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Stress and Depression

Can stress cause depression? WebMD looks at the link that exists between the two and helps you de-clutter your life to improve your stress level.

Stress and Depression: Building Resilience

Once someone is in the grip of major depression, it’s usually not the best time to make lifestyle changes.  But you can guard against a reoccurrence of depression or help protect against a first episode of depression by adopting lifestyle changes that modify the body's stress response.  Building resilience is particularly important if you are experiencing  chronic stress, such as unemployment.   

The following lifestyle changes can help reduce stress levels and boost your resilience, reducing the risk of depression:  

1. Exercise: Experts recommend a half-hour of moderate exercise, such as walking or swimming five days a week.  "Running a marathon is not what you want to do," says Sternberg.  Exercise produces chemicals in the body that boost your mood and stimulate hormones and neurotransmitters, including endorphins, that can help reduce stress.  

2. Strong, supportive relationships: Isolation is a risk factor for depression, while community buffers people from the effects of adversity.  Negative, critical relationships are harmful. 

3. Yoga, meditation, prayer, psychotherapy: Studies have shown that these practices can be helpful, "retraining your brain circuits," says Sternberg. "They have a positive effect on the emotional brain circuits." 

4. Eating  well and not drinking too much alcohol.  People who feel stressed may drink too much; alcohol is a known mood suppressor.  

5. Making time for yourself.  Schedule some downtime to pursue creative pursuits or a hobby.  Today's harried, multitasking life is stressful.  If possible, schedule mini-vacations; longer breaks of at least 10 days have been shown to be more beneficial in reducing stress.  

6. Sleep.  People who are working overtime, or juggling family and work, may not be getting eight hours of restful sleep. 

7. Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This type of therapy helps people reframe events in a more positive fashion.  Negative attitudes and the tendency to worry can amplify the impact of stress.  

"It's important that people suffering from depression not blame themselves -- it's partly your genetic makeup, partly your current environment, and partly your early environment that led to the depression," says Sternberg.  "If you’re depressed, seek help. You can’t beat it on your own." 

Reviewed on April 12, 2011

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