Helpful advice on ways to get motivated to get up and get moving more in the morning when depression tries to keep you in bed.
By Rachel Hershenberg, PhD
I’ve been depressed for some time and all I want to do is sleep. How can I motivate myself to get out of bed in the morning when I am feeling so low?
Please know that mornings are hard for many people with depression. I get that this is a struggle! See if any of these suggestions help, all the while being kind and patient with yourself:
First, make sure you are going to bed at a time that is consistent and sufficiently early. A consistent bedtime means you go to sleep at the same time every night. Eight hours of sleep isn’t necessarily a magical number though consider if your hunger for more shut-eye in the morning is your body’s way of telling you that you need more sleep.
Next, make it more challenging to hit snooze. Set multiple alarm clocks out of reach of the bed.
Finally, try to establish a predictable morning routine that is doable and as enjoyable as possible. For example, maybe you turn off the alarm, sit up in bed, and do some gentle stretching. When you want to keep lying down, you tell yourself, “all I have to do is sit up and stretch.”
After you stretch, maybe your next step is to take a shower. You tell yourself, “All I have to do is go and stand under some warm water, which will feel good.” After the shower, you might look forward to your first sip of coffee.
Putting it together, rather than getting caught in thoughts about how you don’t have the energy to face the day, you are orienting yourself only to the next step in front of you. In this way, you can establish a sequence of steps that reduces stress and helps the routine be as present-focused and enjoyable as possible.
I’ve heard that exercise can be helpful with depression, but I keep making excuses. Do you think I’m better off trying to wake up early to exercise or do it after work? (both feel really hard!)
Let me answer your question by first posing a question. When you’re not depressed, are you a naturally early riser, a “lark” or a night owl? Larks perform their best in the morning and prefer to go to bed early. Night owls prefer to sleep in, hit their groove as the day progresses, and go to bed later. Identifying these preferences can help you strategize about when to exercise.
Mornings are very hard for owls¬—and might be especially so if you are depressed. If you identify as an owl, it might feel more natural for your body, and therefore a little easier to follow-through on, if you squeeze exercise in on a lunch break, before dinner, or before bed. Home-based exercise might work well for you. You might invest in a stationary bike or treadmill, do free YouTube videos, do ten-minute high intensity workouts, buy a few weights and a jump rope, and so on. In other words, you may better set yourself up for success if you focus on slowly building in a few minutes of exercise at later times of day.
If you identify as a lark, then you might want to focus your attention on exercising first thing in the morning when your energy is most likely to be at its peak. This suggests that you want to face your snooze battle head on. In addition, you’ll also want to pay attention to what time you are going to sleep. Is it later than is optimal for you? After looking at your bedtime, two other strategies that might help are sleeping in your exercise clothes and waking up to an energizing and inspirational music playlist. Both may help you to feel a bit more prepared to wake up and go for it.
As a final note, please keep in mind that you want to start off slowly. Even getting in one or two exercise minutes is a success as you build a new habit of taking care of your physical (and emotional) health.
Printed as “Ask the Therapist: Rise and shine,” Fall 2018
via Esperanza – Hope To Cope
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