Mental Health Experts Share How They Strengthen Their Own Mental Health

If there is one thing that COVID-19 has made clear, it is the importance of taking care of ourselves – mental health included. While in the past, mental well-being took a backseat to physical health, a year of isolation has shown us just how critical it is to address feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. But if shifting the focus to your mental and emotional well-being is new, it can be challenging to know where to start. So, to get inspired, we asked Mountainside’s Clinical team how they have been taking care of their mental health. Here’s what they had to say:

Jana Wu, LCSW, LADC, ICADC:

“I have committed to meditating and taking short walks early in the morning before my family is up, noticing now how in May, the spring in New England, the colors of green the trees leave. If I keep my focus up on the sky, it also helps to align my posture.”

Dwight Kelly, LMSW:

“I would say making some plans for the summer and fall that I am looking forward to, focusing on small accomplishments and gratitude, and scheduling regular exercise into each week.”

Alexandria Lanza, LPC, LCADC, ATR-BC, CTMH, NCC:

“My mental health is strongly correlated to my perception of the strength of my mind, body, and spirit. I meal prep on Sundays so I know exactly what I’m consuming daily, I make time to workout at least five times weekly, and I minimize my social media/television use. I ensure I go to sleep without any disturbances, so I feel refreshed to take on the upcoming day; and I also (not so secretly) listen to uplifting Italian opera/pop songs nearly every morning.”

Lisa Westerson, LCSW:

“Gardening helps me manage my mental health by allowing me to see the fruits of my labor and enjoy the outdoors. It also allows me to practice acceptance and accept imperfection when things don’t turn out as planned. In the garden with me typically are my two dogs, Lexi and Zoey, who keep me busy, provide never-ending joy, and remind me that being present is the most important thing. Lastly, I like to run and am a member of an online running support group that provides connection and support. Running is my mood stabilizer. I just started a virtual run across Iceland that I am looking forward to participating in over the next few months.”

Daniel Sexton, CASAC 2, LMHC, ICADC, M.S.:

“I try to treat myself when I can and not feel guilty for doing so.  I have a big, sweet tooth, so after a long day I might treat myself with something nice from my favorite café like a cookie.  I also ensure I have the time to do things I enjoy doing like play video games or read.”

Nicole Cordani, CAC, M. Ed:

“I engage in self-care. Morning meditation, prayer, and spending time with my children helps with the spiritual, emotional, and mental aspects of my life. Physically, I try to get out and walk daily, which reduces stress and allows me to soak in nature. My dog and my cat also lend themselves to my self-care, as they are unconditionally loving.”

Marissa Bascom, LPCA, M. Ed.:

“I make the conscious decision each and every day to “unplug.” I choose to disconnect from technology and dive into a good book (or sometimes, it turns out to be a not-so-great book). I’ll read a chapter or two. This is my easy escape from a busy day. I also engage in exercise! Whether it’s a two-mile walk or a five-minute walk, it just feels so good. I’ve found that even the shortest walk can take our minds off the daily stressors or offers time to self-reflect. I ground myself through nature and taking in my surroundings; I always ask myself, “What is nature offering me today?” Exercise promotes a lot of good – one of which is endorphins, and sometimes we just need to feel that natural goodness!”

Courtney Hulse, LMFT:

“I try and stay connected to people as much as I can, and ask for help when needed. During the height of the COVID pandemic, when our need to physically distance ourselves has been at its greatest height, our need to connect with others has become even more vital. Our job as clinicians and managers is to help people learn how to take care of themselves; and therapeutic burnout and isolation have the potential to creep in and take over if we don’t take care of ourselves during this time. I count my blessings to be here at Mountainside where the team support and human connection is unsurpassed, and I value, beyond words, each person’s efforts in taking the time to connect with me on a personal level. My Mountainside team helps me take care of myself; and for that, I am truly grateful.”

Briana Van Slyck, LMSW:

“I do kickboxing workouts five times per week. I tend to my many, many house plants. I also make an effort to spend at least 30 minutes outdoors each day.”

Julia Santiago, BA

“I’ve been taking care of my mental health by using social media in a responsible way. I avoid triggering or upsetting content when I don’t feel up to seeing it, and I seek out content that resonates with my experiences and mental health goals.”

 Elizabeth Kelley, LCSW, CADC:

“First, I would like to say that it can be challenging to make time for yourself. However, I do engage in weekly massages to reduce tension. Daily, I will take walks with my dog. I also make sure that I meet with my therapist once a month.”

Jillian Zeitler, LPC, LADC:

“I engage in my own meditative and spiritual practice, spend time with friends and family, cuddle my pup, and play with my niece and nephew. In addition to these extra things that help me feel happy and grounded, I actively try to practice mindfulness and self-compassion on a daily basis to keep my mind and heart well.”

Lauren Peterson, LMSW, LADC:

“I spend time outside, going on boats and spending time with friends, my husband, my dog, and family. I also like going out to dinner, lunch, or breakfast for outside seating since this was something that we couldn’t really do for a whole year. Seeing human interaction rather than being isolated inside has been enjoyable.”

Shannon Tallon, LMSW, MSW:

“Self-care! Holding myself to a consistent sleep routine is important – it helps me feel re-charged and able to maintain balance.  Going outside, listening to music, and baking helps me with being present with myself, and mindful.  And lastly, having a good laugh!”

Erin O’Neil, LCSW:

“I start with making sure I’m getting enough to eat and balancing my nutrition (which includes ample desserts), getting enough sleep, and regular exercise. They are each so important to making me feel grounded and energized every day. I love being outside and try to make sure that when I’m with my family, I’m really present with them. Playing games! I’m trying to learn how to play tennis, play badminton with my siblings, and roller skate (which is so much harder for me than it looked)!”

Krystle Sullivan, LPC:

“I spend time with my family, animals, and friends. I make sure to get outside and do whatever I can in nature like gardening, walking, or just sitting outside. Most importantly for me, I try to stay present in whatever I am doing!”

Shalin Bhatt, LPC, LCADC

“I use creative expression through writing, take periodic breaks from social media, and practice self-attunement to respond to the needs of my mind and body. Oh, and therapists can benefit from therapy, too!”

The diverse answers above highlight that there is no one correct way to take care of our mental health. We each have to do more of what nurtures our own mind, body, and spirit. Thank you to our Clinical team for their input!

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