How to fight stress and depression

Depression may follow stressful events or prolonged periods of stress, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Studies show that physical activity reduces stress, and the physical and emotional benefits help ease the feelings of exhaustion, helplessness and hopelessness that often accompany depression. The NIMH recommends many helpful steps that you can take to progress toward recovery even while you are contending with painful emotions and negative thoughts. "Everything didn't get better overnight," begins a personal story posted on the Institute's website, "but I find myself more able to enjoy life and my children."

  1. Physical and Social Activities

    • 1

      Get your body into motion. If you have not been physically active, start by getting small amounts of exercise. Try to stick with exercise routines that you have already established. Even small amounts of exercise can result in dramatic and immediate gains.

    • 2

      Go places and do things. If you liked going to the movies or attending sports events before the stress or depression began, try to continue doing those things.

    • 3

      Associate with people at work, church, school and other social settings. Don't let yourself become isolated from friends and family. Talk to someone you trust about the difficulties you are experiencing.

    • 4

      Expand and update your education. Keep yourself informed about effective ways to manage stress and recover from depression. Find the strategies, treatments and solutions that work best for you. Consider new stress management strategies or a different treatment plan if you do not notice any improvement in six to eight weeks.


    • 1

      Set goals that you know you can reach. Take things you have to do one small step at a time. Prioritize tasks and focus on the most important ones. Accomplishing tasks can result in improved feelings and morale.

    • 2

      Keep moving forward with your coping strategies and treatment, even if progress seems slow. Remind yourself that most people experience gradual improvement of symptoms of depression. Small forward progress is better than no progress.

    • 3

      Delay making major decisions during times when you are under severe stress or depressed. Discuss career or relationship changes with a close friend or family member who is objective about the situation.

    Helping Friends and Loved Ones

    • 1
      Yelling at a person suffering from depression can cause setbacks.
      Yelling at a person suffering from depression can cause setbacks.

      Support your friend or loved one by offering encouragement and understanding. Be a good listener and get her to talk to you. Remind her that she will gradually feel better. Be realistic with her, but never harsh or critical, about her attitudes and ideas. Lashing out at your friend can set back small gains.

    • 2

      Encourage your friend or loved one to get effective help. You can assist in a number of ways, such as researching information about treatment options and making any necessary appointments.

    • 3

      Include your friend or loved one in outings and activities. Be moderate in your demands and expectations. If she declines your invitations, gently persist in coaxing her to join you.

    • 4

      Take any comment about suicide seriously. Tell the person's doctor or therapist about what was said as soon as possible. The earlier the intervention, the less likely a serious outcome will ensue.

Tips & Warnings

  • The National Institute of Mental Health advises people to get help as early as possible if they are depressed because studies show that the condition becomes more severe the longer it goes untreated.
  • The NIH stresses that immediate help should he sought in an emergency or crisis situation by going to a nearby hospital emergency room or calling 911.
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  • Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images Dynamic Graphics/Creatas/Getty Images

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