World Mental Health Day: Emotional health checks

For World Mental Health Day this year, 10 October 2020, Dr Thomas Dannhauser, Consultant Psychiatrist, shares some important tips on monitoring and promoting your mental wellbeing during a time of crisis.

We all respond differently given a crisis like the pandemic. I have recently helped people who never previously struggled with emotional problems. At the same time, some of my clients have struggled for a long time and have felt a lot better since lockdown. It is therefore important to monitor and promote your emotional health.

Promoting monitoring emotional well-being is about regularly assessing it, knowing about the dangers so you can avoid them and regularly engaging in “Mental Hygiene” activities.

The main problem is to look out for:

Stress: caused by or directly related to an obvious threat or overload to your system.  Symptoms of stress include irritability, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, nausea and dizziness. Ongoing, repeated, or severe stress can lead to anxiety which we look at next.

Anxiety: a feeling or fear that you are going to lose something. That something can be real (a loved one, job, money) or abstract (status, a dream of the future). Anxiety symptoms include racing heartbeat, fast and shallow breathing, diarrhoea or constipation, a feeling of dread/unease, sweating, nervousness, irritability, and all the stress symptoms mentioned above.

Depression: the feeling of having lost something or someone. As with anxiety, the loss can be real or abstract. Typical symptoms of depression include low mood, lack of energy or fatigue, lack of enjoyment, poor quality sleep, low self-esteem.

Addictions: this includes a dependency on anything to help you cope with feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. Common examples are sugary foods, alcohol, smoking, and nowadays smartphone /gaming / social media/ television.

To monitor for these problems, start by answering these questions once a week:

  1. Has my sleep become disturbed, do I feel rested when I wake up?
  2. Do I wake up feeling anxious or depressed?
  3. Do I often feel stressed, anxious, or depressed during the week?
  4. Is my self-care up to my usual standard (personal hygiene, dress, nutrition).
  5. Do I feel tired, lacking in energy, or do less at home or at work?
  6. Do I struggle to focus and concentrate?
  7. Have I lost self-confidence or is my self-esteem low?
  8. Has my appetite or weight increased or decreased noticeably?
  9. Have I thought about hurting myself or wanting to die?
  10. Am I avoiding spending time with friends and family?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then see if you can improve them and get them back to normal by taking specific action. If they make you concerned about your mental health then ask for help from a qualified health care provider.

In order to assist you in tackling any issues that arise, I recommend addressing the following:

Be disciplined: Start with being clear about what you are doing with your life, and why and how to achieve your goals. My go-to book on this subject that has helped many of my clients and loved ones is The ONE Thing.

Improve sleep: To promote good sleep, avoid screen time for at least one hour before bed. Some useful apps on the subject include Deep Sleep, Stress Free and Visualise Success, which are all free.

Eat more healthily: Remember the importance of a healthy diet as the brain and mood benefits from steady energy. Ditch white carbohydrates for darker, more complex ones, while a magnesium supplement may be beneficial.

Get daily exercise: There’s no better way to start the day than with some kind of exercise. This can be either cardio or strength/balance. Cardio requires at least 30 minutes of continuous effort and can be as easy as walking. Yoga, pilates or tai chi are good for balance. Try Fitness Blender on YouTube.

Check your thinking: Keep self-talk positive. What you say to yourself is very powerful in determining your mood and behaviour. A good way to learn about it and ‘keep it clean’ is to regularly self-talk. Dr Shad Helmstetter’s Self-Talk Plus ( is a good place to start and is free for a month.

Dr Thomas Dannhauser has a clinic at The Holy every Thursday afternoon. Find out more about him and book an appointment here.

Date: 09/10/2020