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 self-care, you can reduce your risk of experience issues.

Try these tips from local experts:

From Scott Mooney, psychologist and owner Beacon Psychological Services in Oswego:

• “For many people, they find that structuring their day incredibly helpful, like getting up and eating at the same times.

• “Every day, engage in relaxation techniques. It can be anything that elicits the relaxation response.

• “Have a purposeful life and reason for being. A lot of people struggle when they retire because they need something to do.

• “I have all my clients consider their spirituality, whether manifest with religion or philosophical world view, helps people make sense of the world and interpret the events that happen to us.

•”Have intellectual stimulation. Learning things is very important so you feel productive and moving forward.”

From Susan Hartman Brenizer, licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in DeWitt:

• “In my field we talk about a ‘Happiness Set Point’, which is very real. Fabulous vacations, for instance, may make you feel very happy at that time, but what is more important is a daily set point that we can actively work on. Yes, genetics and family of origin experiences in our formative years is very important, but just like with physical health, there is much within our control to increase our ‘Happiness Set Point’ on a more regular basis.

• “A psychological ‘hack’ so to speak is to try not to compare yourself with others but compare yourself to your own ancestors. I had Irish immigrant grandparents, for example, and I am so grateful for them. As well, they endured such hardships to come to the US and have a family and make a new life for all of my family.

• “People who have regular social contact with friends and family, who are connected within their communities, who strive for increased social contact are simply happier.

• “Having integrity in working hard is associated with happiness. A job well done, no matter what you do for work, creates happiness. Being free from constant financial worries, and living within your means is associated with happiness.”


From Sharon Brangman, MD, chief of Geriatrics at Upstate University Hospital:

• “Develop healthy ways of managing stress. In general, as a society, we don’t have healthy ways of managing stress. It can even be good stress. If you don’t manage it well it leads to anxiety and depression.

• “Good mental health starts with a good night’s sleep. We don’t value a good night’s sleep. People who don’t get enough good nights’ sleep can become cognitively impaired. The brain uses sleep to tidy up the brain. Without adequate sleep, you’re not giving your brain that chance.”

From Nancy A. Natale-Radecki, licensed clinical social worker, owner Three Rivers Therapy, Oswego:


• “Start the day off with a small, brief meditation. It helps put yourself into a place where you’re focused on the moment and what to expect in the day.

• “Self-care is something a lot of people don’t prioritize. They focus on others but don’t take care of themselves with diet, exercise and sleep. I always try to help people get into a routine with sleep, as well as with diet and exercise. One person doing a triathlon means another walking for 10 minutes on lunch or lifting weights when they get home from work. It’s OK to individualize your routine as long as you focus on taking care of the three aspects.

• “I always encourage people to try to be aware of their inner critic who wants to lead them to a place of negative feelings. Bring out your inner coach who has self forgiveness, self compassion and self love. Allow yourself to be imperfect and accept that. Move past it and don’t ruminate on it.”

From Douglas Goldschmidt, licensed clinical social worker in Oswego:


• “People should do self-hypnosis. They do it all the time but they don’t often do it in a way that’s supportive. People keep saying, ‘Oh, I’m really nervous’ or ‘I’m so depressed’ or that they can’t do anything right. They keep repeating these negative statements. We can also use it to get positive conceptions of ourselves and positive ways of understanding what’s going on around us.

• “Practice compassion, gratitude and forgiveness. Gratitude brings a good sense of your relationship with others and the world. It takes you away from negative and focuses on things that are positive. Compassion allows you to interact with other people and get a sense that they go through their own difficulties of life. Forgiveness is about giving up your suffering that involves another person. You don’t forgive the act but the person.

• “Be active and get out, even if you feel terrible. Unless you’re in a deep depression, there’s no excuse to get up, get a shower and go to work. You’re not owned by your emotions. Few people have significant depression or anxiety disorders.”