Stay Mentally Healthy This Season

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Eat right. Exercise. Get medical check-ups.

All of these may help you maintain better physical health. But what about mental health? Of course, genetics affect health, but by good selfcare, you can reduce your risk of experience issues. Try these tips from local experts:

From Susan Varney, licensed psychoanalyst, Elmwood Village Psychotherapy, Buffalo:

• “Engage in reflection, mindfulness and taking the time to reflect before you act.

• “Avoid acting out on unprocessed emotion. That creates an emotional burden in the future.

• “Watch the breathing. A lot of people carry a lot of stress and anxiety which makes them breathe shallowly. It signals the body that a fight or flight response is required. Breathing deeply signals everything is okay and I can proceed as usual.

• “People carry stress in various parts of the body such as digestive or headaches. Look for signals of stress throughout the body. Think of how you can help relieve it. Often, that’s when people come in for treatment because their bodies express these symptoms. They need to put into words things that are lodging in the body so the symptoms can be alleviated.

• “Be aware of how you are being impacted and how you impact others at an emotional level. Are people unloading their anxiety on you or are you doing it to others around you? If so, you may need to be mindful of that and protect yourself against that. And be careful that you’re not the one doing it to people around you, like when you come in from a bad day at work and emotionally dump on everyone else. That can alienate you from others.”

From Nicole Urdang, licensed mental health counselor, holistic psychotherapist in Buffalo:

• “Keep a written journal or an audio journal. An audio journal is easy to keep if you download a free recording app. Many people don’t like listening to the sound of their own voice, but it can be very healing in time to hear your voice say things you wish people would: caring, loving, supporting words. Many studies show that people who keep a journal feel better than people who don’t.

• “Get enough sleep.

• “Get outside every day if possible.

• “Do something that feels loving and nurturing for yourself, like yoga, meditation, tai chi or other forms of exercise. It can be anything you find calming and rejuvenating, like listening to music.

• “Give yourself permission to feel all your feelings, especially the ones you don’t like. Feel all your feelings because we have them for a reason.

• “Be gentle with yourself when you don’t feel good about something. Listen to your intuition. All the things we think we must or should do intrude upon what we intuitively know is good for us. It might be better to skip the social engagement and go to bed early. Or skip a social event with children and do something calm with them.

• “Slow down. We’re a society in a hurry. If you slow down, you’ll already feel calmer. One thing you can do that will create more calm is turn off the ping sounds on your phone or computer. Otherwise, you’ll be trained like a Pavlovian dog to respond. You’ll be anxious for the next one.

• “If you always tell the truth, you’d have fewer problems in relationships. By telling the truth and being more honest, you’re more congruent in yourself and more cohesive. You’re more relaxed.

• “It’s a great thing, but be careful that you’re not forcing yourself to be grateful when you’re upset and use gratitude to repress a negative feeling. It’s not going to clean sweep negativity. Then you feel worse because you’re not feeling grateful but you were really angry about something and no amount of gratitude will make that go away.

• “Have a creative outlet. Any and all creativity is incredibly nurturing to our spirit, a real break from other demands.”