Building the Foundation

How to build a healthy foundation: Self-Evaluation

Self awareness and evaluation is the key to the stable foundation of good mental health. For me, the development of my own self-evaluation has been my favorite tactic for early detection of mental struggle. I created this early assessment after several episodes of poor mental health. This proactive tool is how I recognize the symptoms of Anxiety and Depression to build the foundation for my mental health. It triggers my awareness and curiosity to explore further. 

The journey which led me to this effective assessment tool was by happenstance. In my teens and as a young adult I did not know I was experiencing symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder and a Mood Disorder (Depression). I thought I was insecure and ‘just different’ than my peers and co-workers. In my mid-30s, I began the journey of self-improvement to overcome childhood and young adulthood trauma. I had reached a point of hopelessness and helplessness. I was suicidal with a plan to end my life. Fortunately, I trusted my therapist enough to disclose this. Although I had many thoughts of suicide before, they never had included a plan. Suicide was common thought for me when I felt overwhelmed, neglected, or misunderstood.

My therapist began walking me through process of treatment and recovery. I went to an inpatient facility where I was assessed and treated for Anxiety and Depression.  This began my journey to recovery and maintaining that recovery, which means being proactive, even on the good days. I use this tool regularly, even daily, and it helps me create an action plan when my state of mental health is poor.   

My quest for self-evaluation

  1. Take the time to assess my thoughts, feelings/emotions, and behaviors/actions (mental health elements). 
    • I say to myself, “Are you NUTS right now?
      • NEW: Is there something new I am experiencing?
      • UNPREDICTABLE: Am I experiencing something unpredictable?
      • THREAT: Is there something threatening my ego, health, finances, family, or career?
      • SENSE it is out of my control: Do I feel like I do not have control in a situation?
    • If I answer YES to any of these questions, I try to normalize my reaction or declining mental health. Equally important, I say out loud “It is natural to feel an increase in anxiety in this situation.” Everyone has an increase in stress in certain situations. It is natural and healthy to be concerned about these topics. I will then try to focus on what is within my control to change.
  2. Another part of my self-evaluation quest for my mental health is scoring my thoughts, emotions, and behaviors in real time. Determining how mentally well I feel in that moment. I use a 1-10 scale, with 0 being the lowest and 10 the highest. My average is usually around a 6 or 7. Depending on where I am, I reframe my thoughts, validate my feelings, and take an active stance.
    1. When I score a 4 or lower, I think of what sparks joy for me at that moment, express gratitude for even the smallest of things, and develop a plan to take the time to process it further.

I hope my own quest for mental wellness inspires your own quest through self-evaluation to build the foundation for mental wellness. Happy building!

Hilary Gallegos completed her Master’s degree in Mental and Behavioral Health Counseling at Carson Newman university in 2013. She worked with numerous mental health disorders for several years at Blount Memorial Hospital. She was inspired by overcoming challenges with managing her own  mental health disorder to become a counselor. She believes treatment is specific to each person and enjoys the journey of helping others discover their strategies. Hilary is an avid gardener, mountain biker, and hiker. “These activities are what ground me and help my state of mental health by being present with nature.”

The Mental Health Association offers all services to eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin or disability.

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