In our fast-paced world, it is common to see a person throw up his or her hands and exclaim something like ‘God, I am stressed’. Maybe you have found yourself in such a situation. When you said ‘I am stressed’, what did you really mean? Is stress the same as depression? If not, then what is depression?
What is Stress?
First off, stress is not always a bad thing. Stress pushes a person to act in a certain way. For example, when you perceive danger, you are under stress. This will compel you to take immediate action. On one side, you might take flight. On the other hand, your stress might force you to fight. Both actions are good in that you are making a decision to preserve yourself alive.
But some types of stress are bad. When stress starts to negatively impact on your quality of life, you need to take action and remedy the situation or seek help. According to the Stress Management Society (U.K), bad stress is a situation where you start feeling overwhelmed because the demands on you can no longer be managed by the resources at your disposal.
In most cases, stress creeps in slowly. Stressing factors pile on one by one until ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ takes effect and a breakdown occurs. Sometimes, an apparently okay person can suddenly breakdown due to accumulated suppressed stress.
Reaction to stress depends on release of hormones such as cortisol, adrenalin and noradrenaline. These hormones trigger many other physiological processes that prepare the body to tackle the stress factors.
What is depression?
While stress can be good and beneficial for survival, depression is a serious health mood disorder. The symptoms here are serious and prolonged. They can affect the quality of life in areas such as work and career, eating and sleep. Depression can be due to many causes including genetic predisposition. Common forms of depression include:
What are the causes of stress?
There are many causes of stress. Some of these are acute while others are chronic. Chronic stress is what can lead to health disorders while sudden stress is usually associated with abrupt unforeseen and stimulating situations that lead to sudden release of adrenaline that demands immediate action. Bad stress can be caused by:
Is there a link between stress and depression?
Many people can handle stressful situations successfully. This can include major life-changing events like having to care for a loved one with a terminal illness or even losing a close relation through death or divorce. For others, such events can throw them into serious depression.
The connection between stress and depression is when the body fails to ‘reset’ its systems back to ‘normal mode’ following a stressful situation. When this happens, elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) persist while the ‘feel good’ hormones such as serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters drop. At this point, signs and symptoms of depression set in.
How to successfully fight stress and depression
Depression can be a major life disruptor. Not only can it wreck a person’s career or marriage but it can also end tragically in suicide or early death due to other causes. This disorder can also make a person feel helpless about coming out of it. This can lead the patient not to seek any treatment or outside help because of the negative believe that ‘it’s of no good’. But the good news is that depression can be overcome. This is true even in some of the most advanced and ‘hopeless’ situations. When the problem is identified early and help initiated, the outcome is much brighter. For some people, continued help is necessary since they might be genetically predisposed to depression or the triggers may be an ongoing thing in their lives.
Fighting stress on your own
It is possible to initiate the fight against stress on your own. This is at least true for mild to moderate cases of stress. Some of the methods you can employ include:
Other measures to tackle the stress include getting enough rest and eating a healthy diet. Foods such as avocado, asparagus, strawberries, cashew nuts, and chamomile tea can all help to lift your mood.
If depression sets in;
This is a serious health disorder that needs to be treated at the earliest opportunity possible. The same natural methods for manging the stress can be employed here. In addition to these, outside help is needed with professional assistance almost always inevitable.
Seeing a doctor
A detailed history of the illness will be taken. This will be followed by a thorough medical examination. If necessary, laboratory or imaging investigations will be done. The aim of all these is to rule or confirm other health problems that could mimic or underlay depression. After these, the doctor may:
Fighting stress and depression is usually a multidisciplinary effort that actively involves the patient. Initially a GP may be involved but a psychologist, a psychotherapist, a psychiatrist, a social worker and other experts often take over or complement each other in the management. Family support is also very important.
In some countries, there are ongoing clinical trials on the most current treatment methods for depression. Research and find out if such trials are in your country and the conditions for participating in them if you wish. Long-term efforts to successfully fight depression can also involve joining a support group.
Remember! Health is Wealth!