Understanding and Managing Mental Health Conditions Like Depression and Anxiety

Woman comforting man

What is Mental Health? 

Mental health refers to a person’s overall emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It encompasses how individuals think, feel, and act, as well as how they cope with stress, make choices and relate to others. Mental health is vital for maintaining a balanced and fulfilling life, and it affects various aspects, including emotions, thoughts, behaviour, and overall functioning.

The Canadian Psychological Association defines Mental Health as “the state of your psychological and emotional well-being. It is a necessary resource for living a healthy life and a main factor in overall health. It does not mean the same thing as mental illness. However, poor mental health can lead to mental and physical illness.” 

What is Depression? 

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects one in eight Canadians at some point in their lives, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Depression is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in activities. It is more than just feeling down or having a bad day; it is a serious condition that can significantly impact a person’s mental health and well-being.

Depression affects individuals in multiple ways, including:

  1. Emotions: People with depression often experience intense feelings of sadness, emptiness, and despair. They may also feel irritable, anxious, or excessively guilty.
  2. Thoughts: Depression can distort a person’s thinking patterns. Individuals may have negative thoughts about themselves, their abilities, and their future. They may also struggle with concentration, memory problems, and difficulty making decisions.
  3. Physical symptoms: Depression can manifest physically, leading to changes in appetite, sleep disturbances (such as insomnia or excessive sleeping), fatigue, and a lack of energy. Physical aches and pains, without a clear medical cause, are also common.
  4. Behavioural changes: Depression can alter a person’s behaviour and daily functioning. Individuals may withdraw from social activities, lose interest in hobbies, and have difficulty carrying out regular tasks at work, school, or home. In severe cases, it may lead to thoughts of self-harm or suicide.
  5. Relationships and social functioning: Depression can strain relationships with family, friends, and coworkers due to a person’s withdrawal, irritability, or lack of engagement. It may also contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

The impact of depression on mental health and well-being can be profound. It can disrupt all areas of life, including personal relationships, work or school performance, and overall enjoyment of life. It may lead to a decreased quality of life and increased risk of developing other mental or physical health issues, and, in severe cases, it can be life-threatening.

It is essential to recognize the signs of depression and seek appropriate help and support. Treatment options, such as therapy, medication, lifestyle changes, and support from loved ones, can effectively manage depression and improve mental health and well-being.

What is Anxiety? 

Anxiety is another common mental health condition that affects many Canadians, according to the Canadian Psychological Association.  An anxiety disorder is a condition characterized by excessive and persistent worry, fear, or unease. It goes beyond the normal feelings of stress and can significantly impact a person’s mental health and overall well-being.  Anxiety can be triggered by a variety of factors, including genetics, life events, and chemical imbalances in the brain.

Here are some key aspects of anxiety disorders and their effects:

  1. Excessive worry: Individuals with anxiety disorders experience excessive and often irrational worry about various aspects of their lives, such as work, relationships, health, or everyday situations. This worry is difficult to control and may interfere with their ability to concentrate or carry out daily activities.
  2. Physical symptoms: Anxiety can manifest physically, leading to symptoms such as increased heart rate, shortness of breath, trembling, sweating, dizziness, and gastrointestinal issues. These physical symptoms often accompany feelings of anxiety and can be distressing.
  3. Avoidance behaviours: Anxiety disorders can cause individuals to avoid certain situations or places that trigger their anxiety. This avoidance can lead to limitations in daily activities, hinder social interactions, and impact overall functioning and quality of life.
  4. Impact on thoughts and perception: Anxiety can distort a person’s thoughts and perception of situations. They may have a tendency to overestimate potential threats, catastrophize outcomes, or have a constant sense of impending danger. This negative thinking pattern can contribute to heightened anxiety levels.
  5. Emotional well-being: Anxiety disorders can significantly affect a person’s emotional well-being. They may experience a constant sense of fear, restlessness, irritability, or a feeling of being on edge. Anxiety can also contribute to difficulties with sleep, including trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  6. Interference with daily life: Anxiety disorders can interfere with various aspects of life, such as work, relationships, and social activities. It may lead to difficulties in concentrating, decreased productivity, strained relationships, and reduced quality of life.
  7. Co-occurring conditions: Anxiety disorders often coexist with other mental health conditions, such as depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders. These comorbidities can further complicate the individual’s mental health and well-being.

Seeking appropriate treatment for anxiety disorders is crucial for managing symptoms and improving overall mental health. Treatment options may include therapy, medication, relaxation techniques, and lifestyle changes. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. With proper support and interventions, individuals with anxiety disorders can experience relief from their symptoms and enhance their well-being.

Tips for Living Well with a Mental Health Condition

Managing and overcoming mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety requires tailored approaches as everyone’s experience is unique. Seeking professional guidance and incorporating evidence-based strategies can significantly contribute to positive outcomes. Here are some research-supported tips and tools that can be beneficial in managing and overcoming depression and anxiety.


Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the proven treatments for depression and anxiety. By identifying and challenging negative thoughts, developing coping skills, and making positive behavioural changes, individuals can experience significant improvements. Other therapies, like Interpersonal therapy (IPT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Dialectical behavioural Therapy (DBT), and mindfulness-based therapies, also offer effective alternatives.


In some cases, medication prescribed by a healthcare professional can aid in managing symptoms. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, particularly when combined with therapy, can be helpful.  A consultation with a psychiatrist or healthcare provider will ensure appropriate consideration of medication options.

Lifestyle changes:

Research highlights the positive impact of certain lifestyle modifications on mental health. Exercising regularly has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Promoting healthy eating habits and sufficient sleep can contribute to overall well-being.

Relaxation techniques:

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or mindfulness meditation can reduce stress, promote relaxation, and improve mood.

Social support:

Depression and anxiety thrive in isolation and in avoidance. Seeking support from family, friends, or support groups and staying connected and engaged with people that care about us can have a profound impact on our mental well-being. Social connections provide emotional support, combat feelings of isolation, and offer opportunities for positive experiences.


Prioritizing self-care activities that are enjoyable and nurturing is another important change we can make to combat feelings of depression and anxiety. Involvement in hobbies, practicing self-compassion, setting boundaries, and allocating time for rest and relaxation contribute to overall well-being. Engaging in online games at ice casino goes beyond mere entertainment; it can positively impact mental health by offering a form of relaxation akin to a digital meditation. The immersive and enjoyable experiences create a therapeutic space, providing moments of tranquility that contribute to overall well-being and mental balance.

Stress management:

Develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress management. This may involve problem-solving strategies, time management techniques, or engaging in stress-reducing activities such as exercise or creative outlets. 

Challenge negative thinking:

Identify and challenge negative thoughts, replacing them with realistic and positive ones. This cognitive restructuring process contributes to improved mood and reduced anxiety. 

Goal setting:

Set realistic and achievable goals. Breaking down larger goals into smaller, manageable steps provides a sense of accomplishment and boosts motivation.

Mindfulness and self-awareness:

Practice mindfulness and bring your attention to the present moment without judgment and criticism. Depression and Anxiety are time disorders.  Depression is focused on past catastrophes, and Anxiety is focused on future catastrophes.  Mindfulness helps us stay in the present time, and it allows us to cultivate self-awareness, manage distressing thoughts, and promotes acceptance and well-being.

Seek support: 

Living with a mental health condition can be challenging, but individuals do not have to go through it alone. Seeking support from a mental health professional can help clients gain insight into the underlying causes of their symptoms, develop effective coping strategies, and identify and challenge negative thought patterns.  Through evidence-based therapeutic approaches, clients can learn practical tools to manage their symptoms, improve self-esteem, and enhance overall well-being. 

As a couples counsellor, I have also seen the impact that mental health conditions can have on relationships. It is important for couples to communicate openly and honestly about their mental health, seek support when needed, and work together to manage their symptoms. Couples can also benefit from counselling, where they can learn coping strategies and communication skills to navigate the challenges of marriage while living with a mental health condition. Mental health is critical for overall well-being, and managing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety is essential for living a healthy life. 

Maha Elias is a Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC), Comprehensive Family Mediator (FMC), and sexual health and trauma-informed couples therapist with a private practice in Victoria, British Columbia.

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