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Managing anxiety and depression

Mental health · Jun 17, 2021

Understanding anxiety

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem, with 10% of Canadians affected by them.1

Everyone feels anxious at times, but people with anxiety disorders experience long periods of intense fear or distress that is out of proportion to their real life situations, and this can interfere with their personal and professional relationships.1

There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders, and they create a variety of specific symptoms, but the symptoms produced by all types affect four areas: physical responses, thoughts, emotions and behaviours.2

Adults aren’t the only ones who are affected by anxiety disorders. Upwards of 20% of children and adolescents experience anxiety issues at some point.3 Anxiety often goes unnoticed by parents, teachers and other adults, because anxious children are often quiet and well-behaved.3 Other anxious children are simply labelled as “bad kids” because they are disruptive and act out.3

Managing anxiety

Anxiety disorders can be treated successfully. The most common treatment is a combination of medication and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).1 CBT helps people change their overly anxious thoughts into more rational thoughts.1 

In addition to medication and CBT, there are techniques people can employ to help reduce their anxiety. Examples include:1

  • Exercising regularly can enhance a person’s sense of well-being and help lessen anxiety.

  • Relaxation activities such as yoga, muscle relaxation exercises, deep breathing and biofeedback can help people learn to relax.

  • Getting plenty of sleep can help put things into perspective.

  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. While they may make someone feel more relaxed for a little while, they can increase anxiety once their effects wear off.

  • Avoid caffeine (commonly found in coffee, some teas, certain soft drinks and chocolate) because it can increase anxiety.

  • Be aware that some over-the-counter diet pills and cough and cold medications contain ingredients that can also increase anxiety.

  • Parents play an essential role in helping their children manage their anxiety. They can help their children deal with life’s challenges by rewarding them for developing coping skills and for facing their fears.3

Understanding depression

Depression is a common mental health disorder, and it differs from the usual sad moods that everyone experiences from time to time. When depression is long-lasting and the symptoms are moderate to severe, depression may become a serious health disorder that can result in great suffering and poor functioning at work, in school and with family members.4

There are a number of types of depression, and they are all categorized as mood disorders. Mood disorders are real illnesses that can have serious consequences. They affect physical well-being as well as emotional and mental health.5

Symptoms may vary from person to person, but some of the more common symptoms of depression include:  

  • Feeling sad, guilty, worthless, helpless or hopeless5

  • Losing interest in things that were previously enjoyed5

  • Unexplained changes in weight or appetite5

  • Sleep disturbances5Decreased energy or feelings of fatigue5

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things or making decisions6

  • Muscle and joint aches, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that don’t have an identifiable physical cause or that do not respond to treatment6

  • Thinking about death or suicide6

Anyone experiencing these symptoms most days for two or three weeks would be wise to contact a healthcare professional to discuss the symptoms.5

Managing depression

While people with severe depression may require a hospital stay, most people with depression can be treated with medication and psychotherapy.7 In addition to carefully following their medication and therapy regimens, there are a number of self-help techniques that can help manage depression. Some of the proven techniques include:7

  • Learn as much as possible about depression. This can help you understand the importance of sticking with your prescribed treatment regimen.

  • Encourage your family to learn about depression as well. This will help them understand what you are going through so they can provide the support you need.

  • Watch for warning signs. Speak with your doctor or therapist to identify things that might trigger or worsen your depressive symptoms and make a plan for dealing with them when they arise.

  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs. They may appear to lessen depression temporarily, but in the long term, they can worsen symptoms and make depression harder to treat.

  • Eat nutritious meals, be physically active and get plenty of sleep to keep your body healthy.

  • Learn to relax and manage stress. Helpful techniques include meditation, yoga, tai chi and progressive muscle relaxation.

  • Don’t isolate yourself. Connect with family and friends regularly and try to participate in social activities.

TELUS Health Care Centres has a nationwide team of connected healthcare professionals available to help you. Learn more or book an appointment here.


References:

1. Mental Health – Anxiety Disorders. Public Health Agency of Canada. Available online at https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/healthy-living/your-health/diseases/mental-health-anxiety-disorders.html

2. Anxiety in Adults. Anxiety Canada. Available online at https://www.anxietycanada.com/learn-about-anxiety/anxiety-in-adults/

3. Anxiety in Children. Anxiety Canada. Available online at https://www.anxietycanada.com/learn-about-anxiety/anxiety-in-children/

4. Depression. World Health Organization. Available online at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression

5. What is Depression? Public Health Agency of Canada.2016. Available online at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/chronic-diseases/mental-illness/what-depression.html

6. Depression. National Institute of Mental Health. Available online at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

7. Depression (major depressive disorder). Mayo Clinic. Available online at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356013

Authored by:
Care Centres Team
TELUS Health Care Centres

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