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The Pandemic has brought with it an increase in Depression, Anxiety and other mental health issues

With some effort, you can feel better even if you are suffering from depression and / or anxiety.

Depression and anxiety tend to go hand in hand about 70% of the time. But not all depression and anxiety are the same. There are many different types and it is important to know more about the specific type of anxiety or depression you may be suffering from.

This blog is not intended to diagnose anything, however it is intended to help you understand that depression and anxiety are not just one thing, and that it is important to understand that you have options once you find out more about what you are dealing with. If you take nothing else from this read, it is that help and treatment options are available and you don’t need to keep suffering alone.

Another important thing to know is that there are a myriad of treatment options and they don’t all have to involve drugs. In fact the training I have as a Certified Brain Health Coach is from Amen University with Dr. Daniel Amen, who I was initially drawn to since I recognized early on that he promoted non pharmaceutical options ( vs. the typical first line of treatment which for most primary docs and psychiatrists is drugs.) While certain medications work for some people some of the time and can be very effective, We hope to educate and encourage people to do some research and realize other possibilities may exist for them, their children or their loved ones to learn to manage their anxiety or depression in non pharmaceutical ways.

As we discuss the different types of anxiety please know that there are tools and techniques that can help you to experience life with more calmness and the ability to control your anxiety or depression often without medication.

As we focus our Live Well Kitsap 6 week Community Challenge this week on mental and emotional health, we want to emphasize that getting help may make a significant difference for you and the quality of your health, life and relationships. Let’s look at 2 mental health issues that plague many people prior to the pandemic that have become more problematic for many in these last 12 months.

Depression can range from mild, moderate to severe. Many people have experienced mild to moderate depression which brings with it a range of signs and symptoms such as sadness, increased crying, withdrawal from people, events, hobbies or things that once felt joyful.

Sleep, eating and ability to focus or concentrate can also be adversely affected as can the quality of relationships. For some it can be difficult to differentiate between feeling a little sad or down, vs. meeting the criteria for a diagnosis of depression. Mental health therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists have various tools and diagnostic options to diagnose and if you have a thought or concern that you may be depressed we urge you to get help. Severe depression can be debilitating and often results in an inability to think clearly, focus, or function in typical daily activities such as work or childcare. Severe depression can lead to suicidal ideation or worse.

Therefore, it is incredibly important to stay attuned to yourself, what you are feeling, and to notice the words, actions and changes in demeanor of those that you live with to watch out for signs that depression may be occurring.

Anxiety also can be experienced as mild, moderate or severe and can occur in more situational context such as social or performance anxiety that rears up only in specific situations like being around people you don’t know, test taking or giving a presentation. GAD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder where one might feel or experience anxiety throughout the day regardless of circumstances is also an issue for some people. Anxiety can also reach a point where it leads to panic attacks or otherwise becomes debilitating.

Either way, help is available and we urge you to get it. Here are some ideas for you in the short run that you might consider in beginning to take charge of your own mental and emotional wellbeing.

Non pharmaceutical options may include the following:

  1. Get plenty of Sleep- a brain that is running on 7-8 hours of sleep is a brain that will think and function more optimally. Less than 6 hours of sleep often results in reduced blood flow to the brain and can compromise brain function. Lack of sleep makes it more difficult for your brain to work the way you want and need it to work.

  2. Diet matters every day- the more junk we eat the more we feel and function in a compromised way. The more we fuel our body and brain with largely plant based organic foods, and lean good sources of protein, the more we create the environment that is conducive to better brain function.

  3. Moving your body daily is the best medicine. Studies have shown that when groups of people diagnosed with depression went on depressive medications, and another group “went on exercise” they were about equally successful in treating depression. However, in the long run the exercise group actually fared better. Exercise has so many benefits and brain health is just one of them.

  4. Take your thoughts captive. Often Depression and Anxiety are exacerbated by our own thinking. This is a complex issue, so for our limited space here, we’ll focus on noticing your thoughts rather than letting them take up prime real estate in your head. Are your thoughts coming to you in the voice of your critical mom or dad? Are you noticing reoccurring messages from your past such as “Don’t do it unless it’s done right” or “why bother you don’t have the talent for that.” Such reoccurring messages can entail rumination where we “chew” on these messages over and over and our brain believes them even when they are not true. These kinds of messages often came from well meaning parents, teachers or coaches trying to motivate us, however our brain listens to what we tell it, so begin to question those persistent thoughts that are unkind, self defeating, negative or critical and replace them with more accurate thoughts.

  5. Spend time with Safe and Compassionate others. We all need to be in the company of others who add to our lives rather than take from it. When people – whether family or friends cause us to feel worse in their presence, we may want to rethink setting some boundaries, and/or finding people who energize rather than cause us to feel depleted. We all do mentally and emotionally better in the company of people who can offer us psychological safety, who speak their truth with love and compassion. We don’t get better in a vacuum so find the right peeps and spend time with them.

  6. Practice Deep Breathing daily and often. This one tool alone can have a profound effect on your overall emotional and mental health and wellbeing. Even three to four minutes in the morning, again at lunch, at midafternoon and after work are all great times to experience a glorious deep inhalation through your nose and a slow intentional exhalation out of your mouth. As you inhale imagine the air coming all the way in down to your lungs, and as you exhale, imagine all the old stale air coming out from the bottom of your lungs. Inhale and focus on a word like peace or calm as you exhale out all the stress.

  7. Learn Self Management and Coping skills. I am excited to see that some schools are actually paying attention to emotional and social intelligence skills. Many of us however learned by the people we saw growing up that when you are angry, it’s ok to shout, yell, throw a tantrum, blame or otherwise hurt the people nearest you. These behaviors are distressing to experience for both the person and the people around them. Help is available to learn how to manage your emotions and become more resilient when lifes hurdles seem overwhelming.

  8. Research Depression, Anxiety or other mental health issues. The more you know and understand the more likely you will be to engage in some good self compassion. Mental health issues can occur for a myriad of reasons and often have causes that are out of our control.. You didn’t ask to feel depressed or anxious so read up and understand some of the factors that can cause these things to be occurring. The more you know the more compassion you may have for yourself or others who struggle with one or more of these mental health issues.

  9. Give it a name. Because episodes of anxiety can come on so suddenly, naming it can be a way to feel more empowered rather than feeling like a tidal wave that you just got sucked into. When you learn to recognize the more subtle signs and symptoms that an anxiety episode is about to occur, name it… “looks like uncle fred is showing up again” and then begin to utilize the tools you are learning.

  10. Take your brain into your own hands and protect it! Your brain is command central. Often in addition to chemical imbalances that may be occurring, we suffer from things like depression or anxiety due to parts of our brain that are working too hard, or possibly not hard enough. One way to prevent further risk is to protect your brain by not engaging in high risk behaviors, wearing helmets when bike riding or engaging in other activities where a fall could be likely. If you smoke, drink excessively or do drugs, get some help so you can replace those harmful activities with something else that is actually good for your brain. Addictions are powerful and most people need outside help to combat their brain which has been hijacked to want or need these substances.

Your brain health determines the quality of your life. You have the opportunity today to begin to show your brain the respect it needs and deserves if you are going to experience the healthiest life possible.

We have dedicated an entire week to your good emotional and mental wellbeing through the Live Well Kitsap FREE 6 Wk Community Challenge! It is not too late to sign up if you have not already. At Live Well Kitsap we care about your mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

Please note: Our featured blog today is not intended to diagnose or cure any mental health issue. Please consult with a competent mental health professional if needed who can help you with your specific mental health issues. Our goal is simply to educate and perhaps cause you to be curious about certain mental health conditions that may be improved non pharmaceutically.



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