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7 Ways to Reduce Stress and Ease Depression

It’s very common for people suffering from depression to feel stressed, burnt out, and overwhelmed. Stress can exacerbate symptoms of depression, while depression can also fuel stress, creating a self-sustaining negative cycle that can be hard to break.

Finding effective ways to manage and reduce stress in your daily life can be an important part of depression self care. Addressing the root causes of your stress, learning to build resilience, and reducing the impact that stress can have on you all contribute to feeling more empowered and less depressed.

How are stress and depression related?

Everyone experiences stress at one point or another. However, when stress is too persistent or too significant, or when your ability to manage stress is reduced, it can make you feel overwhelmed and burnt out. 

Stress can also influence your behaviors. You may not sleep well, may make unhealthy diet choices, and may skip the exercise. Stress can also make you feel irritable and exhausted, making it harder to get along in your relationships or be productive at work or school.

These feelings and behaviors can contribute to and sustain the negative cycles of anxiety and depression. While we can’t eliminate stress from our lives, we can learn approaches to reduce and manage stress effectively, building resilience to help navigate life’s ups and downs. 

How can you reduce stress?

Managing and reducing stress might look a little different for everyone and can require addressing several aspects of your life. Small, consistent steps can make a big difference, so make a plan and stick with it.

Here are 7 proven approaches to reducing stress and depression:

  1. Exercise
    Get your body moving in whatever way(s) feel best for you – even a few minutes a day can help reduce stress and build some consistency
  2. Get good sleep
    Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night and follow a consistent schedule. If stress is making it hard to fall or stay asleep, try addressing this by journaling, practicing CBT, or other relaxation techniques like meditation
  3. Eat a healthy diet
    Make sure you’re eating lots of fruits and vegetables (organic if you can), whole grains, and healthy fats like avocado and nuts. Do everything you can to avoid added sugars and processed foods
  4. Learn mindfulness
    Practice deep breathing and be present, paying close attention to your breath while you let go of any thoughts about the past and future. It’s a simple but effective approach you can do anytime and anywhere
  5. Pursue a hobby
    Find an activity you truly enjoy and dedicate time for it weekly – this will help you get out in the world, connect with other people, and feel a sense of accomplishment
  6. Get out in nature
    Getting back to basics and immersing yourself in the natural world can provide a refreshing change of pace and perspective that helps a lot of people let go of stressors
  7. Practice gratitude
    Focusing on positive aspects of your life every day (even for just a minute) can change your frame of reference in a meaningful way. Even when you feel down, you can always find something to be grateful for

Takeaways

We all experience stress – it’s a natural reaction to the unpredictability of life. But, sometimes it can get out of control and become a huge burden, worsening and sustaining depression. Managing chronic stress is an important part of depression self care. “Until a person is in a peaceful state of mind, they cannot take care of themselves or others,” says Anne Frea, MD, a Brightside psychiatrist. 

Stress isn’t something that can be fixed overnight, but by taking small, consistent steps and sticking with it over time you can see impactful changes.

Resources

These resources may be helpful as you work on reducing stress.

  • Headspace – Meditation and mindfulness
  • Calm – Meditation and mindfulness
  • Argus – an app that makes it easy to track your activities
  • Charity miles – log your activities for donations to charities
  • Healthline – Mediterranean diet 101 / Beginner’s guide
  • EatingWell – Mediterranean diet meal plan
  • MyFitnessPal – Meal tracking and insights
  • Mojo – Daily gratitude
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