This week marks Mental Health Awareness Week: a chance to show your support for better mental health, and celebrate the important work already being done. But it’s also a chance to check in with yourself. How are you doing? And not just on a surface level, either. How are you really doing?
It’s not an easy question. And there’s so much to consider: from mental health to physical health; from personal relationships to work-related stress and everything in-between. It’s difficult to work out what’s actually going on with your life when you’re knee-deep in it, right? But it helps to start somewhere practical. And that’s where this article comes in.
Below, you’ll find a basic wellbeing checklist, complete with suggestions and prompts. All you need to do is print it out and fill it in. Take your time, and find a moment to reflect on your answers. It might help to fill out the same checklist every week for a month or so – just so you can observe any patterns or trends that might show up. And, of course, act on the results! You’ll find a set of starting points at the end of this article.
(PS. The Lawyer’s new wellbeing podcast launched this week. Click the link to have a listen.)
Before you start…
- Find a quiet space. Make sure your phone and emails are out of sight – even if only for a few minutes.
- Get settled (which might mean finding a comfortable position, or clearing your desk of paperwork). Take some time to bring your attention fully to the task at hand. It might help to take a couple of deep breaths to bring your focus back to the present.
- When you’re ready to get started, all you’ll need is a pen and a piece of paper, journal or notebook
Reflect on the [day/week] that’s just passed. If you could sum it up in three words, what would you say?
- No rules here, just the first things that come to mind as you reflect. Try and stick to single words: often, it can be pretty insightful to do the work of encapsulating your experience in just a few lines.
How are you doing on a physical level? Give yourself a mark out of ten for the following:
- Spending some time outside (aim for at least 15 minutes) every day;
- Eating well, at regular intervals (ie, not consistently working through lunchtime);
- Making an effort to stay hydrated throughout the day;
- Incorporating some movement into your week – in whatever way feels best for you (gym, sports, dance, fitness classes…);
- Getting enough sleep (most people need 7 to 9 hours a night, but adjust according to what feels good for you); and
- Sitting (or standing) at your desk with good posture.
How’s your mind doing? Give yourself a mark out of ten for the following:
- Making progress towards goals or ambitions, whether in the office or out of it;
- Feeling like you supported team members or colleagues in pursuit of a larger goal;
- Getting involved; feeling like you’re part of the firm or specific team in which you work;
- Finding genuine enjoyment in something each day (and taking the time to appreciate it); and
- Catching up with colleagues, friends and family. Have you had a couple of decent (non-work) conversations with people that matter to you?
What about the bigger picture: meaning, purpose and mission?
- It’s worth reminding yourself of the fundamentals: why do you do the work you’ve chosen to do? What is it about your job that gives you meaning? How do you find a sense of purpose in everyday life?
- Even if you’ve been through these questions and answered them before, it’s helpful to keep checking back in. And – of course – don’t be nervous of changing the answers to the questions as your career evolves. The aim is simply to listen to your life, and be as honest with yourself as possible.
Lastly, what are the three things you’d like to take forward into your new week?
- Using the answers to the questions above, make a quick list of three things you’d like to carry forwards to work on. It could be anything – from drinking more water, to setting up a conversation with your boss about career prospects. And it’s not intended to be prescriptive, or another standard to measure yourself against. Instead, let it just be a simple intention-setting exercise: an opportunity to figure out where you’d like to go, and to map the steps to get there.
As you finish…
- Make a note of anything practical that came out of the exercise. Perhaps there’s someone you need to get in touch with, or a new habit to track – if you need to carry over notes to your to-do list or calendar, do it now.
- Give yourself some space: try to avoid jumping straight back into meetings or emails. Maybe take a walk, or get some fresh air. If more thoughts or ideas come, you can always add more detail to your checklist.
- If you have time, and if you’ve made the checklist a consistent habit, it’s worth reviewing your previous weeks. Can you see where things seem to be headed? Is there an overall sense of purpose and development? If not, can you create one? It’s your life, after all – it’s worth taking the time to shape it with intention
Eloise Skinner is an associate at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton