7 tips from a psychiatrist to boost your mental health


GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month and according to Mental Health America, one in five Americans are suffering from a mental health issue.

Lead Physician of the Behavioral Health Program Services for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System Dr.Carson Felkel says for every dollar you spend on mental health, you’re saving $6 on physical health.

To boost your mental health, he has 7 tips:

1. Get good sleep

“The first thing I talk about with my patients is sleep hygiene,” he says. “It is really important that you get 7-9 hours of sleep each night…. if we don’t have good sleep, it could exacerbate ones depression or anxiety.”

Dr. Felkel also stresses the importance of shutting off devices and television 30 minutes before going to sleep.

2. Breathe deeply when you’re stressed

“When we’re stressed, if we can inhale slowly through our nose and exhale slowly through our mouth, you can actually change the way your body and brain function and reduce stress,” he says. Dr. Felkel says the first step is to become aware of your breathing. He recommends breathing in for 4 seconds, holding it for 7 seconds, and breathing out for 8 seconds.

3. Exercise daily

“Exercise for 20-30 minutes every day of the week,” he says. “It releases chemicals in the brain like endorphins. “

4. Improve your diet

“We’re learning that the function of the gut, the stomach and the intestines is really important to brain health,” Dr. Felkel says. “Some foods lead to more inflammation which can then affect the brain as well.”

5. Focus on self care

“It’s really important to do things to take care of your body and for some that might mean getting a massage or a warm bath,” he says. Dr. Felkel also says a problem area for many is creating a work/life balance and overextending themselves. “Learning how to say no is really important,” he says

6. Discover joy

“Reflect on your life and discover what things have made you happiest in your past and spend more time doing those things,” he says. “A lot of people have this negative self talk, so it’s really important to make a list of what brought you happiness and joy in the day so that you can reflect back and see that some good things did happen.”

7. Find your purpose in life

“This is the hardest but also the most important,” he says. “Write down what brings you purpose in life and then try to align your decisions and values to those things.”

Dr. Felkel says for many, purpose is found in religion and faith, while for others, it’s being a devoted spouse, and for others it is being the best parent they can be.

According to Mental Health America, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in America.

If you or a loved one are in a mental health crisis, you can go to the emergency room or call the national suicide prevention line at 1-800-273-talk. Trained representatives are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For more information on how to help, click here.

To submit your own question for our Ask the Expert series, click here.

To hear more from experts at Bon Secours St. Francis Health System on this topic and others, listen every Saturday morning at 10am on 106.3 WORD radio.    

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