Why checking in should be top of your to-do list

How many of you will hear the below exchange today? Perhaps even be a part of it?

“Hi, how are you?” 

“Hi, yeah I’m alright thanks. How’s you?”

“Yeah I’m good.”

And that’s it. That’s about the level of insight we give into our mental wellbeing. 

It’s fine, the whole world doesn’t need to know the ins and outs of how you’re feeling if you don’t want it to. But my question to you is this: do YOU know how you are? When was the last time you stopped, reflected and really asked yourself how you were and tried to understand why?

Headshot of woman smiling

Take notice of yourself

One of the five steps to supporting wellbeing is taking notice, and taking notice of the self I think is critical to this. This is called a check in; I do this not only with myself but also with team members, giving them the opportunity to reflect on how they’re feeling and then seeing as a team if we can support. 

If I’m not in tune with how I feel on a particular day then I might expect too much of myself, ask my body or mind to do something it’s just not prepped for (ever tried running 10k on an empty stomach? I have, it didn’t work out too well) and then end up failing. And for me, nothing feels worse than failure. 

It is in my control, though, to stop. To take a moment. To take a deep breath (breathing exercises are truly fabulous for wellbeing, and that’s for another blog), and just take notice of how I’m feeling. You can do it as soon as you wake up, or after breakfast, what about in the middle of the day – particularly after a challenging meeting – or even after work? You can try it a couple of times a day, and this works particularly well if you’re not feeling on top form to start with. 

Find new ways of expressing how you feel

But how do we get away from telling ourselves “yeah, I’m alright thanks”? There are a few things I use regularly; associating it to a score out of 10 is one I use a lot. It’s also one for team meetings; it can be pretty invasive when you start breaking it down so use with caution, but it’s a measure everyone understands. Just remember, your 5 could be someone else’s 8, and their 10 could be your 6. Check out FormScore, developed by mental health campaigner Rob Stephenson; it explains this pretty well and even has an app you can use to track your score and that of family, friends and teammates. 

Numbers are great, but some people find them too personal. How about articulating your mental health or your mood by doodling a quick weather icon? Big sunshine, clouds with rain, a thunderstorm. I have a group of friends with a whatsapp group that share their check ins with a simple emoji – then if you want to explain more, crack on. 

You can also try using a traffic light system at the start of a meeting, especially if you’re chairing. If you find the space is full of reds, it’s probably not going to be a productive place, so maybe scrap it and do a deeper check in, or give people some time back to see if they can change their signal colour.

Another exercise I use is a journaling one. I completed two sentences, The first is: “Today I feel…” And the second is: “Today I need…” It’s something adapted from author Brené Brown’s concept of the Reckoning, Rumble and Revolution. If you’re action-focused, like me, this might be a good one for you. It feels good to get it down on paper, even if you throw it in the bin afterward.

Whatever you choose, it’s the process that you’re going through that matters. The aim with achieving good mental health is to recognise when you need support and then acting on that. 

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  • Leanne Ehren (1)