BINGHAMTON, NY – May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and our sister station in Binghamton spoke with licensed Psychotherapist Dr. Francis Battisti on how to live a balanced life while keeping your mental health in check.

This is part one of the three part series on mental health awareness and matience.

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.

Cultivating a Mentally Health Lifestyle:

In the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, more Americans are mentally struggling more than ever, and we weren’t doing all that well to begin with.

The first step to improving mental health is smashing the stigma that so many people have associated with it.

“I think the stigma really, in so many ways, is really built on unfounded ideas and old ideas,” says Battisti.

Shame can also be attached to this stigma, which is a problem in itself and can be greatly exacerbated if you are already struggling, Battisti says.

One thing that’s important to note is that people who feel mentally health right now still struggle with it, he points out. No one is in a good mental place all the time.

“Mental health is on a continuum. A lot of times people think you’re either mentally healthy or mentally ill. It’s not that easy.”

Battisti sites the Blue Zone research for tips on how to live a more balanced life.

He says one of the most important things you can do is pay attention to your physical health, adding that if you surround yourself with physically healthy and positive people, then their lifestyles can be contagious.

Even simple things like the foods you eat, and activities such as walking or yoga can transport you to a better mental place.

So can creative activities like art, music or whatever gets you excited.

Battisti also says that leaning into whatever spirituality you have, whatever religion you have, can also be very helpful for calming the mind and can even help people to live longer.

“You just want to be around things that are encouraging for you as much as possible,” he says.

And while we may have seen the worst of the pandemic, re-integration into society can be overwhelming as well, especially if you do it all at once.

“Sort of like the gulp response, you know, you jump in, you hold your breath for so long and then you have to gulp,” Battisti says.

He also says it’s important to accept the change that came with the pandemic, and find ways to work through negative emotions and realize how you want things to go.

“You can still be in charge with how much you’re going to engage in society and how much you’re not going to,” Battisti says.

If you’re still facing negative emotions or thoughts, it’s important to seek out the help of a professional.