How to Be Healthy When You’re Stressed and Depressed

You already know what the experts say about managing stress and depression: exercise, eat healthy, socialize. The problem isn’t information. The problem is that you don’t have energy or motivation to actually do healthy things for your mind, body and soul. So, the question isn’t “how do you get healthy when you’re stressed and depressed?” Rather, it’s “how do you motivate yourself to overcome depression and stress?”

Good news! I have a few ideas that might work for you. For over a decade I’ve been researching, studying and writing about different relaxation techniques, coping strategies, and ideas for getting healthy. I learned that most of us know when we’re stressed and depressed. Often we even know what helps us overcome the stress and depression. We know what to do, but we don’t know how to find the motivation and energy to actually do those things. Help is here! My tips apply to all circumstances – from coping with stress when caring for elderly parents to overcoming the surprisingly painful loss of a pet.

I’ve written dozens of blog posts on how to manage stress, overcome depression, cope with anxiety and find motivation to get healthy. This blog post is the culmination of those; I gathered all my tips on how to cope with stress and depression. Then, I added a few ideas to help motivate you to actually put those tips into practice. Like it or not, you won’t have any excuses by the time you get to the end of this blog post! You’ll have everything you need to be healthy even if you’re stressed, depressed, and unmotivated. :-)

3 Steps to Overcoming Stress and Depression

  • Identify the natural remedies that help you
  • Change how you think about depression and stress
  • Eat foods proven to help treat stress and depression

I also included tips from Michelle Schoffro Cook’s The Brain Wash and Dr Pierce Howard’s The Owner’s Manual for the Brain.

Getting Healthy When You’re Stressed and Depressed

This, too, shall pass.

10 Natural Remedies for Stress and Depression
How to Be Healthy When You’re Stressed and Depressed

Your life may be falling to pieces right now but it won’t last forever. Even if you find just one way to manage stress and depression, you’re one step farther ahead. Even if you don’t feel motivated or energized enough to do anything today, you will feel different tomorrow. You’ll take another step tomorrow – and by the end of the month you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come! Surprised, at least. Definitely pleased.

Just get through today

If you’ve been stressed and depressed for a long time, you won’t have the motivation or energy you need to get healthy. Sometimes all you have is the breath in your lungs, the beat of your heart. All you have is today…and today is all you need. If you’re stressed and depressed because your life fell apart, you can’t cope. And that is okay. Give yourself permission to not be motivated and not have the energy it takes to get healthy.

If your life has fallen apart, focus on getting through the day. Maybe through this hour, or the next 15 minutes. Don’t worry about improving your physical, emotional, mental or spiritual health. Getting healthy is important, and you will do it. But not right now. Right now, you will give yourself the care and compassion you need.

When you’re ready, come back to these tips for coping with stress and depression. Read through them now; plant the seeds of what it’ll take to get healthy. Prime your brain and body for future steps forward. Read through the comments section, too. Learn how others cope when they feel stressed and depressed. Above all, allow yourself to get healthy at your own pace.

10 Natural Remedies for Stress and Depression

Depression is a natural a response to a shattering breakup, tragic death of a loved one, or the sudden loss of a job. Those events, which are the very definitions of “life falling apart”, make us feel helpless and hopeless. Stressed and depressed. Feeling like you aren’t able to cope is normal because the truth is that you aren’t able to cope in that moment.

While some health practitioners dismiss depressed symptoms as being “all in the patient’s head”, increasing volumes of research identifying this disorder as a physiological or chemical disruption in the brain or body, not a psychological or emotional health problem.

Serious stress-related depression may require treatments that involve both antidepressants and psychotherapy. Less serious or mild depression – such as feeling depressed after a vacation ends – might be easily remedied in natural ways, such as with foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids or natural fish oil Omega-3’s. Different people find different treatments helpful; these natural remedies are worth experimenting with.

1. Set reasonable expectations for yourself. We often set unreasonably high standards for ourselves and others, especially when things fall apart. Some aspirations – such as eating healthy and exercising regularly – can be hard enough to keep up even at the best of times. When you’re stressed and depressed, you just have no motivation or energy to take care of yourself. Instead of beating yourself up or feeling guilty for not being healthy, give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to just sit and be sad.

2. Surprise yourself – and others! Research shows that helping others increases feelings of positivity and optimism in our selves. Recently, a customer in the drive-thru line at a coffee shop paid for the coffee of the customer behind her. That customer was so pleased that she then paid for person behind her. The chain continued for two hours. Interact with people less fortunate than you, perhaps by volunteering at a shelter or hospital. Connect spiritually at your church or temple. The more – and more varied – ways you find to connect, the easier it is to cope when you feel stressed and depressed.

How do you motivate yourself to volunteer or interact with others when you’re struggling with stress and depression? Keep reading.

3. Be honest about how you feel. Research shows that when we can identify and label how we feel, we activate other parts of the brain. Simply saying “I feel stressed and depressed because I feel trapped in the house” can have healthy and positive effects. If you label your feelings and express them to someone else, both your mood and your immune system will benefit. “I went through phases in my life when I was really out of balance,” says actor Anne Hathaway. “It’s not so much that I was depressed; I was in despair, which is a very tricky emotion. It’s self-loathing. It’s hopelessness. It’s worthlessness. It’s a bad, bad place to be.”

4. Enlarge your life – even though you feel like you have no time or motivation. Anne Hathaway describes how she overcame her feelings of stress and depression: “Now, my life has gotten much bigger. I’ve traveled. I’ve seen true suffering. And what I was dealing with pales when compared with what is really going on out there. So then it became not ‘Woe is me’ but ‘Let me help you.’ That changed everything. I was seeing myself as a victim, but I’m in a position of power, and now I’m going to make up for lost time.” She overcame stressed, depressed feelings by changing how she saw herself.

How much energy and motivation does it take to travel and stop seeing yourself as a victim? More than you’d think. Read 4 Ways to Calm Travel Anxiety and Fear.

5. Train your brain to do new tricks. If you focus too much on what’s wrong in your life, your brain can get stuck in a “negative” rut. This will make stress and depression worse. Fortunately, with just a little effort, you can condition your brain to balance your moods. One way is to create a daily “gratitude list.” It doesn’t take much motivation or energy to be grateful for a few things, does it? Every day, take a minute or two to make a conscious effort to name things in life you are grateful for: your family, dog or cat, warm bed, a hot shower, ocean waves, music, coffee, fresh air. You’ll condition your brain for appreciation and happiness. Also, consider increasing your Omega-3’s and B-complex vitamins with supplements. Omega-3 fish oils offer incredible health benefits and can help you get healthy even when you’re stressed and depressed. Don’t wait to feel motivated or energetic so you can add a fish oil supplement to your diet. Just do it.

6. Remember that you are what you eat. Literally. It takes some motivation and energy to avoid unnatural processed foods such as refined sugars unhealthy fats, caffeine, and fast food restaurants. The good news is that being healthy even when you’re stressed and depressed can be as simple as eating more fresh fruits, vegetables, natural foods and proteins. When you eat healthy, you are consuming antioxidants that neutralize harmful free radicals. So does fresh air, sunshine, and the sounds of nature. How much motivation or energy does it take to take an apple or banana and eat it outside?

7. Do what you love, and you will love what you do. The bad news is that painting, gardening, writing, reading and even daydreaming takes energy and motivation. The good news is that if you find one thing you love to do and if you do it for 15 minutes a day, you will forget about stress and depression in that time period. You might even feel better and healthier afterward. Don’t wait until you feel motivated or energetic enough to do healthy things. Instead, tell yourself that motivation and energy comes from doing what you love. You have to choose to be healthy despite your feelings.

8. Choose the comic strips. For years the experts have been telling us that a natural way tip for managing stress and depression is to watch funny movies, go to live comedy shows, tune in to your favorite funny sitcoms. How much energy and motivation does it take to find your favorite show or youtube channel? Research shows that laughter and music changes brain chemistry and reduces feelings of anxiety, which can help you overcome depressed feelings. Laughter is invigorating. It recharges your battery. There are all kinds of studies showing how good laughter is for your brain, your health and your immune system.

9. Wait until you get tired of feeling stressed and depressed? No matter how many blog posts you read on how to be healthy when you’re dealing with depression and stress, you won’t change until you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. It really is a downward spiral, but only you can change the trajectory you’re on. Maybe this means learning cognitive tips on how to study when you feel stressed and anxious. Maybe you need to learn what to do when grief overwhelms you. The bad news is that only you can decide when you’ll finally do what it takes to deal with stress and depressed feelings. That’s the good news, too! You have more control than you think over your thoughts and feelings.

10. Investigate the connection between cause and cure. Explore other factors that may contribute to depression and stress. Physical or biological factors such as anemia, blood sugar imbalances, candida overgrowth, chromium, zinc and/or magnesium deficiencies, adrenal weakness, or toxic overload can make the common problems in life worse. If you’re feeling anxious and depressed because of a physiological problem, then curing it may involve physiological treatments such as prescription or natural antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.

“St John’s wort is particularly effective for depression, particularly for mild to moderate symptoms without the side effects often associated with drugs,” writes Michelle Schoffro Cook in The Brain Wash. “Ginkgo Biloba improves neurotransmitter production in the brain and helps bring oxygen-rich blood to the brain to improve functioning,” says Cook. This natural herb may also help fight feelings of despair. Never take St John’s wort, ginkgo biloba or any natural medicine for depression if you’re taking antidepressants such as Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil or Effexor. Talk to your doctor before combining natural remedies and antidepressants. It’s important to talk to your doctor when you’re trying different cures for depressed feelings, especially if you’re taking any type of prescription medication.

Change How You Think About Stress and Depression – Dr Sandy Gluckman

“Stress is the body’s way of telling us that we have lost touch with our bold and courageous self,” says Dr Gluckman.  “The first step to manage stress is to reframe a situation that we have labeled as negative.”

Turning bad stress into good stress means seeing pain and problems as opportunities to change your life in positive ways. During a stressful time you may not see the possibilities – but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Good stress stretches you to a higher level of functioning. For example, a public speaking course can be a source of good stress because it teaches you to take risks and increases self-confidence.

1. Visualization. Dr Gluckman advises that you create a vision of the best outcome you would love to make happen.  The best way to do this is to get a pile of old magazines, a project sheet, scissors and glue. Go to your favorite quiet spot.  Cut out pictures and words that depict the outcome you want to see happen. Glue these onto the project sheet so that they tell an inspiring story. Then plan how you can achieve this. This is an effective tip on how to be healthy when you’re stressed and depressed because it gives you a feeling of control.

2. Thought swapping. Every time a negative thought comes up in your mind, say to yourself ‘No!’ and consciously replace that thought with thoughts about the inspirational vision you created. This helps you overcome stress and depression because it teaches you to think positively. If you tend to eat your stress and emotions, read 6 Ways to Stop Stress Eating Late at Night.

4. Talk about your stress and depression, but don’t focus on the negatives. Tell your tale of woe. Then, talk about the best possible outcome. Brainstorm the best options for making your desired outcome a reality. Dr Gluckman advises not choosing someone to speak to who will nurture your bad feelings, or who will encourage you to tell and retell the negative aspects of the story. How do you find the motivation and energy you need to get healthy when you’re stressed and depressed? Choose to stop focusing on the negatives.

5. Distract yourself and renew your thought patterns. Choose an intellectual activity that helps you become involved in something other than yourself.  Reading, writing, crossword puzzles, and work projects can help you manage stress and depression simply by diverting your attention. Plus, it’s good for your brain!If this stressful event did not happen, you wouldn’t have this opportunity to enhance your life. Changing how you think about unfavorable circumstances is valuable way to manage stress and depression.

Your thoughts – big and little – about Dr. Sandy Gluckman’s tips for turning good stress into bad stress are welcome below.

If you’re lonely and isolated, read What to Remember When You Feel Like No One Cares.

6 Foods Proven to Help Treat Depression and Stress

Eating the right food can be a healthy way to help treat stressed and depressed feelings. If you’re a “foodie” then eating these foods won’t take much energy or motivation! You’ll jump at the chance to eat something new and interesting.

1. Sardines. Sardines are a low contaminant fish, high in both Vitamin D and Omega-3’s. “The fats in dairy, meats and oils are important for the production of acetylcholine, which is crucial for memory formation and general neural integrity,” writes Dr Pierce Howard in The Owner’s Manual for the Brain. Salmon, char, haddock, shrimp, and rainbow trout are other natural foods that fight stress and depression naturally, because they are high in omega-3 oils. Since the brain is 60% fat, it needs those omega-3 oils to renew and repair cells. Omega-3 oils can also prevent mood swings and stabilize emotions naturally.

2. Skim milk. Low levels of folic acid and vitamin B are connected to depression, though doctors haven’t nailed down the exact link. They do know that people with depression have lower levels of folate and vitamin B. Skim milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and eggs are high in B, and can improve mood by stabilizing emotions. These foods also boost the immune system, which decreases the chance of other types of physical illness.

3. Edamame. Going out for sushi? Order edamame! Commonly found in China and Japan, edamame is baby soybeans served whole. This food for depression is high in protein, low in fat, and delicious. Since edamame helps stabilize sugar levels, it can improve mood and decrease depressed feelings. This is a food for depression that is yummy – if you like green veggies and salt.

How to Be Healthy When You’re Stressed and Depressed
Foods Proven to Help Treat Depression

4. Blackberries. Blackberries, blueberries and strawberries are high in polyphenols, which are a category of flavonoids. Research shows that these berries can reverse some effects of age-related brain decline, such as Alzheimer’s. Other scientists found that flavonoids work with vitamin C to prevent that vitamin’s breakdown and boost the fight against free radicals. Berries also guard against macular degeneration, various cancers, and brain cell loss.

5. Beans, Legumes and Soy. Black beans, soybeans, split peas and tofu are among the “bean and pea” family of foods that fight disease, which makes them a perfect food for depression. Beans contain high amounts of thiamine, a B-vitamin key in building healthy brain cells, improving memory, and stabilizing cognitive function. Beans and legumes are also full of soluble fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar. This improves mood and fights depression by preventing mood swings.

6. Ground flaxseed. Ground flaxseeds are better than whole flaxseeds because they offer more omega-3 fatty acids, which increase serotonin levels. Omega-3s can sharpen minds, stabilize moods, and trigger the production of brain chemicals that help fight depression naturally.

Whether or not you’ve been diagnosed as depressed, your eating habits directly affect your mood, thoughts, and even interactions with other people. A happier mood can be as simple as knowing what foods for stress and depression work best for your body and mind.

How about a vacation? Read 10 Best Foods to Boost Your Immune System Before You Travel.

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12 thoughts on “How to Be Healthy When You’re Stressed and Depressed”

  1. I agree with all of the above (having been depressed over the loss of loved ones) and would add (at the top):

    Surround yourself with people who you love and make you happy. Whether it is family, friends, neighbors, etc…a support system is of the utmost importance. Lean on them, use them and envelop yourself in their love and positive energy. They will help you more than you can imagine.

  2. Anxiety and depression are more difficult to treat if you’re scared to talk to your doctor. That’s why articles like these are so helpful. Thank you!

  3. Hi Laurie! Thanks for another wonderful, informative article about stress and depression. I can definitely tell a difference in my moods when I’m eating a lot of the foods that you mentioned in your article, versus when I’m eating less healthy food, aka junk food, ha! ha! I guess the saying that you are what you eat is really true! :-)

  4. Hi, i have messed up my studies, relationships, health, trust, my routine. i have lost faith and trust. i cant share my feelings or secrets with anybody in my family or even with a person i wanted (or may be still want) to marry. i lost my mother when i was 9. my fther married again. we moved to a new house. i have 1 step sister. my dad is an extreme harsh and a strict cold person. he is not the same with my step sister. he has beaten us with every possible thing n that he does not say even a single word to his step daughter. i hate this diplomacy. i completed my school, college. i took admission in fashion school. it was my dream to become a fashion designer. i was going great i completed half of my degree n i soon found myself in a relation with a person. i did not want to keep it a secret so i shared it with dad n he ended up in grounding me at home forever. dad broke up my dream. i spent a year staying home no friends no activity.now i feet a visible change in myself as my memory is no more longer. i hesitate meeting people because they question me abt my degree. i prefer sitting alone rather than with my dad or anybody im my home. i hardly eat anything. i am 23. i weigh 40 kg. i dnt speak out what i feel. n the person i loved is another story. as he now ignores me due to my abnormal behavior. i take my depression out on him result we end up with fight like world war. n now he says to get the hell out of his life. wow now i am nowhere. can you help me. please. help me making up my life back to normal. suggest me the natural treatment. regards.

  5. This statement, “Focus on what you love to do. Paint, garden, read, write, daydream….immersing yourself in creative activities can alleviate feelings of self-despair.” is very good. Focusing on positive things will help. Finding the right method will help get rid of anxiety attacks.

  6. I’ve been suffering from depression for about a year. I hear so much about the weight gain side effects of the prescription medications. Can you please tell me which antidepressant has been least likely to cause weight gain? Which natural remedy works best? And would you recommend prescription over natural? Thank you

  7. This is a great article, my mother actually suffers from SAD and she uses one of those light boxes when it gets dark at around 5pm whilst she goes about her daily activities. It can be quite upsetting, especially when people don’t treat SAD as the serious disorder that it is.

  8. Learning how to manage stress changed my life. I am 58 years old and for the first time in my entire life, I am genuinely happy. I am happy with the person I have become. Because I made the decision to work on my relationship with myself, I am able to do what I truly love the most. I am able to develop positive relationships with others and help others who have been through similar issues.

  9. I have been receiving treatment for depression for over 2 years! I am on a vicious cycle where I regularly forget to take my medication within moments of taking it! I feel that I am getting worse to the point that I have lost my home 3 months ago… M homeless and sleeping where I can!
    I have been off work with this since February… M now on half pay and facing a disciplinary meeting which was last Thursday I missed it because I thought it was last Friday! I have debts most of it due to loans for my son…. I can’t go back to work as I am cause I actually feel that this time I have done it! Had a massive argument with my son and the way things are, the only conclusion I can come to is that the only way to stop this agony is by ending this existence!

    I can’t see any way out!

  10. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Thanks for your comment, Kaye – and I’m glad you find stress management easy! It sounds like you’ve found the right way to relax and calm down.

  11. Stress Management is easy, all i need to do is just take deep and slow breathes then meditate. listening to music also reduces stress.