12 Positive Steps to Take When Stressed and Depressed

by Lisa Emrich Patient Advocate


Exercise is proven to produce an increase in chemicals such as endorphins, which can make us feel less depressed – and can help to lessen fatigue as well. Exercises are available for individuals of all ability levels, and patients should discuss an appropriate exercise program with their doctor.

Stress management program

Many strategies, such as meditation, yoga, guided-imagery, progressive relaxation, bio-feedback, and even regular napping, are available to manage stress, which in turn, can help to make you less susceptible to life’s ups and downs. Which technique you choose doesn’t matter, it is only important that you stay committed and practice the exercises you find to be helpful.

Talk about it

Confiding in a trusted friend or family member about difficult feelings or thoughts can often improve your mood.

Commit to one activity each week

Being accountable to a group can be a motivator to change your environment and get social support – which can ultimately be uplifting.

Write in a journal

Take time to write down your emotions, the act of which is a very safe outlet to release negative thoughts that may be building up inside.

Develop a spiritual interest

Spending time in nature, prayer, meditation, or a religious setting, are all forms of spiritual practice. How you define spirituality does not really matter; the important thing is that you feel connected with something greater than yourself. When firmly grounded in a spiritual belief, one can come back to this centered place – especially during times of stress or sadness – and find great comfort.

Find your bliss

What is the one thing in your life that makes you want to get up in the morning and keep going even when your body wants to rollover and go back to sleep? What images can you think of that make you smile? This can be a loved one, a job, a hobby, or even a higher purpose. Your bliss can be a great motivator when you need an incentive to care for yourself.

Help others

Volunteering is a great way to improve self-esteem and combat feelings of worthlessness. Frequently volunteers report feeling physically, emotionally, and intellectually recharged after doing something for others.

Reward yourself

Do something that makes you feel good (and causes no harm). Ideas include getting a massage, renting your favorite DVD, spending time at the park, enjoying a delicious meal, and reading a great book, just to name a few.

Adopt a pet

Although a pet can be hard work initially, owning a pet can help to take one’s attention away from his or her despair. Pets provide unconditional love that is so desperately needed during depressive episodes.

Create a gratitude list

By consciously taking the time to shift the focus from all that is going wrong, to all that is going right in your life, you can create moments of pleasure.

Maintain a sense of humor

Laughing provides therapeutic value – even consciously smiling can help you to feel better.

Lisa Emrich
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Emrich

Living with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid Arthritis, Lisa Emrich is an award-winning, passionate patient advocate, health writer, classical musician, and backroad cyclist. Her stories inspire others to live better and stay active. Lisa is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. Lisa frequently works with organizations in support of better policies, patient-centered research, and research funding. Lisa serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board, and is a Social Ambassador for the MSHealthCentral Facebook page.