BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (WIVT) — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and licensed psychotherapist Dr. Francis Battisti talks about how to live a balanced life while keeping your mental health in check. Many are struggling with how to face their thoughts and deal with anxiety and depression as the pandemic eases.
Battisti has been a practicing psychotherapist for 30 years, served as a counselor at SUNY Broome, as well as taught psychology classes, and served as the Executive VP and Chief Academic Officer. He now speaks around the country.
“All the studies show that there has been a dramatic increase in depression and anxiety, and I should say that those two disorders are high in our culture anyway,” says Battisti, talking about the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re someone who is newly struggling with these topics or someone who has been in the battle for a while, what can you do? According to Battisti, engaging your mind and your body can be helpful when battling thoughts and feelings. He suggests painting, walking, singing, or just getting outside in general as the weather warms up.
Leaning into whatever faith or spirituality you have is also proven to have great results in terms of happiness and living longer. “This is really an exciting time for people because that really gets you kind of invigorated and really want to be a part of life again and be pleased with life,” he says. “Whatever we do today has a result for tomorrow.”
Another helpful thing can be limiting your access to media, including things on the internet and television that tend to drag you down. If you do decide to continue to engage in those things, it’s important to take breaks.
Battisti adds one of the biggest mood boosters can be practicing gratitude, and making lists of things you’re grateful for. He says it’s very easy to lose sight of who and what we have in a pandemic.
We should always be on the look-out for things we’re grateful for and noting them in some way. Battisti adds that negativity is contagious, so it’s important to be aware of who you are surrounding yourself with. “Happiness and contentment and gratitude can also be contagious.”
As restrictions loosen, we are able to be with people more than we were in the past year, though this can look different for everyone. Re-engaging in society can have anxiety triggers of its own, especially if you don’t quite fit with your friends anymore.
Battisti says it’s ok to realize that all of us have changed in the past year, and some relationships don’t feel as good to us as they used to, which can be a hard thing to accept. However, it’s important to surround yourself with those who make you feel good and comfortable and can boost you up with their own positivity.
But what if you’re not quite ready to socialize again? That’s ok, too. “You can still be in charge with how much you’re going to engage in society and how much you’re going to do it,” says Battisti.
And if you’re really, truly stuck in these dark feelings, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.