You may be used to juggling several different projects. Plus a personal or family life. And who knows what else? This is where things can get tricky, if you pile on, for example, a sick parent. Or home repairs. Or a problem employee or co-worker? Too much, and you might find yourself feeling stressed.
We’ve written about handling stress in this column before, but want to go a step further now. Because research shows chronic stress is a possible factor in a topic we haven’t covered deeply here: depression.
As a society, we have to start thinking of depression the way we would any so-called “tangible” health problem, such as heart disease or cancer. Catch it early, and you’ve got a good shot at licking it. Let the problem linger, and the results could be very serious. In either case, you should be talking to your doctor and quite likely a mental health professional for help.
Before it gets to that point, let’s start with some ideas to help keep your stress from creating depression.
1. Talk it out.
Even just talking about your problems with your spouse, friends, or a taxi driver can help provide release. Beyond that, cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be quite effective. It doesn’t tell you how to feel, but rather, it teaches you how to stay calm and cool when you’re upset about a problem, so that you can figure out what to do and how to feel better.
2. Sweat it out.
Exercise is more effective than many antidepressants in reducing depression. Part of that may be attributed to the endorphin effect of exercise; we feel that the sense of purpose and accomplishment that comes with regular exercise also helps.
3. Go fish.
Fish like salmon and ocean trout are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been suggested in some studies—though the jury is truly still out—to help improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.
4. Rub alcohol from the scene.
An alcohol problem can mask a depression problem. It’s a dangerous and deadly enough addiction in and of itself. Have you experienced an increase in drinking recently? This could be a serious red flag.
5. Write at bedtime.
Placing impossible expectations on yourself or others will ultimately lead to sadness. Try to write a gratitude journal daily—writing three thank-you notes a day really does make it less likely you will suffer depression. While you’re at it, put some music on in the background: Research suggests that music can improve moderately depressed moods (one study also showed improved heart rate and blood pressure).
This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
Photo by @walton_dana121 via Twenty20