Caviarlieri | Published March 04, 2022
Long before the Covid-19 pandemic, most people worldwide were already dealing with stress and uncertainty in their daily lives. From rising health care costs, employment problems, economic challenges to social and family issues, many people struggle to manage their increasing stress levels on a daily basis.
When stress turns chronic, anxiety sets in. People who suffer from anxiety will experience agitation and debilitating emotions. It is estimated by the US National Institute of Mental Health that about 31% of Americans will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives, with adult and teen women experiencing one far more often than men.
What is more, anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression. Nearly half of the people diagnosed with depression also have an anxiety disorder. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America approximately 280 million people in the world suffer from depression depression currently.
As if those statistics weren’t worrying enough, the global pandemic further exacerbated the problem as it upended daily life in numerous ways, leaving millions of people without a job, and producing far more questions than answers. Depression among adults in the United States tripled in the early 2020 months of the global coronavirus pandemic—jumping from 8.5 percent before the pandemic to a staggering 27.8 percent. New research from Boston University School of Public Health reveals that the elevated rate of depression has persisted into 2021, and even worsened, climbing to 32.8 percent and affecting 1 in every 3 American adults
Feeling a lack of control over a situation can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. Recognizing the differences between the them can lead to the right treatment.
Stress is a physical response to a situation. When our brain receives a threatening signal, a flood of chemicals overwhelms the rational, more evolved part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex. Neurotransmitters, including dopamine and norepinephrine, activate the amygdala, a more primitive part of the brain that evolved to prepare the body’s “fight or flight” response.
In today’s contemporary society, individuals are stressed for long periods of times and stress no longer serves its initial biological function of alerting us; its function becomes corrupted when it is chronic or prolonged.
Constant exposure to stress can cause physical problems such as headaches, constipation, diarrhoea, chest pain, insomnia, and grinding teeth. Left unchecked, stress can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Stress has also been linked to a weakened immune system, causing people to be more susceptible to catching colds and other infections.
3 Steps to Relieve Stress
Persistent stress that feels unmanageable can lead to anxiety and depression.
Anxiety shares the same physical and biological elements as stress. Two differences are that stress-induced neurotransmitters and hormones stay ramped up and our minds get stuck in repetitive worry, or panic-driven thought loops.
Any single cause or the combined weight of numerous factors can lead to an anxiety disorder. Anxiety triggers can be obvious, like losing a job or house, or more difficult to pin down, such as traumatic events from one’s past.
3 Steps to Reduce Anxiety
If anxiety is particularly severe or prolonged, it can become intertwined with depression, a disorder that can look very different from one person to another, but that tends to share a common theme: an inability to enjoy life.
Unlike stress and anxiety, less is known about the causes, symptoms, and mechanisms of depression. Its debilitating nature can cause people to lose the ability to function in all areas of life, including work and relationships. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks depression as a leading cause of disability worldwide.
Physical symptoms of depression can include weight loss or gain, poor sleep, physical pain, and speaking or moving more slowly than normal. Its mental manifestations can include persistent sadness, hopelessness, anxiety, and mental paralysis.
What about mild depression – what are the signs and causes?
Generally, signs of changes of mood or behaviour that last for a few days can be symptoms of mild depression. The symptoms of mild or moderate depression are similar to those of severe depression but they do tend to be less intense.
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a person with mild depression may experience:
It is possible to manage these distressing symptoms, though there are more than are listed here, but they still may have an impact on the social and work life of those that present with them. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you seek professional help.
Many people do not want to be dependent on drugs, specifically antidepressants, to get out of mild depression. Some of them might be sensitive to the common side effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness, lethargy, nausea, sleepiness, and weight gain. There are ways to treat and manage mild depression without drug interventions but through lifestyle modifications. These are not only safe and effective ways to combat mild depression but will also serve as preventive measures to delay the progression of mild depression to severe depression.
One of the best antidepressants is exercise. Any kind of regular exercise helps to lower symptoms of anxiety, improve the quality of sleep and boost your levels of energy. Exercise helps to fight mild depression by enhancing the production of endorphins. Endorphins are natural hormones that are responsible for feelings of euphoria.
Studies show that engaging in 45 minutes of exercise three days a week for at least two months can have a greater antidepressant effect than doing minimal exercise. Any any type of movement or level of exercise is helpful. Regular movement is the key to lower levels of depression and increasing quality of life.
There’s fresh evidence that eating a healthy diet, one that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and limits highly processed foods can help reduce symptoms of depression.
A randomized controlled trial published in the journal PLOS ONE finds that symptoms of depression dropped significantly among a group of young adults after they followed a Mediterranean-style pattern of eating for three weeks. Participants saw their depression “score” fall from the “moderate” range down to the “normal” range, and they reported lower levels of anxiety and stress too.
Alternatively, the depression scores among the control group of participants who didn’t change their diets and continued to eat a diet higher in refined carbohydrates, processed foods and sugary foods and beverages, remained in the “moderate and severity” range.
It’s better to have a health balanced diet, one designed to keep you healthy as well as happy. Healthy snacks which are not high in sugar can also help lift your mood.
Lack of sleep or sleep deprivation can cause or contribute to feelings of mild depression. In order to support a healthy circadian rhythm, it’s vital that you get in control of your sleep cycle. Make certain to maintain a regular bedtime as well as wake up schedule. Avoid taking long naps as much as possible, and as soon as you wake up, try to get into bright light. This will help signal the brain that the day is starting. Controlling your caffeine consumption will also help you get to sleep easier and faster each night.
It’s not only the physical aspects of our lives that we need to take control of to help us get out of mild depression. Expression gratitude or thankfulness has been shown to help people with depression feel better emotionally. Writing down what you are thankful for or appreciate has been shown to increase activity in the region of the brain that is associated with depression. It can be as simple as I’m grateful someone smiled at me on the train, the sun is shining, there’s no rain, or there was less traffic than usual on your daily commute. Writing it down or expressing it out loud to yourself can give you a mood boost. Try to list out things and people you are grateful for, why you are grateful, and how their presence improves your life.
There is clear evidence that social isolation leads to an increased risk of depression and that it can also lead to the symptoms being more severe. Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of mild depression. Research has shown that one sure way of improving your mood is to work on building social connections. Social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”
In a study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry, the team named social connection as the strongest protective factor for depression, and suggested that reducing sedentary activities such as TV watching and daytime napping could also help lower the risk of depression. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/08/200814131007.htm
To enhance social interactions, find and join a group that is passionate about something that you are as well. It can be as simple as a group that gets together to play your favourite sport recreationally, or it can be volunteering for a cause that you find important. This can help you make connections with like-minded individuals and can help you get out of mild depression.
There are many things we can do to help reduce the symptoms of mild depression and any level of depression should be taken seriously. The sooner you address the problem, the less likely it WILL develop into a severe type of depression. Looking for professional help is a sign that you love and respect yourself, and that you care for both your body and mind. A professional therapist can offer clinical advice and treatment that is specifically tailored to your needs. It’s good to do your best to help yourself prevent or get out of mild depression, but if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, you should not hesitate to reach out for help.