Evaluating Your Mental Health

One reason why the Olympics might be such a big deal is the scarcity. They don’t happen every year and so we look forward, anticipating, reading up on who will be competing and listening to “experts” critique the athletes and their training. 

You never know what will happen, but something always does to make the Olympics memorable.

This year it may not be what happens during the judging, it may just be those who decide they aren’t going to participate due to mental health reasons.

We understand if an athlete pulls a hamstring or suffers an injury. They need to take care of their bodies in order to do their best.

And sometimes their mental health suffers due to many reasons, one being scrutiny and pressure they are under to bring home the gold. 

This year, athletes are talking about their mental health along with their physical health.

Something is going right, because we haven’t been very good at knowing when our mental health may need attention. Being able to listen to your body and evaluate where you are will help you to know when you need help. It may help to avoid the horrible outburst that you didn’t even know was building inside until it surfaced.

The first is your mood. How do you feel? Can you name the emotion that you are experiencing right now? Do you just feel off, but don’t quite know why you feel that way? Are you having mood swings, feeling really up and really down, over and over? Mood swings are normal, but if you are finding it is interfering with your activities and relationships, then it is a mood disturbance and not just a swing. 

Do you have prolonged periods of depression where you lose interest in something you normally like? This is not depression because of a specific event or loss. This is where you are depressed and you don’t know why. 

Next is anxiety, experienced as worry, nervousness, or apprehension. We all have these feelings now and then, but prolonged episodes interfere with your regular functioning or are more severe than you would expect need to be addressed.

The next one can be tricky. Our mind and body are connected so sometimes when things are going on in the mind, it manifests itself in the body. This is seen as headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue. If you are experiencing these, it may have something to do with your mental health and not your body. 

Intense experiences are the next thing to look for such as trauma, violence, abuse, or war. It would be something that is tragic, dangerous, or life-threatening that you have experienced or witnessed. When this happens, we need to seek professional help to process the trauma and begin to learn how to move on.

Thoughts are the next thing on our list. If you are thinking about hurting yourself, or other destructive behaviors, that tells us we have a very serious problem and should seek immediate medical attention, meaning the emergency room if you aren’t able to get in to see your doctor.

Lastly, examine what you are turning to as a strategy to handle stress or escape the responsibilities of your life. These could be drugs (prescription or illegal), alcohol, tobacco, pornography, or anything that gives you an escape, but doesn’t address what is happening. 

Be honest with yourself and this may take getting some input from those who are close to you. Most people who go into a rehab program don’t think they have a big problem, but those around them can see what is happening to them. What is the actual use and are you taking the substances to self-medicate for a mental health issue such as depression or anxiety? 

I hope this is helpful in checking in with yourself on how you are doing mentally. Please seek professional help as there is help out there for you. Never give up hope, I assure you there is always hope.

Dr. Paul