It seems like we hear more and more about people suffering from depression and anxiety, especially as the pandemic drags on and the holidays approach. I have several friends and some family members who suffer from one or the other or both, so I reached out to Kera Walter, MD
, from The Christ Hospital Physicians—Primary Care, with some questions about how to deal with anxiety and depression, especially this time of year.
Signs of depression and anxiety
I’ve always thought anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, but Dr. Walter says they can occur separately or together. She says, “Depression can manifest as decreased interest or pleasure in doing things and can make you feel down or hopeless. It can also affect your sleep, energy, and concentration. Anxiety is excessive worry and difficulty controlling this worry. It can be so severe that it can impair your ability to function. You may feel restless and become easily irritable and have changes in sleep and concentration secondary to anxiety.” I know people sometimes feel like they are just having a bad day, but according to Dr. Walter, if the symptoms continue for at least two weeks—and it is affecting your daily life—then you need to see someone. The other big thing is that if you ever have thoughts of hurting yourself, call 911 or go to the ER right away.
Your primary care physician
For people suffering from depression and anxiety, it may be hard to reach out to anyone, but you can trust your PCP and they are a great first point of contact. Dr. Walter recommends that if you are having any mental health issues, you should bring it up to your PCP, and they can point you in the right direction. She advises, “One of my first recommendations for patients includes a referral to therapy/counseling, which may be in conjunction with medication therapy. Referral to psychiatry is usually prompted if a patient’s symptoms have been unresponsive to multiple treatments.”
Depression and the holidays
Depression hits a lot of people around the holidays for so many reasons. I can totally understand that people may be alone and missing family members, or the holidays are not living up to what they think they should. Dr. Walter has some tips for people that are suffering from depression and anxiety during the holiday season. The big thing is: Ask for help! Have others help with planning. Also, stay active, eat well, limit alcohol and make time to relax. She also recommends walks in the sunshine. When I get stressed, I like to go for a run or a walk, so I know first-hand exercise is a good stress reliver.
Managing depression and anxiety
I’ve watched those close to me suffer from depression and anxiety, resulting in them not wanting to go anywhere or do anything. I wondered about ways to manage these conditions so that people can get back to doing the things they used to love. Dr. Walter told me that taking time for yourself is key and also knowing when to say “no”; reflecting on what you can and cannot control and talking with others about how you’re doing can help.
She has some tips for managing these conditions without medication that include being open about how you are feeling and not being afraid to ask for help. “This can be accomplished by talking to trusted loved ones and/or a therapist. Ensure you are staying active, eating a well-rounded and balanced diet and taking time for yourself.” She adds that medication is sometimes necessary, and that you should talk to your PCP and be open about what you are going through. Here is the general rule from Dr. Walter: “If your anxiety, depression, or mental health is starting to impact your daily life and relationships, it may be time to consider something.”
What I’ve learned from Dr. Walter is to be open and honest with your loved ones and your PCP. Tell people how you’re feeling and know that there is help out there. Depression and anxiety don’t have to rule your life. As a mother of teenagers, I know what signs to watch for and that if I see them, we need to talk!