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45 Doctors' Own Mental Health Tips

Nurturing your mental health is just as important, if not more so, as your physical health. These expert-approved tips will keep you calm, happy, and focused.

For some people, it's the everyday stresses of life that get them down. For others, it's an unexplained chemical imbalance in their brain that leads to depression, anxiety, and an overall feeling of hopelessness and helplessness.

Just because it's an invisible disease doesn't mean it isn't serious; an estimated 1 in 20 people over the age of 12 in the US have depression, according to the CDC.

But the good news is that bad state of mind doesn't have to be permanent. Through a combination of lifestyle changes, seeking professional help, and taking medication, you can achieve better mental health.

We tapped medical doctors, psychologists, and other health professionals for their top tips on achieving a better state of mind. Although everyone experiences mental illness differently, and it's always advised to seek the help of a medical professional, these 45 tips are a good place to start. Then make sure you avoid the 15 Foods That Make Your Depression or Anxiety Worse.


Don't Be Ashamed

upset woman

"Don't be ashamed about it. Almost every family is touched by mental illness in a family member. There is no need for mental illness to remain in the shadows. Mental illness is just like any other illness. It is diagnosed by specific criteria, it responds to appropriate treatment and it is universally recognized throughout the healthcare field." — Christopher Hollingsworth, MD


See a Therapist If You Need To

women therapy

"Therapists are very valuable for helping to change one's way of thinking through cognitive behavioral therapy. Need not be long term. Sometimes a short course can help one reorient one's thoughts."  — Gary J. Kerkvliet, MD


Or Seek Another Kind of Professional Help

typing on phone

"Seek and be consistent with professional help. No excuses. With services such as there is no reason why you cannot, confidentially, safely, comfortably and affordably see a professional to help you." — John Mayer, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand


Find a Doctor You Like

woman talking to doctor

"If your doctor makes you feel rushed or answers questions using too much medical terminology or just makes you feel uncomfortable, try to find another doctor. On the other hand, you have a responsibility to be prepared for your appointments. Bring a list of questions, bring your list of medications, know your health history–maybe bring an index card that summarizes your history if it is complicated. Consider bringing a trusted friend or family member with you to offer support and take notes." — Lisa Doggett, MD


Don't Isolate Yourself

friends at coffee shop

"Remaining in isolated during times of stress or depression is highly likely to increase whatever uncomfortable feelings and symptoms you are experiencing. Social interaction helps with normalizing feelings and the human experience; communicates that we are not alone and provides us with an opportunity to express negative emotions and feelings." — Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW


Try New Experiences

group dance class

"Seek out experiences that are positive and make you happy. Why push yourself to experience negative situations and people." — John Mayer, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand


Stay Stimulated

woman reading newspaper

"For all mental health, keep the brain stimulated every day" — Gary J. Kerkvliet, MD, internist, primary care physician


Get Outside

Man outside

Dr. Kerkvliet also recommends getting out of bed and going outside. It may be hard to do, especially if you're depressed, but even a little sunshine and vitamin D can improve your mood.


Lace Up Your Walking Shoes

woman walking

"Simply walking 20-25 minutes a day at a moderate pace can reduce anxiety and depression by over 40 percent" — David Sabgir, MD, FACC


Experience Nature

Couple hiking outdoors

"There's a great new book out by Florence Williams, Nature Fix. The benefits of being nature and its effect on mental health are powerful." — David Sabgir, MD, FACC


Get Help as Soon as You Experience Symptoms

man depressed

"Getting help early from a professional you trust, being honest about your condition with yourself, and seeking support from close family and/or friends is key. Keeping your appointments with counselors and doctors involved in your care and following their treatment recommendations (especially taking any medications you are prescribed) will greatly increase your odds of getting better and staying healthy." — Lisa Doggett, MD


Find a Coping Mechanism That Works

friends running

"Have multiple coping mechanisms. We are all going to feel stress and possibly depression as we walk through the journey of life. Dealing with mental illness is how you cope with the stress that will come upon us." — John Mayer, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand


Write Down Your Negative Self-Talk

Woman thinking

"I would recommend you write down the exact thoughts you are having (literally, what are you saying to yourself in your head). This will help you objectively see the content of your thoughts so you can read them and "reframe" them; meaning, dispute the thoughts. Reframing will help you find more positive alternatives." — Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW


Have a Good Work-Life Balance

Woman at standing desk

"Seek out balance in your life. Work, family, recreation, hobbies, relationship, friendships, physical health, spirituality, nutrition, and mental/emotional health should all have an active and vibrant part of your life. Not one dominates all other aspects of your life." — John Mayer, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand


Strive for High Emotional Intelligence

coworkers talking

"Having a high intelligence quotient is great, but having a high emotional intelligence quotient can be better in terms of long-term stability.  Especially in high-stress situations, or in leadership roles, what defines a good leader is often not their intelligence, but their level of maturity and control of their emotions." — Christopher Hollingsworth, MD


Take a Magnesium Supplement


"Magnesium is known as the anti-stress mineral and serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that is boosted artificially by some medications, depends on magnesium for its production and function. Magnesium also regulates melatonin production for better, more rejuvenating sleep. I recommend 500mg-600mg of elemental magnesium as an optimal daily amount. Not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body. Mix magnesium citrate powder in filtered or spring water and squeeze a half a lemon and stir, hot or cold, and just sip this throughout the day. " — Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, Medical Advisory Board Member, Nutritional Magnesium Association


Get Plenty of Sleep

woman sleeping

"Get enough quality sleep (usually 7-8 hours per day for adults). Practice good sleep hygiene: try to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, if you possibly can, weekends included. If you can't sleep after about 15-20 minutes, leave your bedroom, and go to a different room if you can. Do a quiet activity (no media or devices—think: reading or meditation) until you start to feel tired, and then you can return to your bed. Your bed should be for sleep (and sex) only." — Lisa Doggett, MD


Joke Around

friends laughing

"Practice humor. Even just putting a smile on your face improves your immunity. The reason there are two comedy channels in my hospital is that we teach patients to use humor for health."  — Murray Grossan, MD


Get Moving

"When stressed or depressed, it can feel almost impossible to find the motivation to get up and moving. Fatigue and decrease in motivation and energy can be a few of the many side effects of feeling stressed and depressed. One reason for feeling this way is that when we are depressed, our brains are likely not producing or releasing enough of the 'neurotransmitter of happiness' called serotonin. Countless studies have shown that exercise increases both serotonin production and release, and is the reason most feel better after they get out and moving." — Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW


Get Proper Medication If You Need It


Once you visit with a medical professional, you may need to be put on medication. It's not shameful; sometimes, taking the proper medication and help improve your mental state. "Medications can also help set right the biochemistry within the brain," says Gary J. Kerkvliet, MD.


Practice Mindfulness

Woman meditating

"Learn what mindfulness is and incorporate it into your daily life. Meditation is a form of mindfulness and has powerful benefits for mental health." — John Mayer, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand


Hang Out with Friends and Family

friends eating at restaurant

"When we have friends or family near us during stressful times, allowing them to give you a hug will trigger your brain to produce and release the attachment hormones called oxytocin and vasopressin; this makes us feel love and connected; thereby, likely decreasing the feelings of sadness, loneliness, and stress." — Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW


Learn Counted Breathing

inhaling breathing

"Hourly one minute counted breathing Inhale count four and exhale count six. This sends a message to your amygdala to reduce stress hormones. and counting puts your anterior lobe onto "nice" subject. Over a 6 weeks period your overall stress chemistry will be reduced." — Murray Grossan, MD


Start Journaling

woman journaling

"Write in a journal! I have written in a journal nearly every night since I was 11 years old. But it's never too late to start! Writing down your worries can provide a release and help you move past them. I also find that re-reading old journal entries gives me perspective and provides me with a wisdom that helps me through more recent challenges." — Lisa Doggett, MD


Talk to a Friend Who is a Good Listener

Friends talking

"If you have a friend that you can elicit to help you, ask them to listen to the thoughts you are having and help you reframe them." — Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW


Avoid the People You Need to

Women talking

"Avoidance gets a bad rap. There is nothing wrong with avoiding situations and people who will bring stress, worry or sadness into your life. If people or situations don't add to your life maybe it shouldn't be in your life."  — John Mayer, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand


Learn to Say No

woman saying no

"Learn to say 'no' to people and activities that will make you feel drained or overwhelmed. By saying 'no,' you are then saying 'yes' to your own mental health and more rejuvenating activities." — Lisa Doggett, MD


Try to Forget the Sad Thoughts


"When stressed or depressed, we are usually having worrisome, sad, or overall negative thoughts. Studies show that thinking of, or remembering sad events decreases serotonin production in a part of our brain that helps us to be able to control attention. What this means is, that by continuing to think of sad events, it makes it less likely we will be able to focus on anything else; this is why it is so difficult to get ourselves out of the negative thinking loop." — Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW


Exercise Every Day

"Exercise has been key for me to avoid depression and anxiety, and some studies show it can be as effective as medication for mild depression. I exercise every day, no matter what, first thing in the morning before I have an excuse to skip it." — Lisa Doggett, MD


Look at Your Happy Photos

family photo album

"Look at photos that you have taken that remind you of positive times, as this may help stimulate serotonin production helping you to feel better." — Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW


Stay in the Moment

"Mindfulness: Stay in the moment. Don't dwell on things past or worry about future." — Gary J. Kerkvliet, MD


Eat Healthy Meals

Salmon on spinach

"Eat three healthy meals a day, with lots of fruits and vegetables, and avoid too many snacks or sodas."   — Lisa Doggett, MD


Try an Anti-Inflammatory Diet

kale salad

"Anxiety and depression can be mitigated through modifications of lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, and counseling services. In relation to improving lifestyle, a key factor is an anti-inflammatory diet through decreasing sugar intake and gluten." — Muneer Imam, MD, Medical Director of the Center for Integrative and Innovative Therapies


Prepare for the Next Stressful Situation

stressed woman

"Emotionally inoculate yourself. Use the techniques of visual imagery, preparation, and fact-finding to ward off stress and prepare for stressful situations." — John Mayer, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand


Find Work You Love

woman at desk

"Find work that you enjoy: so much of our lives is spent at work – finding a job that helps you meet your goals and where you feel valued and productive is so important!" — Lisa Doggett, MD


Avoid Alcohol and Drugs

woman refusing to drink alcohol

"Avoid drugs (including tobacco and marijuana) and avoid heavy drinking. Substances can have a major effect on mental health and sleep. Men generally should not drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day, and women should limit themselves to one."  — Lisa Doggett, MD


Don't Overdo it on the Caffeine

woman coffee morning

"Avoid too much caffeine, especially if prone to anxiety, though 1-2 cups of coffee or tea per day is completely fine. Don't drink caffeine within about eight hours of sleep if you are sensitive to it."  — Lisa Doggett, MD


Focus on What You Can Control

friends talking

"Try not to worry about things you have no control over, focus on things you do have control over." — Christopher Hollingsworth, MD


Ask for Help

Doctor and patient

"Ask for help when you need it, and give help when someone else needs it. Both go a long way to improving mental health." — Lisa Doggett, MD


Be Honest With Your Doctor

woman talking to doctor

"Good communication with your doctor or other professionals you see for mental health concerns is essential. Also be honest! Your doctor or counselor can't help you unless they understand the full, true picture of what you are experiencing. Honesty is essential in building a trusting relationship."  — Lisa Doggett, MD


Get in Shape

Weight training

"Be in great physical health. The mind/body interaction is powerful. A healthy body leads to a healthy mind and a healthy mind leads to a healthy body." — John Mayer, Ph.D, Clinical Psychologist at Doctor On Demand


Know Yourself

woman thinking

"Know yourself in order to be better able to control your emotions."  — Christopher Hollingsworth, MD


Turn to Your Hobbies

women golfing

"The best way to decrease the stress is by playing with it wisely. We should try spending more time on our hobbies or something that would elevate our mood, be it catching up with our old friends or chatting to family, so that we get a more positive outlook in life and build up a strong barrier so that stress cannot attack us easily."  — Lisa Doggett, MD


Find a Support Group


"Try to help yourself by seeking out community support groups and learning as much as you can about your illness." — Christopher Hollingsworth, MD


Go Out in Public

women shopping

"The human brain is hardwired for social and emotional engagement, and our basic human need is to be heard and understood." — Danielle Forshee, Psy.D, LCSW

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