You know about stress.
It’s that “high-gear” feeling that pushes you to get things done, meet that deadline, rise to the challenge, or focus on an emergency.
Feeling stressed is normal and often helps us do what needs to be done.
But chronic stress makes life more difficult.
Chronic stress keeps you on high alert and places increasing demands on your body.
An out-of-control stress response pushes our bodies too hard and drives our minds too far, for too long. It depresses our moods, upends our attempts to restore mental balance, and wrecks our ability to cope with that mountain of things to do.
Let’s consider the route from stress to depression:
Stress, out-of-control, shows up first with somewhat tolerable discomfort. Most of us even consider the initial stages of mood disturbance to be a normal part of a busy life.
Irritability, insomnia, or disrupted sleep becomes commonplace. The ability to focus and concentrate is impaired. Strong shots of caffeine become near necessities for making it through the day.
From there, if stress is not managed well, a mood-disturbing cycle may begin. Emotional troubles and stress start to chase each other, as the ability to cope with stress erodes. Healthy options for stress relief give way to more mood-altering strategies for alleviating stress.
For example, in addition to compensating for the sleep disruption with coffee, a person may add more hours to the workday in an effort to meet work demands. This leads to less time for exercise and socializing. Soon, his or her body isn’t receiving a regular boost of mood-boosting endorphins or enjoying the soothing presence of family and friends. Before long, the stress becomes persistent and exhaustive, further depressing his or her moods.
More Stress Leads to More Moodiness Leads to More Stress
As time goes on, perpetually stressed people find that irritability and overwhelm becomes constant. Work and family relationships start to suffer. Then, the stress compounds itself, as a person feels pressure from a boss or partner to fix the problem.
Sleep deprived and anxious, concentration slips further; mistakes, miscalculations, and forgetfulness begin to complicate performance professionally and personally. After a while, this takes a toll on the person’s confidence, a sense of powerlessness rises up, and their mood darkens.
Without the proper coping skills, it becomes easier to press into the cycle of overworking, inadequate rest, and reliance on substances or other unhealthy methods to compensate for the problems brought on by too much stress. Here, alcohol, smoking, or food issues can start to get out of hand.
Without appropriate stress self-regulation, relationships go downhill fast and depression ensues.
Depression Takes Hold
Having given up on healthy self-governing and stress management, depressed thinking becomes a regular way of processing the world. Depression begins to restrict your daily function. Withdrawal and pervasive sadness or irritation frequently becomes a chronically stressed person’s predominant emotions. Physical symptoms and disease may start to take their toll.
Depression brought on by stress is no less difficult to overcome than depression caused by genetics or trauma. Studies tell us that chronic levels of high stress can actually hinder the production of new brain cells, a necessary function for healthy stress responses. It’s vital that measures are taken to reduce stress, healthy self-regulatory skills are learned, and possible sessions with a qualified professional are encouraged.
If you are acutely stressed and suffering moods that seem to be spiraling downward, you are not alone. Seek help to learn ways to cope and restore your mental equilibrium.