Dr. Ashfaq Ahsanuddin, Charles George VA Medical Center chief of staff, discusses the need to unplug, the joys of golf and taking advantage of your natural surroundings.
What are some techniques you use for maintaining your mental health?
Technology has become both a boon and a curse in the pandemic. While we are isolated, we are also more connected than ever and inundated with bad news 24/7. Mental health absolutely has to be a priority.
It is interesting to me that I have been able to both plug in and unplug to address that need. Some techniques I use to preserve my mental health involve connecting with family and friends electronically. My family has a Zoom call every week that we never thought about doing before, and my face-to-face weekly poker game became an online event that actually allowed us to play with people in other places that we hadn’t seen for a long time. One memorable game had players from Maine to North Carolina to Texas. (You can imagine that barking chain when the dogs became aware of each other!)
By the same token, it is important to also understand the impact of screen time on mental health and both biological and spiritual well-being. I strive to make defined periods where that it is specifically avoided.
What is your favorite way to approach your own physical health?
Since my schedule didn’t really change during the pandemic due to the nature of my work, I did not feel that I had the time to invest in a specific piece of exercise equipment only for it to become an expensive clothes hanger. I applaud the people who have been able to use the time to improve their physical health. My favorite way to approach my physical health is playing golf. Walking a round of golf allows me to be outside, enjoy a hobby and clear my mind. On days that don’t comply, I have had to settle for just walking, but living in Western North Carolina provides no shortage of outdoor beauty.
What is one book, podcast, documentary or article related to mental or physical health that you’d recommend, and why?
I don’t have a specific reference for health that I would share. I think people have to assimilate what works for them in their individual situations. I would say take advantage of what’s around you — maybe it can be used to help you in a way you hadn’t considered before.