written by: erinb8686
• edited by: Paul Arnold
• updated: 2/25/2011
Stress and depression are common, treatable mental health conditions that often occur together. In addition to medication and therapy, you can use self-care techniques, such as diet, exercise and relaxation therapies to help get rid of your stress and depression symptoms.
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How to Deal with Stress and Depression: Overview
Stress, a normal reaction to life’s pressures, can be detrimental to your health depending on how you deal with it. Chronic stress, if not managed effectively, can even trigger depression in some cases. If you suffer from stress and depression, your problems may seem overwhelming. You may suffer from emotional symptoms, such as sadness, worry, hopelessness and fear, and physical symptoms, such as a change in appetite, interrupted sleep patterns and racing heart beat. But both stress and depression are treatable conditions that can be effectively managed.
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Consult a Healthcare Professional
If you experience stress and depression, the first thing you should do is contact a health care professional. Schedule an appointment with a practitioner who specializes in mental health, such as a psychologist or counselor. Your general practitioner can recommend a provider if needed. The mental health specialist may recommend that you participate in weekly therapy sessions to learn how to deal with stress and depression. A specialist can help by teaching you to identify sources of stress in your life. For instance, some people tend to take on too many responsibilities. Therapy sessions are beneficial because you will learn how to say "no," new coping skills and how to engage in more positive thinking. The health care provider may also recommend that you see a psychiatrist, a doctor who can prescribe medications for mental health problems. Take your medication as prescribed. It may take several weeks for them to begin to work. Alert your doctor if you experience any bothersome side effects, such as dizziness, headaches or nausea.
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With the help of your health care professional, you can learn to manage your stressors effectively. Try keeping a stress journal. When you notice yourself experiencing signs of stress, such as headaches, racing heart or sweaty palms, take a look at your stress journal to determine which factors led you to this point. Write down how you react to your stress as well. Some people turn to unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking or overeating. Your health care provider can help you come up with healthy coping mechanisms. Keep a list of your current responsibilities, and decide which ones can be eliminated. Learn to avoid certain people and situations that tend to create stress.
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In addition to therapy and medication, several self-care techniques can help you improve your symptoms. Exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of depression by releasing mood-boosting endorphins. It also raises your body temperature, which can have a calming effect. Regular aerobic exercise may be more beneficial than strength-training. Choose an activity that you enjoy. If you don’t like going to the gym, consider taking up a new sport, such as skiing, swimming or dancing. Ask a friend to join you; social support can help ease symptoms of stress and depression.
Diet is also a beneficial adjunct treatment for stress and depression. Cut back on processed foods and sugary snacks. Foods that are too high in salt can cause fatigue, while high-fat foods can raise levels of stress hormones. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Caffeine may worsen symptoms of anxiety so cut back on it.
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Learn how to deal with stress and depression by beginning relaxation therapy, which can help you to feel better by invoking your body's relaxation response, or a restful experience that is the opposite of stress. Take a yoga class, consider acupuncture or get a massage. Learn deep breathing techniques. When you feel yourself becoming stressed and overwhelmed, sit up straight and place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. If you are deep breathing correctly, the hand on your belly will rise, but the hand on your chest will stay relatively still. You can also try meditation for stress and depression relief. Find a quiet, secluded place. Sit in a comfortable position. Choose a meaningful saying or chant, and focus on repeating it and deep breathing.
NB: The content of this article is for information purposes and is not intended to replace sound medical advice and opinion.