Those who suffer with anxiety and/or depression oftentimes discover that the stress of trying to cope with their condition just adds to the burden.
As a nurse practitioner at Pawnee Valley Medical Associates, which is part of Pawnee Valley Community Hospital, Heather Holaday understands that these situations can seem overwhelming and offers guidance about treatments and lifestyle changes.
Holaday wanted to share her information during April, which is Stress Awareness Month.
“When patients come to us with concerns about anxiety and depression, we recommend a healthy diet and exercise as a starting point for their stress management,” Holaday said. “For example, an average of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity exercise can be very helpful.
“It is important to choose a routine that is achievable and sustainable.”
In addition, treatment may involve cognitive behavioral therapy, which usually is completed with a mental-health counselor.
“If necessary, we also offer treatment with medications to help with mood, stress and anxiety management,” Holaday noted. “This medical treatment can supplement the positive lifestyle changes.”
The recommendations are even more important today because the pandemic increased the number of patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression.
Stress can filter into all parts of daily life because of “financial concerns, fear of the unknown about COVID-19, loss of family and friends to the virus, job layoffs, and fewer interactions and activities outside the house,” the nurse practitioner said.
According to the American Psychological Association, stress affects all bodily systems when it becomes severe or chronic.
“Your mind and body are one; our mental health significantly impacts our physical health,” Holaday said. “Our bodies can withstand normal, intermittent stress. However, chronic stress can negatively impact our overall health. Stress management is just one way to help decrease the negative effects.
“Recognizing that you are struggling mentally is not a weakness,” she emphasized “It is a strength that could potentially improve your overall well-being.”
Most important, she added, if stress becomes so overwhelming that a patient experiences negative self-talk or thoughts of self-harm “it is vital to share this with your healthcare provider. We care about you and are here to help provide the resources and treatments that you need.”
Holaday is part of the family-medicine team at the clinic and hospital.