9 Simple Check-Ins to Identify Your Needs

Psych Central

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS 

Last updated: 23 Aug 2020

Tuning into our feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations is the foundation of caring well for ourselves. We have to know what’s going on in order to take healthy, nourishing action and just better understand ourselves. 

But the way we do these check-ins really depends on our personality and preferences. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach. The key is to incorporate a check-in into your day, regardless of what shape or form it takes. Make it as habitual as brushing your teeth. In fact, one way to check in with yourself is to ask how you’re feeling while you are brushing your teeth in the morning and at night. 

Here are additional ideas for checking in: 

  1. Set an alarm on your phone to ding every hour and ask yourself: How am I doing right now?
  2. Do Julia Cameron’s morning pages, jotting down whatever comes to mind first thing in the morning. Simply keep a notebook on your bedside table, and before getting up, fill up three pages of your journal. 
  3. In the evening, for 5 to 10 minutes, reflect on how your day went. What went well? What didn’t? How are you feeling about it? What might you change tomorrow? 
  4. Listen to a guided meditation that specifically helps you tune into your mind and body, such as paying attention to any present tension. 
  5. Ask yourself the same questions every day (and record your responses): What am I grateful for? What am I anxious about? What did I learn about myself today? What do I need? 
  6. Take a few deep breaths, put your hands in prayer position, and ask yourself: What’s on my heart? 
  7. Move your body in a favorite way. For you, this might be taking a yoga class, taking a walk, riding your bike, or doing a stretching video. Personally, I’ve found that any time I move my body, my emotions, which might’ve been previously suppressed as I go about my day, bubble up to the surface and I have a better grasp on how I’m doing. 
  8. Name what emotion you’re feeling, trying to get as specific as possible, and then rate the intensity of that emotion from 1 to 10. 
  9. Draw three concentric circles. In the innermost circle, jot down the emotions you’re feeling. In the second circle, jot down the physical sensations you’re experiencing. In the biggest circle, jot down the thoughts running through your mind or the stories you’re telling yourself right now or have been all day. 

When you’re checking in with yourself, remember to allow whatever arises. It’s so hard, but our jobs are not to censor, judge, or criticize. Our jobs are to witness what’s going on internally, taking on the perspective of an unbiased observer. 

I liken it to writing: It’s not helpful to edit while we write our first draft, because then we might miss something important. We want to write first, to spill our hearts and message onto the page. After everything has poured out, we can start to make sense of that message and refine as needed. 

Pick a check-in practice that resonates with you and, again, incorporate it into your day (or, of course, come up with a practice that feels like a better fit). To make it easier, add it to something you do all the time: check in while you sip your water. Check in during your morning coffee. Check in right before you ask your kids how they’re doing. 

Either way, prioritize your daily check-in—and you’ll likely find that even if you don’t respond to your needs, simply listening helps you feel well taken care of. Because as I’ve written before, listening is a beautiful, powerful gift we can give to ourselves and others. 

Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Margarita is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com. She writes about everything from taking compassionate care of yourself at any weight, shape, and size, to coping healthfully with difficult emotions. Her goal is to give readers practical, empowering tips to better their lives, and to remind you that whatever you’re struggling with, you’re never, ever alone.


        1. Doing just fine here. My husband still working from home so very little contact with the outside world which is great. We also still like each other after 18 years! You never know what will happen in a pandemic, you may not like your mate any longer. I got lucky.


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