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Mental illness refers to a group of conditions, such as depression and anxiety, which affect our thoughts, emotions, behaviours and experiences. It is a condition that is caused by a variety of factors, such as genetics, personality, stress, and brain chemistry. The symptoms include loss of motivation and energy, changed sleep patterns, persistent changes in mood, disturbances in thought or perception, or overwhelming obsessions or fears. It can interfere with a person’s relationships and/or ability to complete their daily tasks.


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As we age, we often go through many life changes in a relatively short period of time. It is normal to feel anxious in these situations, but if your anxiety and fears are affecting your day-to-day life significantly, you may have anxiety and may benefit from the support of a mental health professional.

Generalized anxiety disorder is the most common type of anxiety disorder for older adults. It causes people to worry excessively about everyday situations and events. The condition usually lasts at least six months and can cause restlessness, fatigue, muscle tension and insomnia or difficulty sleeping.

You are at increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder if you:

• Are female

• Lack social supports

• Have had a previous diagnosis of anxiety

• Have a medical or psychiatric condition

• Have poor health

• Have suffered a recent trauma

A person with anxiety may show some of the following symptoms:

• Irritability

• Fatigue

• Poor sleep

• Preoccupation with health problems

• Excessive worrying

• Seeking reassurance repeatedly

• Low self-confidence and avoidance of situations

• Intense states of fear and panic

• On edge or unsettled

• Headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, palpitations and chest pain, sweating

If you believe that you or a loved one has anxiety, the first thing you should do is talk to your primary care provider who can run tests to rule out contributing medical causes, and recommend treatment. Treatment can include talk therapy, stress reduction, coping skills, family and social support, as well as medication.


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Aside from medication, changing certain behaviours can help you to manage the symptoms of anxiety: cutting down on caffeine, smoking, over-eating, alcohol and news intake, as well as getting regular exercise. It can also be helpful to discuss your fears with friends and family members. Discuss what you are worried about and set specific goals to help you manage the

symptoms of anxiety. You can learn skills such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, and setting aside “worry time”.

Studies have shown that nutrition and exercise can impact your experience with panic disorder symptoms. To better manage the physical symptoms of panic and anxiety, consider making some healthy lifestyle changes. Avoid certain foods or drinks that may trigger or worsen anxiety. For instance, an overabundance of certain foods and substances, including caffeine and sugar, can aggravate feelings of anxiety.

Physical exercise can help relieve stress and tension felt throughout the body, increase energy levels, and improve mood. Stress-reducing relaxation exercises, such as yoga and meditation can help you learn how to control your body sensations and remain calm in the face of anxiety.

Unfortunately the events of the past 16 months due to the pandemic have only served to exacerbate symptoms of anxiety in people who have always successfully managed their mental health. If your levels of anxiety have become unmanageable due to the effects of the pandemic please reach out to your healthcare professional for support and referral. If you feel your concern is more urgent, call 310-OPEN or 310-6736 for assistance.

Information in this column is compiled by Shell-Lee Wert, CCSH, 470 Dundas Street East, Unit 63, Belleville, K8N 1G1. Please visit our website at or email me at [email protected], or call 613-969-0130 or 613-396-6591 for information and assistance. Community Care is a proud United Way member agency. Funding in part from the South East Local Health Integration Network.



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