How many times have you said to yourself on Monday mornings: “Okay, that’s enough sleep. I just can’t wait to get out of bed!” Chances are… none.
Most of us will resist getting out of bed, even if it’s just a second of internal grumbling. But if you experience depression, getting your day started may not be so much of an annoyance as it is a seemingly impossible feat.
Depression can cause severe symptoms, which can include difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. That’s because depression is associated with alterations in serotonin and norepinephrine, the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, sleep, appetite, energy, memory, and your level of alertness.
If your serotonin and norepinephrine levels are imbalanced, you may feel fatigued for most of the day.
While it may seem near-impossible to face a fresh day when battling depression, there are tools and tactics that can help people with depression take a few steps forward.
When you’re grappling with depression, it can be difficult to find joy in anything.
Lack of interest and an inability to find pleasure in things you used to is one of the symptoms of depression. Trying to remember — as difficult as it might be — that there are things in your life to be thankful for can actually motivate you to get moving in the morning.
“When you wake, begin with the thought, ‘What am I thankful for today?'” recommends Dr. Beatrice Tauber Prior, a clinical psychologist, author, speaker, and owner of Harborside Wellbeing in North Carolina.
“Then ask yourself to get up for the thing you are grateful for,” says Dr. Prior.
You may be grateful that you have a job. You may be grateful for your pets or your children. You may be grateful that you have a roof over your head. It doesn’t matter how big or small.
Find one thing that you’re deeply grateful for and use it to power you up and outta bed.
Having a seemingly infinite to-do list can often be a trigger for people who have depression, and one of the main reasons you don’t want to start your day.
You may think, “There’s no way it can all get done,” and that thinking turns into, “There’s no point in even trying.”
Try to shift the perspective. Rather than thinking about a long list of tasks, which can be overwhelming, give yourself the permission to set only ONE goal for the day. Just one.
The freedom that comes from knowing that it’s a good day if you can accomplish one thing might just help you get out of bed to try.
It’s a good idea to choose goals that you’ll likely reach. Don’t shoot for hitting spin class 4 times that week. Instead, maybe shoot for one spin class. Or even shoot to walk around the block once a day. You can work up from there.
Sometimes depression is tied to a situation partly in our control, like a dead-end job or tough roommate situation. “If you find that a difficult life situation is partly fueling your depression, set a goal with a timeline to make a change,” Dr. Prior recommends.
Be mindful that the timeline isn’t set in stone. To minimize any deadline-induced anxiety, allow flexibility to accomplish your goal as needed.
Depression can lead to feeling isolated, disconnected, and shut-off. The opportunity to ‘connect’ again may be the key to getting the day started.
Making morning plans with someone is a great way to hold yourself accountable, because you’re taking someone else’s schedule into consideration, as well.
“People derive meaning from their relationships with others, their passions, or accomplishing tasks during the course of their day,” says Dr. Randall Dwenger, medical director at Mountainside Treatment Center in Connecticut.
“Committing to meet someone for breakfast or coffee or a morning walk can not only help you get out of bed, but will also help foster your connection to another human, so you don’t feel so alone in your depression,” Dwenger tells us.
Accountability and connection for the win.
For some people, however, having someone else to “report to” can be counterproductive. In that case, come up with a system to track your progress for motivation. Write it down, use a reward system — whatever works to hold yourself accountable.
Any pet owner can tell you that having a pet comes with a world of benefits: constant companionship, unquestioning affection, and joy (pets do the darndest things).
Pets can provide a positive sense of security and routine for people managing long-term mental health issues, a 2016
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America calls this “the pet effect,” and the mental health boost may be very helpful for people battling depression.
A 2016 survey of pet owners showed that 74 percent of pet owners reported mental health improvements from pet ownership. Positive human-animal interaction includes the reduction of psychological stress like fear and anxiety, and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain.
“People with depression often have pets in order to shift focus from their condition,” says Dr. Lina Velikova, PhD.
“Once you are taking care of an animal, you must not allow yourself to stay in bed the entire day. Dogs or cats depend completely on you and keeping them alive will be enough of the motive for you to get out of bed,” Dr. Velikova explains.
Just try resisting that face at your bedside in the morning.
The number one thing to remember when battling depression is that you don’t have to do it on your own.
“Those who struggle to get out of bed can find several other long-term solutions,” says Dr. Dwenger. “Antidepressants can be helpful on their own, but combining medication and therapy is much more effective for managing depression in the long run.”
Avoiding alcohol and other central nervous system depressants is also crucial, because these substances can mimic or worsen depressive symptoms.
People living with depression are often their own worst critics. The truth is, there will be good days and bad days.
Some days, you’ll be able to get out of bed and, quite honestly, other days you might not.
If giving your best on a bad day still isn’t enough to keep moving, it’s perfectly fine to forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Depression is an illness and you’re only human.
Tomorrow, you can always try a new technique to help you put both feet on the ground. Over time, you’ll find a tool that makes getting out of bed most days possible.
Meagan Drillinger is a travel and wellness writer. Her focus is on making the most out of experiential travel while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Her writing has appeared in Thrillist, Men’s Health, Travel Weekly, and Time Out New York, among others. Visit her blog or Instagram.