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Ask the Psychiatrist: Everyday Tips for Better Mental Health

“When you treat a patient holistically, you not only treat the symptoms, you work with the patient on eating healthy, staying away from alcohol and drugs, and focusing on exercise as medicine,” says Rachel V.F. Rohaidy, M.D., a psychiatrist at Baptist Health Primary Care and medical director of The Recovery Village at Baptist Health.

“I’m a huge fan of holistic treatments which concentrate on the whole body because our body doesn’t function in separate boxes,” Dr. Rohaidy says. “Our thoughts and emotions affect the way we feel physically, just as the way we feel can affect our mental outlook.”

Rachel V.F. Rohaidy, M.D., psychiatrist at Baptist Health Primary Care and medical director of The Recovery Village at Baptist Health

The number of people struggling with anxiety, depression and stress today has increased since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr. Rohaidy notes. “We’re seeing more people seeking help for those symptoms, along with an increase in patients presenting with substance abuse disorders,” she says.

According to the National Mental Health Association in 2019, 51.5 million adults in the U.S. were dealing with some type of mental illness. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) says 25 million American adults suffer from an anxiety disorder and, according to the World Health Organization, one in 13 adults globally battle anxiety.

“Psychiatrists are not the type of doctors anyone really wants to see,” acknowledges Dr. Rohaidy. “It’s sad that, for some people, seeking help is taboo. Most people who deal with anxiety and depression have had symptoms for 10 years or more.”

We can all relate to that feeling when our anxiety level rises in response to a perceived threat or danger, Dr. Rohaidy says. “It’s when we have those ‘fight or flight’ moments that our body’s sympathetic nervous system kicks in and we get an adrenaline push which helps us during and after the incident, she says.

There are also times when we feel anxious, nervous, sad or depressed. “We’re human – those feelings are normal,” Dr. Rohaidy says. “But ‘normal’ can become a disorder when those feelings don’t go away, and when your sympathetic nervous system is constantly on and doesn’t switch off.”

When anxiety, depression or stress begins to affect your daily life, the way you feel and act, or your relationships with your family, friends or colleagues, that’s when she says it’s time to seek help.

Dr. Rohaidy offers specific and practical tips on how you can ease unwelcome feelings when they do occur, along with simple steps you can take every day to help ensure better mental and physical health. “All of these tips are good for you, even if you’re not experiencing anxiety or depression,” she says.

Everyday Steps to Better Mental Health

The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, Dr. Rohaidy acknowledges. “It’s affected so many people in so many different ways – chief among them creating a sense of loss and isolation.” As more people get vaccinated, she predicts, things will begin to improve and “some of the isolation and anxiety people have felt over the last 15 months will begin to go away.”

To help fight feelings of isolation, Dr. Rohaidy recommends joining an online group with a shared interest, whether it’s gardening, cooking, photography or whatever activity you enjoy. “Make it a habit. Feeling a part of a community helps you feel connected and will improve your mood,” she says.