Take Your Brain Health Temperature to Stay Mentally Healthy

Take Your Brain Health Temperature to Stay Mentally Healthy

Morgan Dickerson, MSW, LCSW

Like many of you, I have been sporting a mask around town for roughly 100 or so days. Our nation is alive with an energy similar to the 1960s when Civil Rights and equality were discussed over TV dinners and meatloaf (but now it’s over our meals brought to us by Uber Eats or Door Dash). I will speak for myself, but I am feeling some of our current challenges. Part of this is because I am a human being living in 2020, and the other part is being a mental health provider practicing at a time when depression and anxiety are at an all-time high.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 264 million Americans are affected by depression. One study reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reported that more than 33.7% of Americans will experience anxiety at some point during their lives. These statistics indicate the necessity of regularly checking-in with our mental health and well-being.

 Signs of Stress  

Knowing the signs of stress provides opportunities to create positive changes before our brain health negatively impacts our work, family life, sanity, and enjoyment. As you read the below list of challenges associated with anxiety and/or depression, make a note (or you can circle) which symptoms pertain to you. Once you finish reading the signs of stress, keep on reading to check your brain health temperature.
YOUR BEHAVIOR:
Have you noticed any of the following?

An increase or decrease in your energy and activity level
An increase in your alcohol, tobacco use, or use of illegal drugs
An increase in irritability, with outbursts of anger and frequent arguing
Having trouble relaxing or sleeping
Crying frequently
Worrying excessively
Wanting to be alone most of the time
Blaming other people for everything
Having difficulty communicating or listening
Having difficulty giving or accepting help
Inability to feel pleasure or have fun
YOUR BODY:
Have you noticed any of the following?

Having stomachaches or diarrhea
Having headaches and other pains
Losing your appetite or eating too much
Sweating or having chills
Getting tremors or muscle twitches
Being easily startled

YOUR THINKING:
Have you noticed any of the following?
Having trouble remembering things
Feeling confused
Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating
Having difficulty making decisions
YOUR EMOTIONS:
Have you noticed any of the following?

Being anxious or fearful
Feeling depressed
Feeling guilty
Feeling angry
Feeling heroic, euphoric, or invulnerable
Not caring about anything
Feeling overwhelmed by sadness

YOUR THINKING:
Have you noticed any of the following?

Having trouble remembering things
Feeling confused
Having trouble thinking clearly and concentrating
Having difficulty making decisions

How to Read Your Brain Health Thermometer

SCORING:
If you answered yes to one symptom in each section, your brain health temperature is mild. If you answered 2-3, then your brain health temperature is medium. Lastly, if you scored more than 3 in each section, your brain health temperature is high.

Okay, how did you do? When you read through the signs of depression, stress, and anxiety, what came up for you? The higher your brain health temperature, the more you need to find ways to reduce some of those challenges.

If you find yourself struggling right now, it’s okay. Many of the people on planet Earth right now are going through very similar emotions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to a mental health provider if you need more support. It can feel overwhelming to know where to start. To stay grounded and less overwhelmed, pick one source of stress in each category to work on first.

Where to Go from Here?

First thing’s first, take a breath and check-in with yourself. Now that you know where your brain health stands, you can empower yourself by making some much-needed changes for the better. Keep reading to get some tips for keeping your brain health temperature healthy.

Practice Reducing Stress
Keep things in perspective: take time away from social media, the news, and high-intensity people. Taking time to “just be” and do things that bring you peace and happiness.

Be Proactive About Your Health: Stay healthy through exercise, eating healthy, educating yourself about health, and possibly hiring a nutritionist if you need additional direction or support with your eating habits.

Find Practical Ways to Relax: Take breaks often, stretch, practice mindfulness activities to ground yourself, eat a delicious meal, spend time with loved ones, and, most importantly, unplug and recharge your battery.

Pay Attention to Your Body, Feelings, and Spirit:
Find ways to nurture and support your mind, body, and soul. Enroll in a new online class that you find exciting or try a new form of exercise. Spirituality can also be an essential component of our well-being– if that is part of your practice. There are many ways to renew our spirit that range from connecting to nature to engaging in community practices.

As a partner, a busy mom of two pre-teens, and a full-time psychotherapist, it is my job to help people explore their brain health. I love helping my clients find quick and effective ways to cultivate lasting change, but I am human. I am affected by the same stuff we all are: the pull of work and family, Coronavirus concerns and inconveniences, life challenges, and stress. Here’s the thing: the more we learn how to keep our brain health temperature at a comfy level, the more empowered we become to make those much-needed changes for the better, so take up some of the ideas I mentioned to keep your “cool” as we go into fall. I don’t know about you, but the thought of taking my family up to Apple Hill for some cider, apples, and farm hopping is one way to ensure my brain health thermometer measures a perfect 98.7.

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