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Depression is fickle. At the very moment you think you have it figured out, another symptom pops up. One that’s quite common is feeling like you can’t get out of bed in the morning.
Even when you have a treatment plan in place, this symptom can feel hard to overcome, especially if you’re also experiencing sleep issues. (What a pair those are — thanks, depression!)
Living with depression is hard. Period. But you’re doing the best you can. So, the next time you have a day where it feels like depression and your bed are winning, be gentle with yourself — and consider these tips.
Depression can mess with your natural sleep-wake cycle, but some research shows that bright light therapy may help. If you don’t have a light box, try opening the blinds in the morning to let in the sunshine.
Even if you’re not ready to see the bright side of things today, those first rays of light might be enough motivation (or simply an annoyance) to get you out of bed.
When you’re warm and cozy in bed, getting to work or the kids off to school can feel impossible — there are so many steps between where you are and where you to need to be. Instead, don’t look at the big picture.
“When you wake up in the morning, if you look at everything you have to accomplish for the day, you’re going to become overwhelmed,” says Dr. Vinay Saranga, a psychiatrist based near Raleigh, North Carolina.
“Instead, break the day down into smaller, more manageable tasks. Go one by one and only focus on the task that it is in front of you.”
Tell yourself to put your feet on the floor. Then go to the bathroom. Then brush your teeth. Then get dressed… and so on. Think just one step ahead until it feels more manageable to look further out.
“The idea is to avoid overwhelm and make things simple to knock out,” he says.
Self-care can go a long way in making tough mornings more manageable. If you need to bribe yourself, do it!
Dr. Rae Mazzei, a health psychologist in Chandler, Arizona, says this positive reinforcement may be just what you need to overcome procrastination and get out of bed.
Go on — buy yourself coffee. Wear an outfit that makes you feel great. Eat your favorite breakfast. Do whatever you need to feel a little bit better, right now.
Bed is comfortable. It’s safe. It’s easy. But when the world and your to-do list await, sometimes you have to get (just a little) uncomfortable to entice yourself to face the day.
Kick off those covers. Turn on the lights. Turn on some music. Set a loud alarm. (If you live with someone, you can ask them to help.)
When your bed feels less enticing, it’s easier to leave it behind.
If you have some wiggle room in your schedule and you feel like you’re just not ready to face the day, go back to bed for a little while. Give yourself a “do-over.” (Just make sure you set an alarm!)
When you wake up for the second time, give yourself credit — both for the extra rest and for getting up this time. Positive self-talk can make all the difference.
“The thoughts we say to ourselves play a big role in how we feel,” says Saranga.
Making decisions takes energy, but sticking with a routine may help you conserve enough to get through tough mornings. Depression can impact your decision-making abilities, so give yourself a break by sticking to a schedule.
Get ready in roughly the same order, eat the same breakfast, take the same route to work. Going on autopilot for these small tasks can help you conserve energy for bigger decisions later in the day.
A 2018 study also found that those who stuck with a daytime schedule had healthier sleep cycles, which may make it easier to get going in the morning.
This tip is similar to the “get uncomfortable” one — but it might be just what you need if you’re a heavy sleeper or love hitting the snooze button.
Set an alarm on your phone, but don’t stop there. Set two or three, and place them in various places around your room. We also love the Power Nap app, which only allows you to set a timer from 1 to 30 minutes.
It’s hard to ignore more than one, especially if they’re set at different times, so you don’t get that 9-minute break to snooze (or ruminate on the day ahead).
On the days when you’re struggling, think about breakfast — or coffee, if you’re not hungry in the mornings.
Fantasizing about what you’ll eat first thing (or that first, hot sip of coffee or tea) can give you something to anticipate, and you’ll have to leave bed to go get it. Eventually, your growling belly might be enough motivation to get you moving.
Whether you coax yourself out of bed on the first try, or you’re running late, remember this: You’re doing the best you can. Tearing yourself down will only make you feel worse.
“Remind yourself that you’re just having negative thoughts — and that you do not have to act on these thoughts,” says Mazzei. “Sometimes you have to act better before you feel better.
Especially when you’re depressed, aim to commit to positive behaviors that will help you engage in your life, even though you may feel down.”
Say something nice to yourself, even if you don’t believe it at the moment.
Bad days happen. If you know that mornings can be a struggle, make a plan for those rough days when you’re feeling better. That might look like keeping a special cereal in the pantry, saving a favorite shirt to wear on a down day, or buying a new shampoo that smells irresistibly good.
“Always have something you’re excited about and looking forward to, which will help push you through those times you can’t get moving,” says Saranga.
Depression likes to try to convince us we’re alone, but that’s not the case! You are loved — and reaching out to a friend or partner can help on tough mornings.
Text a friend that you’re struggling to get out of bed. Ask your sweetie to help motivate you by bringing you a cup of coffee, starting the shower or maybe tossing the blankets aside. Whatever you do, don’t keep this to yourself.
“Having people around you who genuinely care and have your best interest at heart can make a big difference,” says Saranga.
Sometimes, the best course of action is staying in bed. And that’s OK.
Take a mental health day if you need it. Your emotional well-being is important, and if you need to take the day for you, so be it. That’s brave — and it’s a vital part of your self-care.
If you feel like these days are happening more often, or the struggle to get out of bed is negatively impacting your life, it may be time to ask for help.
You might start by talking to a friend or partner. Sometimes giving voice to symptoms and issues helps take away their power. At the very least, you’ll be reminded that you’re not in this alone — and that’s really important to keep in mind.
If you have a therapist or a doctor, talk to them. Explain how you’re feeling. They can help you find new ways to manage your symptoms.