In today’s uber-connected world, it’s so easy to take your work with you anywhere you go. While this is convenient, often it means that we are checking email or preparing for a presentation rather than taking that time away from the office to check in with ourselves. We get it, managing a full workload, social life, kids, hobbies, volunteering, and anything else you somehow have time for is a lot. Taking time away from these things to go sit and breathe can seem like a waste.
The thing is, it’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and not even realize your mental health is suffering. If you never take time to figure out and process underlying feelings of stress and anxiety, those feelings can build up and lead to burn out. This is why it is important to make just a few minutes a day to ask yourself some good check-in questions and make sure you are still enjoying your busy days.
Why Checking in With Yourself is Important
If you don’t want to take our word for it, there are a plethora of scientific studies showing the positive effects of mindfulness practices. This review of empirical studies found that self-check ins, meditation, and other mental health activities brought about a lot of beneficial psychological effects, like fewer mood swings, better control over emotions, and an improved sense of well-being.
These self-reported effects are backed up by physical evidence, as one researcher showed through fMRI scans that people who went through an 8-week mindfulness course actually had thicker brains once the course was completed. Why the heck would you want a “thick” brain? Because this actually helps your brain process attention and sensory stimuli faster!
Compare this to the numerous studies that have shown the negative effects social media use has on our mental health. For example, a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that limiting social media use to just 30 minutes per day led to significant reductions in loneliness, depression, anxiety, and FOMO (fear of missing out) over a three week period. Cutting your social media use down and using that time for self-check-ins could significantly help your mood and self-esteem day-to-day.
If you’ve tried mindfulness practices in the past and are still skeptical, it’s important to note that you’re not going to reap the benefits right away. Half-heartedly answering a few self-check-in questions for five minutes once a week isn’t going to do much for your anxiety. These types of activities need to become habitual in order to change the way you react to and process information.
But with a little time and effort, you can benefit from this behavior change for years to come. A Harvard researcher, again through fMRI scans, revealed that the changes in brain activity in people who have learned to meditate hold true even when they’re not actively meditating!
To get you started on your check-in journey, below are some tips to get you thinking about self-check ins and mindfulness every day.
5 Ways to Practice Self-Care Every Day
The most important aspect of mindfulness and self-care is to make sure you are actively listening to what your mind and body are trying to tell you. Here are a few example situations that might sound familiar.
1. Pay Attention to Yourself
The first step to listening to your body is to monitor your mental, physical, and emotional responses to situations during the day.
Example: You’re in the car on your way to a family dinner. You notice that your palms are sweaty on the steering wheel and your stomach is in knots. Maybe you can chalk it up to rush hour traffic, or maybe you’re actually dreading seeing your aunt Betty who always makes snide comments about what you’re wearing. It could be time to have a conversation with your parents about the dinner guest list!
2. Trust Your Intuition
Though we’re usually taught to trust our minds over our feelings, sometimes your gut can be telling you something important.
Example: You’re getting ready to go out with a group of friends, but your gut is telling you you shouldn’t go. Why is that? Maybe you know that your friend’s annoying boyfriend will be there, and since you’ve had a stressful day you’re worried deep down that you won’t be able to hold your tongue and might end up hurting your friend. In this case, you may want to trust your gut and sit this one out.
3. Stop and Think
Not only is it important to take a moment and listen to what your body is telling you, but to also make a good decision based on both your logic and emotions.
Example: You’re working late on a project, and still have a few more hours before it will be finished up. You’re gut is telling you to go home, but your mind is telling you to stay and crank it out. Take a break and weigh your options. Will you be really doing your best work when you’re tired and grouchy? Is the project due in the morning or do you still have some time? Instead of continuing to keep your head down and work through, it can be well worth your time to check in with yourself and figure out your best option.
4. Love Yourself
You’re not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Forgive yourself for mistakes, because not only is beating yourself up unhealthy, it’s not going to change the past either.
Example: You’re on a first date, and you somehow end up nervously talking about how much you love Snickers bars (you don’t love Snickers, you’re allergic to nuts). Now, your date brings you a Snickers bar every time you see them. Instead of cringing yourself into oblivion and breaking things off, acknowledge to yourself that you made a stupid mistake, acknowledge that you were nervous and that is okay, and come clean. Chances are you’ll both laugh it off and it’ll make a great story someday.
5. Ask Yourself the Right Questions
To find the right answers, you have to ask yourself the right questions and get to the root of the issue.
Example: You are invited to an all-inclusive work retreat to Australia that would take you away from home for two weeks, and you have conflicting feelings about going. Instead of asking yourself questions like “will my partner be able to get the kids to swimming lessons on time” or “what would I even wear,” try to focus on the deeper issue. Does going on this retreat support your long-term work goals? Do you believe you will be able to develop essential skills and relationships while you’re there? Asking yourself these types of questions will help you determine the right course of action.
To make sure you don’t forget about these important daily practices, download our tape-in journal page below:
Speaking of asking yourself the right questions, making use of good check-in questions is another way to make sure you are doing the right thing for yourself. Below are some of our favorites for every aspect of life.
16+ Weekly Self-Discovery Questions
Take time every week to think about and answer each of these questions. Five per day is a good place to start. You can do this in a journal and compare answers week-to-week, or just in your head.
1. What are the positives about my job?
2. What tasks am I putting off?
3. What is making me feel down at work?
4. What is my work mantra?
5. How am I feeling in my relationship?
6. What do I crave from my partner?
7. What makes me happiest about my partner?
8. What am I thankful for about my partner?
9. What’s a recent experience I had with my family that brought me joy?
10. If I had unlimited time with my family what would we do?
11. If I had unlimited money with my family what would we do?
12. Are there certain family members that drain my energy?
13. What scares me and how can I overcome it?
14. Am I making time for my social life?
15. What is something I find inspiring?
16. When is the last time I gave back to others?
Like we talked about earlier, taking time to check in with yourself and practice mindfulness takes time and repetition. In order to reap the benefits of decreased anxiety and a happier existence, you should be making time to check in with yourself every day. Download our full guide below to take these important check-in questions with you wherever you go:
Keep yourself healthy and happy in the long run by taking time for yourself starting today. It can be easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, but you can avoid burning yourself out and live a more mindful life by making room for mental and emotional check-ins every day.