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Depression is a common mental illness that can have a serious impact on the way you think and feel. It can make you tired, sad, anxious and irritable. It can cause your hobbies and passions to stop being enjoyable. Sometimes, it can even make getting out of bed feel almost impossible.
When you’re in the middle of a depressive episode, it’s normal to experience difficulty waking up and starting your day.
The good news is that with the right mindset, habits and treatment, it’s possible to deal with the tiredness and lack of motivation that often defines early mornings when you’re going through a depressive episode.
Feeling too depressed to get out of bed? Below, we’ve shared nine tips to help make starting your day an easier process, even when you’re going through a tough morning.
One of the most common symptoms of depression is anhedonia, or a loss of pleasure from the things you once enjoyed.
When you’re feeling depressed, leaving the warmth and comfort of bed for a day you might not enjoy can feel difficult. It’s easy to look at your to-do list and feel overwhelmed, or wonder why it even matters.
One way to make getting out of bed easier is to break down the process into small, simple steps you can accomplish without much effort.
For example, instead of thinking about your entire morning routine, try only thinking about sitting up and pulling back your bedsheets. Then, think about making a cup of coffee, eating breakfast, brushing your teeth and taking a shower.
As simple as it may seem, this basic exercise can make getting out of bed and starting your day feel much more manageable. Once you’re out of bed and standing up, each additional step becomes easier.
Over the years, experts in depression have studied a variety of non-pharmacological (meaning not involving medications) treatments for depressive disorders.
One form of treatment that’s shown promise in treating many forms of depression is bright light therapy (BLT). In fact, bright light therapy is considered a first-line treatment for a common form of depression called seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Bright light therapy involves exposing yourself to light, either naturally or from a therapeutic light box.
One way to get a mild form of bright light therapy is to open the curtains once you wake up to let natural light into your bedroom.
Research shows that bright light therapy helps to treat both seasonal and non-seasonal forms of depression. It may also improve sleep duration, which is often lower than normal in people with clinical depression.
Sometimes, the simplest techniques are the most effective. One way to make getting out of bed easier is to move your alarm just out of reach of your bed, forcing you to get out of the covers to turn it off.
This way, even if you want to hit snooze, you’re forced to at least complete the first step in your morning routine.
If you’re prone to getting up, hitting the snooze button and going back to bed (we’ve all done it), try putting your alarm on the other side of the room, or in another room. Or set one alarm inside your bedroom, then set the alarm on your phone and put it in the kitchen.
Once you’ve switched off the first alarm, walked to the kitchen and switched off the second, it’s much easier to just brew some coffee and make breakfast than to go back to bed.
It’s common to experience changes in your appetite while you’re depressed. After you wake up, you might feel less interested in eating than you normally would be. Alternatively, you could end up feeling ravenously hungry and in need of a serious breakfast.
In either case, it’s important to make getting a balanced breakfast part of your routine. Not only does eating help you to maintain stable energy levels throughout the morning — it’s also helpful if you need to take antidepressants or other medication before starting your day.
Depression can take a serious toll on your energy, causing you to feel sluggish and slow in the morning. In fact, many people with depression experience “depression fatigue” — feelings of tiredness and a general lack of energy that affect your daily life.
While antidepressants, therapy and other forms of treatment for depression can make this less severe, it’s common for fatigue to linger for a while even after starting treatment.
When you’re feeling tired, slow and less interested in life, waking up at 6AM and finishing your morning routine as efficiently as you can probably isn’t going to happen, or at least not within a few days.
Instead of aiming for perfection right away, understand that you’ll need to start small and adjust your goals as you feel better.
This could mean getting out of bed at a relatively late time for the first few weeks, then gradually adjusting your alarm as you feel more comfortable. Or, it could mean accepting that you’ll move a little slower in the morning and preparing for this ahead of time.
As you start to feel better, try looking back on your recent changes to see how far you’ve come, then use your progress as a source of inspiration to keep moving forward.
Recovering from depression is often a marathon, not a sprint. Many people with depression go through bad days, even when they’re making steady, consistent progress toward feeling better and functioning properly.
If you wake up and notice that your depression symptoms feel particularly intense, don’t feel like you have to have a perfect morning. Instead, accept that you’re going through one of those days and let yourself make a few simple, comfort-inducing compromises.
This could mean treating yourself to something indulgent in the morning, letting yourself spend a little more time in bed or just taking it slow in the morning.
Mindfulness meditation is a quick and easy way to calm your mind and reduce the severity of depression and anxiety. Research also shows that meditation can improve sleep habits, which may be helpful if you’re prone to insomnia or oversleeping due to depression.
If you often feel depressed in the morning, try setting aside five to 15 minutes of your morning routine to meditate at home before you start your day.
Our guide to meditation for depression shares research on how meditation can help to reduce the severity of your symptoms, as well as practical tips to help you incorporate meditation into your morning routine.
When you’re depressed, one of the best things you can do is to let a friend, family member or other loved one know that you need a little help in life.
Not only can this person (or people) serve as a source of support and comfort — they can also help you hold yourself accountable and make progress toward getting better, even if it just means helping you get out of bed.
If you live with your partner, your family or a trusted friend, let them help you in the morning by asking them to prepare breakfast, brew coffee or do other small but meaningful things to make your morning easier.
If you live by yourself, don’t be afraid to ask a trusted friend or family member to call you in the morning to help you start your day with some human contact.
On weekends or days off, consider making appointments to spend time with friends and family members in the morning. Not only can this help you avoid feeling isolated — it will also give you a reason to get out of bed without sleeping in.
Finally, if you haven’t already done so, reach out to a mental health professional for expert help.
Depression is a serious form of mental illness, but it’s almost always treatable. You can access mental health treatment by asking your primary care provider for a referral, or by scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist or psychologist in your area.
You can also get help from home using our online psychiatry service, which allows you to talk to a licensed psychiatry provider via video chat and, if appropriate, get medication to help you treat and manage your symptoms.
Like other mental health conditions, depression does gradually get better. Reaching out for help isn’t a sign of weakness or something to be ashamed of — instead, it’s the first step in improving your quality of life and putting your symptoms behind you.
Depression is a common mental health issue, and certain risk factors, such as sudden changes in your life or chronic stress, can potentially make you more susceptible.
If you often feel too depressed to get out of bed in the morning, or if you’ve developed any other depression symptoms that cause you to lack motivation, the techniques above may help make your mornings easier.
You can also learn how to get motivated when depressed.
If your symptoms are persistent, or if your depression is beginning to have a negative impact on your health and wellbeing, it’s important to seek professional help.
You can also learn more about dealing with depression, anxiety and other mood disorders with our free mental health resources and content.
Kate Hagerty is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with over a decade of healthcare experience. She has worked in critical care, community health, and as a retail health provider.