Bob Denny: Take care of mental health


Published: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, August 26, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.

Most of us know how to take care of our bodies—our physical health. We know to eat properly, exercise, and avoid dangerous situations, accidents, drugs or alcohol, and illness. But what do you know about your mental health, its care and maintenance? How do you know when there’s a problem? Here are some things to do that should help you build that happy, healthy, and good life for yourself.

Protect yourself! Sports? Wear that helmet or head protection, whether you’re playing football, cycling, running, or other banging or jarring sports. Only recently has science explored the devastating effects from repeated or strong blows to the head. Nerve cells can be destroyed, and minor concussions often go unnoticed!

Like physical health, mental health also depends on good nutrition and regular physical activity. No, you don’t need to become a nutritional expert. There’s little evidence that “brain foods” even exist, or that mega doses of vitamins, minerals, or herbal remedies help. The best evidence seems to point to a balanced, well-rounded diet, including a large variety of proteins, carbohydrates, and yes, even fats. Eating properly will go a long way towards good mental as well as physical health.

Visit your doctor for an annual checkup. It’s an opportunity to talk about your worries, concerns, problems, concerns, or bad feelings. Many mental health issues are linked to physical disorders, and physicians are trained for handling psychological issues as well as physical concerns. They can help with primary counseling, and can prescribe appropriate medications. They refer you to mental health professionals if needed.

Talk with your religious leader if you have one. Ministers and priests are considered qualified to offer counseling or consultation with a theological perspective.

Have fun! We all need to play. Watch how your dog or pet likes to play with a ball, a toy, or just a string. My dog gets so excited when we get ready to take a walk. Have a good laugh with friends. Watch your favorite comedy TV show. Pick up that hobby, and enjoy it. Take some time to put fun into your day.

Connect! Take advantage of those wonderful group opportunities you can find at church, in classes, sports, clubs, scouts, senior centers. Make friends. We’re social animals, and really need to be connected. Get involved!

Find your purpose. What are you here for? What do you have to offer those around you — your friends, neighborhood, community, your world? Find out what you love doing, and develop it! Every day TV news has stories of ordinary people doing wonderful things, making the world a little better place because they’re here. What could you do?

Don’t worry about it! Do you keep checking the door to see if it’s locked, or the stove to make sure it’s off? Sometimes lose sleep worrying? Everyone has some dysfunctional symptoms. Those in the medical field can be the worst! But the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the accepted psychiatric reference book for making diagnoses, tells us to be a mental health “disorder,” the symptoms must be “significant, persistent, and must significantly impair one or more major areas of your life” like your career, social relationships, or everyday functioning. If that applies to you, I suggest that you contact your doctor or a mental health provider.

You’re okay! Jump in, and build that even better and happier life for yourself.

Bob Denny is a licensed mental health therapist in Florida who teaches psychology and human growth and development at Florida Gateway College.

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