____.” or “I am hurt because _____.” can take you a long way in staying in touch with yourself.

Tomorrow I will write about avoidance and eating habits.

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