Everyone experiences stress.
Sometimes, stress can even be a good thing. It works as a motivational tool and can boost productivity, which ends up making you feel good.
However, too much stress can lead to long-term issues, including burnout and mental health conditions like depression.
But what’s the actual link between stress and depression? Does being overly stressed automatically put you at risk of becoming depressed?
Let’s take a closer look at this relationship and how it could be impacting your mental health more than you might realize.
The Difference Between Stress and Depression
When you’re dealing with a lot of stress, it’s easy to feel down. You might struggle with fatigue, sadness, and helplessness. However, it’s important to recognize that short-term stress isn’t the same as depression.
Depression, in general, is far more serious and lasts a long time. Those feelings of sadness don’t just “come and go” the same way they do with stress.
However, stress can contribute to depression over time.
How Stress Triggers Depression
It’s fairly obvious that depression can trigger stress. When you’re feeling both helpless and hopeless, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything life might try to throw your way.
However, it can be less obvious as to how stress leads to depression.
A lot of it has to do with the source of the stress. For example, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw a rise in individuals who were stressed due to social isolation, grief, and the loss of everything from jobs to a sense of normalcy. In these cases, that stress kept rising and getting worse, eventually leading to depression.
There’s no question that stress can contribute to both physical and mental health issues. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re also more likely to experience digestive issues, aches and pains, and even a lack of energy. All of those things can also contribute to depression, causing a vicious cycle that’s hard to escape.
Are You Stressed or Depressed?
So, how can you determine whether you’re struggling with stress or depression? The common symptoms have subtle differences. Understanding what you’re dealing with can help you manage stress earlier on, so it’s less likely to lead to depression.
Some of the common signs of stress include:
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Having trouble focusing
- Memory issues
- Easily irritable
- Fatigued or burnt out
Some of the common signs of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness
- Withdrawing from people and things you enjoy
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
There is some overlap between the two issues. For example, it’s often hard to concentrate and difficult to remember things when you’re depressed. However, you can start to notice those issues when you’re feeling stressed, and take charge so your mental wellbeing doesn’t suffer further.
How to Deal With Stress
Stress is unavoidable.
However, there are things you can do to limit it, and the way it impacts your life. The more you learn how to manage your stress, especially if you’re worried it’s starting to make you feel depressed, the more you’ll feel in control of your mental well-being.
One of the most effective ways to manage stress is through relaxation exercises.
When you’re starting to feel overwhelmed by a stressful situation, try things like mindfulness, deep breathing, or meditation.
You can also make lifestyle changes that will make it easier to manage stress and fight back against depressions. Some of the best ways to prioritize your mental wellness include:
- Eating healthy meals
- Getting enough sleep
Breaking the Cycle
If you feel like being stressed has already contributed to depression in your life, it’s never too late to get the help and support you deserve.