Healthwise: Living with anxiety and depression

I am honoured to be welcomed as the new Accredited Health Blogger for Ottawa Life Magazine. For my first post as such, I have decided to explore an illness that affects a significant number of adults: anxiety and depression.

Because of this particular time of year, and given the recent economic climate in Ottawa, some of us are sure to experience symptoms of one or both conditions. Depression can occur after major life events, such as job loss, retirement, divorce, death of a loved one, or following a serious medical diagnosis. Anxiety, on the other hand, is often triggered by life changes, such as starting a new job, returning to school, and the birth of a new baby or the departure of older children.

Unfortunately, there is a certain stigma associated with mental illnesses but, as the CBC reported, the impact of mental illness is greater than that of cancer and therefore must be given our proper attention. While these findings may not come as a surprise to those familiar with mental illness, such studies are necessary in helping to lift the shame often associated with such conditions.
According to the Royal Ottawa Hospital Mood Disorders Clinic, anxiety and depression are two of Canada’s fastest growing disabilities. And unfortunately the effects of these illnesses are not confined to the diagnosed individual but rather permeate the realms of work, relationships and home life.

Signs and Symptoms

When experiencing depression, one can display a variety of physical, mental and emotional symptoms, such as reduced or increased appetite and sleep, lack of focus, social withdrawal and decreased motivation, among others, whereas anxiety presents itself as fear of the future and can be manifested in different ways, whether as generalized anxiety, phobias or obsessive behaviours. Of course, we all experience bouts of one or more of these feelings once in a while, but one should seek treatment if any of them persist for more than a few weeks.

How to Cope

In order to minimize the symptoms of anxiety and depression, it is necessary to recognize the illness but also to take positive corrective action by ensuring adequate exercise and sleep, a healthy diet, work/life balance, perhaps taking up yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques, as well as establishing a support network of friends and consulting a medical professional if needed. Meanwhile, various local resources exist, namely the Canadian Mental Health Association and Mood Disorders Ottawa.
Remember, you are not alone.