Medically Reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP on July 25, 2017 — Written by Heidi Renner and Tim Jewell

Stress is the body’s response to physical or emotional demands. Emotional stress can play a role in causing depression or be a symptom of it. A stressful situation can trigger feelings of depression, and these feelings can make it more difficult to deal with stress.

High-stress events, such as losing a job or the end of a long-term relationship, can lead to depression. Not everyone who experiences these situations becomes depressed. Biological factors may explain why one person facing a stressful circumstance experiences depression while another person doesn’t.

Causes of stress

Losing a family member, divorce, and moving are all major life changes that can cause stress. Some studies link an overactive stress system and high levels of cortisol in the body to depression and other health conditions, including heart disease. When the mind feels threatened, the body produces more stress hormones — such as cortisol — to help the body fight or run away from the threat. This works well if you’re in real danger, but it doesn’t always benefit you in your daily life.

getting into a fight with your spouse or significant otherlosing your jobmajor natural disasters, such as earthquakes or tornadoes, that can damage your home or destroy it altogethergetting into a car accident, which can cause physical, emotional, and financial stressbeing robbed, mugged, or attacked

Certain lifestyle choices can also contribute to your stress levels. This is especially true if they affect your overall health or if you become dependent on unhealthy coping mechanisms. Lifestyle choices that can increase your stress include:

heavy or excessive consumption of alcoholnot getting enough exercisesmoking or using illegal drugsworking for long periods of time without taking a break, or being a “workaholic”not eating a well-balanced dietspending too much time watching television or playing video gameslooking at a smartphone in bed, which can keep you from falling asleep

Sometimes the constant stresses of daily life trigger your fight-or-flight response. This can lead to complications, including depression. In other cases, the development of depression is unrelated to stress.

Depression can make experiencing and coping with events in your life more challenging. Big and small stresses still occur, but with depression, you may not feel as equipped to deal with them. This can make the symptoms of depression and the stress of certain situations even worse.

Types of stress

Stress can be caused by a single event or by temporary situations. This is known as acute stress. Acute stress can be brought on by events that stress you out, such as taking a big test, or by an acute injury, such as a broken bone.

Stress can also last a long time without ever feeling like it’s easing up. In these instances, events or illnesses may cause continuous stress or there may be no clear reason for your stress. This is known as chronic stress. Chronic stress is usually the result of personal, lifestyle, or health issues that are also chronic. Common causes of chronic stress include:

having financial strugglesworking at a high-pressure jobhaving personal or relationship issues at homenot feeling like you have enough support from family or friends

Effects of stress on depression

While stress can generally have negative effects on your physical and mental health, it can be especially harmful if you have depression.

Stress can make you feel less able to maintain positive habits or coping strategies, which are important to managing depression. This can make symptoms of depression feel more intense. Interrupting a healthy routine can result in negative coping strategies, such as drinking or withdrawing from social relationships. These actions can result in further stress, which can then make depression symptoms worse.

Stress can also affect your mood, as anxiety and irritability are both common responses to stress. When a stressor causes you to feel anxious, the anxiety may result in more negative feelings or frustration, even if the stressor is only temporary.

Tips on managing stress

Stress management techniques are useful in coping with depression. Stress relief can also help prevent depressive symptoms from developing. Some helpful stress management techniques include:

getting enough sleepeating a healthy dietgetting regular exercisetaking occasional vacations or regular breaks from workfinding a relaxing hobby, such as gardening or woodworkingconsuming less caffeine or alcoholdoing breathing exercises to lower your heart rate

If lifestyle choices are causing you stress, you may consider changing the way you approach your personal or professional life. Some ways you can help decrease this kind of stress include:

putting yourself under less pressure to perform at work or school, such as by lowering your standards to a level you still find acceptablenot taking on as many responsibilities at work or activities at homesharing responsibilities or delegating tasks to others around yousurrounding yourself with supportive and positive friends and family membersremoving yourself from stressful environments or situations

Activities such as yoga, meditation, or attending religious services can also help you deal with stress. A combination of these techniques may prove even more effective. It’s important to find what works for you. And no matter what you choose, it’s vital to have close friends and family members who are willing to support you.

Talking to a counselor, therapist, or other mental health professional can also be a useful way to deal with stress and depression. Talk therapy alone or combined with cognitive

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Oludare J. Olusan
Oludare J. Olusan 249 posts

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