Struck by Living: Top Ten for Mental Health Brain Protection for Adults

Editor’s Note: The below was authored by Julie K. Hersh, a guest on tonight’s Glenn Beck Program on TheBlaze TV.

Top Ten for Mental Health Brain Protection for Adults– Julie K. Hersh

Mental illness, like many diseases, is prime example of “what comes first?” Do genetics cause mental  illness or does the environment breed it? I always answer “both” to this question. How we react to our environment determines our mental health, oftentimes more than the environment itself. We’ve all seen one person devastated by failure or disappointment, while another person uses that same situation as motivation for future success. As Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is that one that is the most adaptable to change.”

This list has undergone various iterations – showing that a mental health list changes for different phases of life. The first five items are what I would call “brain preservation” tactics; things that I do on a daily basis to maintain health. The rest are more “stress management” techniques, and I have seen these items change as stress in my life changes. The key is to make your own list. No one keeps a list like this perfectly, certainly not me! Try to remember tomorrow is always a new day and a new chance to create good habits.

1. Sleep. Get the right amount. Most depressed people report problems with sleep. Depression, insomnia and anxiety combined are danger signals that (unchecked) can be precursors to suicidal behavior. I need about 7 hours of sleep a night. If I find myself sleeping less, closer to 5 or less a night, this is usually an indication that stress is interfering with my sleep. I cut back on caffeine, and don’t read electronics close to bedtime. If this does not work, I consult with my psychiatrist and use medication to ensure sleep.

2. Exercise. Due to an injury, in all three of my depressive episodes I was unable to run. Now I find an alternate exercise if injured. 150 minutes of brisk walking can reduce—and sometimes eliminate—depression according to research done by Dr. Madhukar Trivedi of UT Southwestern. For more information on exercise and brain function read Spark by John Ratey.

3. Medication: Be aware the Impact of Alcohol/Drugs and take medication if prescribed. Not everyone needs medication for mental health, but everyone needs to understand the impact of alcohol and drugs on brain function. Alcohol is a depressant and impacts brain hormone dopamine. Dopamine controls our ability to experience pleasure. When drinking, alcohol increases dopamine, hence the reason we feel good after a few drinks. Once drinking stops, dopamine levels drop at an escalated rate, leaving a person in a dopamine-deprived state. If you have a tendency to be depressed, alcohol or illegal drugs only compounds the impact of depression.

I take an antidepressant (which happens to be dopamine based) on a daily basis. Many people stop their medication as soon as their brains stabilize, only to see their depression reemerge. I did this in 2005. I relapsed and learned the hard way that a small bit of prevention ensures health. Medication (combined with the other actions on this list) creates a preventative buffer against a potentially deadly level of depression.

4. Meditation. I meditate on a daily basis, currently about 30 minutes. For me, mediation is a combination of meditation/prayer, although meditation has a different quality. Prayer is about asking, meditation is about listening and acceptance. While my prayer life has been sporadic and crisis-driven throughout my life, meditation has allowed for a deepening and consistency in both practices. Meditation often surfaces ideas and sources of comfort that I had not been able to obtain in the other areas of my action-packed life.

5. Nutrition. I’m convinced that Seasonal Affect Disorder – SAD (caused by lack of sunlight and a Vitamin D deficiency) played a part in my depression. All three of my depressive episodes began in January and peaked in the spring. All three occurred in gray weather – one was in South Bend and the other two were two of the rainiest winters on record in Dallas. I try to get 15 minutes of unprotected sunlight every day. SAD lamps and visors can be purchased for gray environments. Supplements can help with Vitamin D efficiency, but make sure to check with your physician to make sure you actually have a deficiency. Excess vitamins can sometimes lead to other unanticipated problems.

6. Friends and Family as a Barometer for Health. My family and friends are often the best people to help keep me honest with regard to my mental health. If they see me not sleeping, committing to too many tasks (more than usual) or withdrawing from social settings, they tell me. Remember, depression is a brain disease. Trying to solve depression with the very organ in your body that is broken is a difficult task.

7. Brain Engagement. A happy brain is a more productive brain. I try to have a day a month where I feed my brain with something I love that is not related to work. I love theater, art, and museums. I dismissed these things as unessential in the past. Today, I see them as critical for my thinking and creativity.

8. Avoid the Age Escalation Trap. Often, at least in the US, people of the same age group tend to socialize and work together, magnifying the problems of that age group. A simple question such as “Where will my child go to college?” or “How can I find a job?” becomes amped with anxiety, fueled by other people agonizing over the same thing. Someone out of the same age group – 10 years or more older (or younger) can act as a sounding board to keep problems in perspective. An older person often has the insight from weathering the same experiences we face. One of my most valued friends today is an 85 year-old man who helps me keep my 53 year-old worries in check.

He helps me maintain my sense of humor and perspective.

9. Plan proactively for a health crisis and know the signs of depression. These days I proactively call my psychologist when I am about to approach a major transition point in my life. I know my warning signs of depression (insomnia, lack of appetite, isolation) and together we are watchful during the transition period. If you are unsure what might be a sign of depression, check out this list from the Grant Halliburton Foundation:

Here is a 24-hour number for support: 1-800-873-TALK.

10. Remember that your value is more than what you do. High achievers have a tendency to feel like a failure unless they are constantly productive. That’s just not realistic. Oftentimes the moments we believe to be the worst in our lives become the turning point to a better path we never imagined. Unfortunately we often only see the path in retrospect. In the gray period of uncertainty, try to remember that you have value just in being. This is perhaps the hardest point for me to remember, but when I do, I laugh a lot more. This lesson humbles us, yet frees us to pursue our passions in the same instant.

Most of my life I have not been depressed. I use this list to keep my depression in check, so I can maximize the positive moments in my life. For more information about me, Julie K Hersh, check out my website:

  • soybomb315

    If you are concerned about mental health deterioration, perhaps we should consider the metals contained in vaccines that we inject into ourselves and our kids bloodstream….Also, what are the effects of fluoridated water, of which fluoride is a neurotoxin?

    • Shawna DeMar

      What metals? The flu shot is the only one that contains mercury.

      • yort


        • Shawna DeMar


      • soybomb315

        “what metals”

        Aluminum (neurotoxin) and traces of mercury still in regular vaccines. Vaccines dont work without metal. Funny that you casually say that flu shot is the “only one” as if it is no big deal, but flu shot is administered to 50+ million americans every year.

        Direct injection of metals into bloodstream bypasses all the mechanisms God gave us to naturally absorb/filter metals from the foods we eat. Shot yourself with a vaccine and you screw all that up. Yeah, do higher metals in blood help or hurt brain function – who cares, right?

        • Shawna DeMar

          The inhaled flu vaccine doesn’t have mercury and the vaccine is optional. Where do you get your info from? The CDC has a list of vaccines and ingredients. Also, the amount of aluminium you get in a tiny dose of vaccine is probably less than what people get in a lifetime of deodorant.

      • Moozmom

        You know how when you are a kid and like messing with stuff. At 9, I cracked open a mercury thermometer, fascinated by the mercury. The stuff is fun to play with, so sticking my finger in it, I dabbed some in my mouth. Do you know I’ve never been in the hospital for any illness and have taken antibiotics twice in my lifetime, 30 years apart? Now if a kid cracked open a mercury thermometer in school, some kind of government squad would be called. Honestly!

        • Watch it

          In chem lab in high school, we worked with mercury. One of the girls got it on the gold watch her grandfather willed to her. It absorbed into the watch and turned it mercury colored. She continued to wear it every day, but hid it from view of her parents as she was afraid they would be upset with her. After a couple years I lost track of her – didn’t see her around. She had slowly became ill and in a couple years she was deathly ill. The doctors couldn’t diagnose her problem. When my mom told me about her devastating, mysterious condition, I remembered the mercury. I called her parents and told them what I thought might be happening to her. She had not been tested for heavy metal poisoning. They finally had her tested and sure enough – she had mercury poisoning and had to undergo chelation therapy.

          Mercury isn’t something to fool around with. Perhaps the tiny exposure a lot of us had as kids with mercury from a broken thermometer had little or no discernible effect on us, but continuous exposure or ingestion takes it’s toll.

          • ch2801

            I bit the themometer in the doctors office when I was eight. And the doc and his nurse like to had heart attacks. Spit , spit, open and let me look and gave mom a list of things to look for.It was the mercury and the glass. Glad that type themometer was no problem by the time I had kids.

  • Tim Casey

    Maybe this discussion could include helping firefighters that are killing themselves in record numbers.

  • imjustbob

    Hello, and Welcome to the Mental Health Hotline: If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly. If you are co-dependent, ask someone to press 2 for you. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want. Stay on the line so we can trace your call. If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be transferred to the mother ship. If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a small voice will tell you which number to press. If you are depressive, it doesn’t matter which number you press – no one will answer you. If you are dyslexic, press 69696969. If you have a nervous disorder, please fidget with the hash key until the beep after the beep please wait for the beep. If you have short-term memory loss, please try your call again later. If you have low self esteem, hang up. All our operators are too busy to talk to you.

    • Irena M Varela


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        Six months ago I lost my job and after that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a great website which literally saved me. I started working for them online and in a short time after I’ve started averaging 15k a month… The best thing was that cause I am not that computer savvy all I needed was some basic typing skills and internet access to start… This is where to start>

    • goolia

      Haha love it

    • independ135


    • martha


  • yvonne

    This is excellent!

  • Juliana Rose

    protecting yourself from mental ilness
    – Take a warm bath or wrap yourself in a comfortable blanket.
    – Talk with a friend, family member, or significant other.
    – Allow yourself to feel upset, but also try and do nice things for yourself.
    – Go for a walk or watch a favorite movie.
    – Do yoga or meditate. Deep breathe.
    – Take a nap or read a good book.
    – Exercise. Get creative – draw, write poetry, journal, cook, paint, etc
    – Eat regularly with well-balanced meals.

  • Dr Clifford Brickman

    And! ~ don’t forget the basic ingredient, The Still, Soft Voice

  • Boyd Redding

    Section 1311(h)(1)(B) of the Obamacare law grants the secretary of Health and Human Services blanket authority to dictate how doctors treat patients.

  • 2 IT too

    BRAIN protection?

    —DO NOT have a TV in your home.

    ——-DO NOT become enmeshed with ‘RAY—DIO’

    ——–DO NOT participate in surveillance op ‘SO SHELL’ medea

    ————Write longhand


    ———————-SHUN ‘VAC’—scenes

    —————————HURL the WIFI

    ——————-Take an hour long walk EVERY day

    ————————-READ REAL BOOKS

    ————————DO NOT frequent franchise slums

    ——————Prayerfully search SCRIPTURE

    • oneguy4adonai

      Armenians are not heretical in their beliefs anymore than Calvinist. They just don’t believe in the doctrine of once saved, always saved. You say prayerfully search scripture? I say you might consider searching a little deeper for yourself. Quit believing things that God has not authored and start finding out from some place other than your life long denominational belief system.

    • Irena M Varela

      Let me finish your profile;
      You are middle age white male, never married, keeping to yourself, but nice and always say, hello to your neighbors, living at your mother’s house or in a cabin in Montana.
      But how in the hell you wrote your above comment on PC in a longhand writing?

  • goolia

    What an excellent article, I find myself scouring the Internet for advice and help and this article cover so much! Thank you for this <3

  • Karen Rath

    Good points except for the medication part. Antidepressants greatly increase the chance of suicide and violence. NEVER EVER take them!

  • Jon Johnston

    At every opportunity, each of us should take the opportunity to hone our intellectual Excalibur:

  • kieramccarthy

    my Aunty Audrey got a nearly new yellow Mercedes-Benz C-Class Convertible by working from the internet.>>>>>>>>>>> JOBSFISH

  • Veck Torr

    If the Obama regime is willing to lie to you about medical care, is there anything it won’t lie about?