mental health tips
Healthy Living

Dr. Felkel Shares Tips to Improve Your Mental Health

May 13 2024

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and we spoke with Dr. Carson Felkel, lead physician of the Behavioral Health Program Services for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System, about how to boost your mental health.

Get good sleep

“The first thing I talk about with my patients is sleep hygiene,” he says. “It is really important that you get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If we don’t have good sleep, it could exacerbate one’s depression or anxiety.”

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

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 four seconds, holding it for seven seconds and breathing out for eight seconds.

Exercise daily

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

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.”

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.

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.”

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, being a devoted spouse or being the best parent they can be.

Why your mental health is important

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, 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, seven days a week.

Learn about the behavioral health services we offer at Bon Secours.

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