The symptoms of stress and depression can feel pretty jumbled up, overlapping and confusing. Feeling stressed and depressed all the time, however, can take a damaging toll on your physical, mental and emotional life.
Stress is simply the body’s response to physical or emotional demands. It’s actually a good thing if it motivates you. But if it overstays its welcome and wears you down, it can play a role in causing depression.
When your mind perceives a threat, your body’s stress hormones kick in. (We still haven’t evolved out of the fight-or-flight response, despite the saber-tooth tiger being extinct.) Studies have linked an overactive stress system and high levels of cortisol to depression.
Stress can make you feel less able to maintain positive habits and the coping strategies necessary for managing depression. The higher the stress, the more potentially intense the depression. And depression makes taking action seem all but impossible.
The direct effect of stress on mood can leave you feeling both stressed and depressed…and helpless to do anything about it.
Although many symptoms of stress and depression cross the aisle, there are definitely distinctions. Symptoms like changes in sleep and eating patterns, decreased memory and concentration, and difficulty functioning are common to both.
Depression, however, is more serious. It lasts two weeks or more, and often presents as severe mood changes, sadness and/or despair. Its more intense symptoms include withdrawal, a sense of hopelessness, lack of energy and enthusiasm, anger/rage and suicidal thoughts.
There are many common-sense strategies for managing mental health and mitigating that stressed-and-depressed-all-the-time feeling. Several main staples include:
- 8 hours of sound sleep
- Regular moderate exercise
- A healthful diet
- Decreased caffeine and alcohol
- Neuro Associative Programming (NAP)
- Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Breathing exercises
As surprising as it may seem, the decision you need to make to end feeling stressed and depressed all the time is to breathe purposefully by using your breath as a focal point for mindfulness meditation.
Contrary to the stereotyped image of lotus poses and chanting, mindfulness meditation can be done anywhere. And it doesn’t have to take a big chunk of your day. In fact, you can use it just about any time and anywhere in order to keep you from feeling stressed and depressed.
The practice of focusing on your breath allows you to observe your thoughts without criticizing or editing them. The objective is to let go of struggling with them. You become an observer, watching your thoughts and feelings come and go, and deciding if you want to take action.
This mental training actually nurtures self-compassion and opens your mind to peace and an authentic love of life. It creates long-term changes in mood and happiness, in addition to improving memory and creativity.
It should come as no surprise that this simple practice, with all its benefits, is a powerful, free strategy to counter chronic stress and depression. And, hopefully, an easy decision to make.
If you’re tired of being stressed and depressed all the time, we can help you develop the skills to end it once and for all. Reach out to us here.