Anxiety and Depression

This blog post is associated with episode ten of the podcast with Ashley Greensmyth, RCC, about anxiety and depression.

Anxiety and depression have been surging over the past decade and have been even more prominent as a result of the pandemic. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America lists a number of statistics indicating that anxiety and depression symptoms and disorders will continue to increase as a result of the surge of social media. Some statistics include:

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health disorders in the United States (40 million adults or 18.1% of the population is affected each year)
  • Only 36.9% of those experiencing anxiety receive treatment
  • Half of the individuals diagnosed with anxiety also have depression or depressive symptoms

It’s clear that mental health challenges are becoming more prevalent and having access to support may not be available for everyone. Some barriers might be feeling uncomfortable with the experiences and suppressing them as a result of your upbringing or culture or not knowing where to begin. I hope to provide some helpful and pragmatic tools that you can access (thanks Ashley for sharing some of those in the episode).


An important tool that many clinicians use is the DSM, or the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, which is an authoritative guide that contains descriptions, symptoms, and criteria to diagnose mental disorders. As mentioned in a previous episode, only medical doctors and psychologists are trained to diagnose mental health disorders though only medical doctors can prescribe medication.

Depression, or major depressive disorder, impacts how you feel, think, and act by causing feelings of sadness or a loss of interest in activities. It affects 1 in 15 people and can be caused by differences in brain chemicals, genetics, personality, and environmental factors. While a major generalization for depression is feeling sad, people who experience symptoms or are suffering from depression might see a change in appetite, have trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, increased fatigue, and increase in mindless activities.

While having occasional anxiety is normal because you might be nervous about a situation or something is on your mind, people with anxiety disorders will have frequent, intense, and persistent worries and fears about everyday situations. Examples of anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (or OCD), and social anxiety disorder. Symptoms include avoiding places, feeling restless, having trouble concentrating on anything other than the worry, or experiencing GI problems.


Mental health can be tricky to conceptualize and you might find that certain symptoms relate to you. On the other hand, some symptoms may not relate to you at all and you might think to yourself, “Oh, I’m not depressed.” Self-diagnosing can be dangerous (I’m guilty of consulting Dr. Google) because it doesn’t provide us with appropriate treatment options or coping mechanisms. However, not everyone is comfortable seeking out support or even considering going to a physician about a mental health disorder. You might think that you don’t meet enough of the criteria and you don’t give yourself the support that you need. But that’s not true. We all deserve support no matter what our tolerance level is, how severe our depression or anxiety is, or even if it’s a fleeting moment of struggle. Regardless of what you might be going through, you deserve to feel supported.

Below are some tools and strategies you could try to help with anxiety and depression:

  • Alarm Me: morning alarm clock app to help you get moving and out of bed
  • MindShift and Anxiety Canada: an evidence-based app that uses cognitive behavioural therapy strategies to help you be mindful and develop more effective ways of thinking. Anxiety Canada’s website provides numerous helpful resources as well.
  • Beat Panic (only available on iPhones): strategies and prompts to help you during moments of high anxiety and panic
  • BounceBack: a skill-building program to help manage mood
  • Examine your core beliefs by writing a list of rules, values, and beliefs about yourself and areas of your life. Are they irrational or black-and-white and all-or-nothing? How can you reframe it in a neutral or positive way?
  • Ashley provides lots of helpful resources, links, podcast and book recommendations on her website.

Some strategies on how you can support your friends or loved ones:

  • Normalize their experiences and validate their feelings. It’s okay not to be okay.
  • Offer tangible and direct support instead of leaving it open-ended. Letting them know that you’ll be there for them requires the other person to come out of autopilot and is more stressed.
  • Ask first if they are open to receiving suggestions. Asking for permission provides a mutual understanding of respect and trust.
  • Consider if you are able to hold space to provide emotional support. You don’t have to cater your behaviour for the comfort of another person if you’re not ready to. Ask if a friend is able to hold space for you for emotional support.

What is something in your back pocket to cope with a stressful or anxiety-inducing moment? Having that prepared can help you work through the moment, especially when you’re on autopilot.