Create a sense of control over the situation (or your response to it)
A diminished sense of control or mastery over life is a risk factor for depression, and hopelessness can literally transform stress into depression.12 Increasing your sense of control can reduce this risk. If you are feeling stressed, find a way to exert at least some control over the situation. Sometimes just discussing a problem with a supportive friend (not ruminating to yourself, which is associated with depression) and strategizing possible solutions can bring a feeling of increased control over your life and what happens to you. Rarely is there a situation in which you cannot change some aspect or your perception of it, and even small changes can be empowering. Maybe you feel overwhelmed by everyone else’s demands on you and your time. Carving out even 15 minutes a day of self-time can help you feel more in charge of your life and reduce your risk of depression.
Be physically active
Exercise, especially strength training or cardiovascular activity (walking briskly, cycling, swimming, dancing), is a potent antidepressant, increasing endorphins—the “feel good” brain chemicals—and shown to be as effective as drugs and psychotherapy.8
Mindfulness has proven to be beneficial with stress reduction, even in cancer patients who experience a high level of both physical and emotional stress. In mindfulness training, people are taught, with the help of meditative practice, to simply pay attention to what is present in the moment. This awareness is done without making judgments about the reasons for, relevance of, or effects of the experience. Immediately after the training, the participants experienced a better quality of life, more joy and less tension. A year later, participants not only maintained those effects, but also reported less depression, anger and mood disturbance, and more vigor.6
Avoid the use of alcohol
Alcohol can disrupt normal sleep patterns making it more difficult to cope with stress. Alcohol also disturbs blood sugar balance, sending it first higher and then allowing it to drop. The drop in blood sugar aggravates the mental and emotional effects of the alcohol and triggers a release of cortisol, putting yet another stress on already overworked adrenal glands. In addition, the metabolism of alcohol depletes B vitamins, crucial to the stress response.
Find a Friend
Loneliness may not be the first thing people think of when they think of a stressor, but loneliness increases the activity of the stress response system and is associated with depression, anxiety and cognitive decline.3, 11 Interventions to decrease loneliness have resulted in dramatic effects on depression reduction.
Support your stress response system
Nutrients particularly important for supporting the function of the adrenals and the stress response system include vitamin C, B6, zinc, magnesium and pantothenic acid. These all play a crucial part in supporting the health of the adrenal gland and in assisting a healthy cortisol response. Stress increases the need for these nutrients. Herbs such as eleutherococcus, ashwagandha and licorice help the body adapt to stress and maintain balance.
It takes strength to do it all alone, but it can take even more to ask for help. Depression, anxiety and other mental-emotional consequences of stress can be extremely painful and difficult to deal with—especially alone. Counselors, psychologists, and both medical and naturopathic physicians can offer options. Don’t be afraid to reach out.
About the Author
Dr. Lise Naugle is an associate of Dr. James L. Wilson. She assists healthcare professionals with clinical assessment and treatment protocols related to adrenal dysfunction and stress, and questions regarding the use of Doctor Wilson’s Original Formulations supplements. With eleven years in private practice and a focus on stress, adrenals, hormonal balance and mind-body connection, she offers both clinical astuteness and a wealth of practical knowledge. Dr. Naugle also maintains updated information about the latest scientific research on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis function, endocrine balance and nutritional support for stress and develops educational materials about stress and health for clinicians and their patients.