Stress can directly affect the mood and cause sleep disruption, mood swings, irritability, cognitive issues. These effects on your mood can allow depression to take hold, according to Psychology Today. When you experience stress, you often forget about healthy coping strategies, which can further exacerbate your mood problems and lead to depression.

Stress is the normal physical and psychological reaction to changes in your life. These changes can be either positive or negative. Stress is not itself a bad thing as it can help prepare your body and your mind for action; however, long-term, chronic stress can negatively impact your emotions and lead to a decrease in productivity, relationship woes, sleep troubles and mood swings. Let's take a look at what happens to your body when you experience chronic stress and what you can do to help prevent it from leading to depression.

Stress and the body
Stress that continues for a long period of time is called chronic stress. This type of stress can lead to a number of problems throughout the body. It affects a number of systems throughout the body. For example, stress causes the muscles to tense up. As you continue to experience it, you can begin experiencing migraine and tension headaches, which can increase stress levels creating a vicious cycle.

Stress can also make it difficult to breathe. This typically is not an issue for most people; however, those with lung problems like emphysema and asthma may experience this effect. When you are under stress, you can begin hyperventilating which can cause panic attacks.

The cardiovascular system can also be damaged by chronic stress. When you are under it, your heart and blood vessels can become inflamed and damaged, which can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Your endocrine system is also affected by chronic stress, stress sends signals to the adrenal gland to produce cortisol. Over time, the adrenal glands can no longer keep up with the demands that stress places on the body and can lead to adrenal fatigue.

Stress can cause a number of gastrointestinal disturbances. When you experience stress, the body shuts down non-essential organs like digestion. When digestion slows, the body is no longer able to properly digest food and get the nutrients that your body needs to remain healthy. 

Finally, the nervous system can be affected by stress. The nervous system is comprised of the spinal cord and the brain. It can cause the brain to halt its production of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These two neurotransmitters control mood and sleep patterns, which can lead to depression.

How to overcome stress and depression
There are several lifestyle factors that you can change to help minimize stress and decrease the risk of depression. First, it is important to know that you should not suffer in silence. If you are experiencing toxic feelings, seek out supportive relationships and have a heart to heart talk. Talking with trusted friends and family members can help give you a fresh perspective.

Determine what is causing your stress. One of the best ways to do this is to journal each day. Write down the things that are causing you stress and how you can handle these issues. 

Seek to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. During sleep, your body recovers from the wear and tear placed on it throughout the day. John Hopkins Medicine reports that not getting enough sleep can increase your risk of developing depression, which is why you should practice good sleep hygiene, especially when you are experiencing stress.
Exercise is another way to help combat the effects of stress and depression. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters that produce happiness and other good feelings. To maximize the effectiveness of exercise on the mood, get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.

Stress relief techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga and prayer can help to improve stress levels and decrease the effects of stress on the body. 

Finally, your diet can help you deal with stress and reduce the risk of depression. A healthy diet that contains omega-3 fatty acids, the essential vitamins and minerals and plant sterols provide the body and the brain with the nutrients that it needs to produce neurotransmitter, reduce inflammation and improve your overall health and well-being.

When stress becomes chronic, it can cause a number of physical and emotional issues, including cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, adrenal fatigue and depression. Luckily, there are many ways to counteract the effects of stress on the body. Getting enough exercise, eating a healthy diet, talking about your difficulties, exercise and eating a healthy diet can help you overcome your stress and prevent depression.

Author's Bio: 

Misty Jhones