Make mental health a priority |

Make mental health a priority

BRECKENRIDGE ” This may be a familiar recipe: Mix overworking with a lack of sleep and then add a few cups of caffeine and a pound of sugar.

The combination certainly is not uncommon in the American culture, and all of these elements can take a toll on mental health, said Dr. Willie Elsass, who practices psychiatry and psychoanalytic psychotherapy in Breckenridge.

So, for May ” National Mental Health Month ” Elsass talked about what being mentally healthy involves using a mind, body, spirit model, and how to improve mental health.

Some of the most common mental health concerns include anxiety, depression, anger, relationship problems.

And mental and physical wellness are intertwined, he said. For example, if someone has a hypertension, it could lead to anxiety or fatigue.

On the other side, stress or repressed anger could lead to migraines, ulcers or other physical issues.

Emotions can act upon the nervous system almost like an external event, Elsass said.

“The mentally healthy person has the ability to process their feelings,” he continued, adding that a common misconception is that someone who is mentally healthy is always happy.

Happiness is just one of a string of emotions. Not trying to push away or repress periods of anger, sadness or worry is part of being mentally healthy, Elsass said.

By opening up to more negative feelings, people are open to more positive feelings.

Also, being able to relate to oneself and others in a gentle, nonjudgmental way is key to mental health, he said.

“This is a process you work toward,” Elsass said.

Some ways to improve mental health include journalling, a healthy diet, exercise and cultivating mindfulness (developing “an observing ego” and an awareness of the present), Elsass said.

And there are many resources in the county to help with these items, such as yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation groups, he said to name a few.

“This (diet, exercise, mindfulness) will support the mind

… and lead to feelings of well being,” he said. Also, “any mental health problem will get worse with improper sleep.”

Additionally, research shows that “people with greater feelings of attachment to something bigger than themselves have a greater sense of well-being,” Elsass said.

Some of the other advice he offered included not being afraid to be yourself, being able to ask for assistance when needed and realizing that you can’t make everyone happy.

Those who are mentally healthy are more forgiving of themselves and tend to use the word “should” less, he added.

Elsass encourages people to explore their interests to achieve mind, body and spirit wellness and “not feel like there’s one prescription for everyone.”

Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at

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