Written by Shannon,
5 Minute Read
Medically reviewed by:
Erin O'Callaghan, PHD
Director of Therapy
10 Minute Read
It’s very common for people experiencing depression to feel more easily stressed, burnt out, and overwhelmed than typical. 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 deal with stress and depression in your daily life can be an important part of self-care. Addressing the root causes of your stress, learning to build resilience, and reducing the impact that stress can have on you can help you feel more empowered and less depressed.
The best way to relieve stress and depression when it gets out of hand is to talk to a mental health professional. At Brightside Health, licensed therapists and psychiatric providers are available to support you.
Want to speak 1:1 with an expert about your anxiety & depression?
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 be able to sleep well, make healthy meal choices, or exercise—even if you know those things would help. 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 (in fact, it can even be helpful in small doses), we can learn approaches to reduce and manage the worst consequences of stress more 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. There is no single way to avoid stress and depression, but addressing several aspects of your life can help you reduce your symptoms. Small, consistent steps can make a big difference, so make a plan and stick with it.
Here are 7 proven approaches to decreasing depression and stress:
- 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 that can help you get out of a funk.
- Get good sleep. To help you overcome stress and depression, 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.
- Eat a healthy diet. Make sure you’re eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats like avocado and nuts. Try to avoid added sugars and processed foods.
- Learn mindfulness. Practice deep breathing and being 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 that will improve with practice.
- Pursue a hobby. Find an activity you truly enjoy and dedicate time for it weekly. If you can, try to find a hobby that involves social connection. This will help you get out in the world, connect with other people, and feel a sense of accomplishment—all of which may help you reduce stress and depression symptoms.
- 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.
- 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, try to find something to be grateful for.
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 self-care when you’re feeling depressed. “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.
If you think you are experiencing depression, or that stress has gotten out of hand, it is a good idea to talk to a mental health practitioner. They are professionals who are eager to help you. Brightside Health is ready to help.
These resources may be helpful as you work on reducing and overcoming depression and 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