Emotions can drain you — it’s a simple fact.
All of that emotional work can leave you feeling mentally tired. As a form of protection, your brain naturally shuts down when it cannot take any more. Suddenly it seems easier to stay in bed than face whatever stress the day holds for you. Staying home and avoiding social situations feels like a safer way to live. It can become very difficult to deal with the disorganization of life outside.
Why Is It Hard to Get Out of Bed?
People suffering from depression, anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) can find themselves in a rut of low energy. Suddenly accomplishing the simplest thing in your day feels like an overwhelming challenge. You are sick, but you cannot articulate exactly what is wrong with you. Maybe you are coming down with something, although there is no fever and the pain you feel is non-specific.
When you feel tired and drained all the time, it is difficult to participate in normal activities. Fatigue and pain can keep you from wanting to even try to accomplish anything. You may want to float through the day, only to make it to the next day and do the same thing.
You lose your interest in daily activities. You may not be interested in listening to music, eating ice cream or anything that used to make you happy. There can be an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that keeps you from starting your day. It may make you want to go back to sleep.
When you are mentally tired, it takes creativity and motivation to get you moving. Once you’re moving, however, you’ll find that it is easier to keep going.
How to Start
Like anything new, you need to start small. If you set out to conquer the world, you will be tired before lunch and give up. You have to break every task down into smaller, more manageable steps. Each step will be manageable, and as you achieve tiny milestones, the success will continue to propel you forward.
For example, if you wake up in the morning and need to find a job, you might just stay in bed. Finding a job can be an overwhelmingly large task. The idea of having a great job might motivate you, but it doesn’t seem possible.
Instead, you can start with a goal of updating your resume. That goal, although much smaller, has some built in milestones. First, you have to find your most recent resume. Then, you can add the missing information, spruce up the layout and print a few copies to review.
You can keep yourself motivated to move forward if you break your goals down into smaller steps. Make a list of the steps you must complete in order to achieve your goal. Then plan a timeline, so you have realistic expectations of when you will finish. When you start to lose your motivation or feel overwhelmed by the enormity of your goal, you can ignore the big picture and concentrate on what you have to do that day.
Make Getting Out of Bed Easier
There are practical things you can do to make getting out of bed easier. After all, the day starts with you getting out of bed.
Always make your bed in the morning. If you suffer from OCD, you probably already make your bed, but for different reasons. Making your bed signals to your brain that you’re up and ready to face the day. Even if you do not feel ready, you can often trick your brain into being ready.
Once the bed is made, you are less likely to retreat back into it. Suddenly, going back to bed and staying there all day is not an option. When you leave the bed unmade, it serves as a visual reminder of your comfy cocoon, calling you back when your anxiety or depression take over. With the bed made, you’re more likely to move forward into the day.
Making the bed also eliminates visual clutter in your bedroom. The disarray of an unmade bed can add to your feeling of exhaustion. A cluttered room with the covers in a heap and the pillows scattered is one more thing you have to fix, one more thing that is out of place or a mess in your life. A clean room with a neatly made bed allows you to exhale because it’s less visually stimulating.
Get Ready for the Day
Along with making your bed, you should straighten yourself up in the morning. It signals to your brain that sleep time is over. No matter what you plan to do during the day, complete your morning hygiene as if you were leaving for work.
Getting ready for the day makes you ready for anything, even when you don’t have any plans. If someone drops by or if you decide to go out and do something, you are ready.
Preparing for your day in the morning sometimes means jumping into action when you feel motivated, especially if your motivation doesn’t last long. Starting your day is a small step, and it’s completely doable. Once you get started, you will keep going. Keep your momentum moving forward in a positive direction with small bite sized actions.
Use your morning energy to prepare for a normal day. You’ve already made the bed, so going back isn’t an option. Instead, take a shower, brush your teeth, do your hair, put on makeup, and dress for a day in the world. When you look good, you feel better. When you’re ready for the day, accomplishments happen.
Move Into the Light
Sunlight has several health benefits. It’s the only natural source of vitamin D, for instance, and it can have a positive effect on your mood. Light therapy is believed to improve seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is more intense during the darker, winter months.
There are many intangible benefits of exposure to natural light and nature. You don’t have to be a nature adventurist to reap the benefits. Simply taking a short walk outside can have positive effects on your mood. Enjoying the scenery, fresh air and sunshine is good for you.
When you’re experiencing depression, anxiety or other issues that make you feel mentally tired, your home can become a barrier between you and the rest of the world. It feels safe to remain in your own space, where you are comfortable and in control of everything. Remaining inside, however, also reinforces your status quo.
Leaving the house opens the door to larger possibilities in your day. Going outside will give you something to think about other than your own concerns. It can be motivating, and once you conquer leaving the house, you will realize it’s not so bad. Each day, you may want to venture further.
Motivating yourself to leave the house can be difficult. Getting dressed and ready in the morning is a start. Having a destination can also help. You don’t have to plan a big day full of activities. Simply deciding to walk around the block can positively impact your day.
Going outside can be a small step you take on your way to reaching a larger goal. A short walk around your neighborhood could motivate you go to the store another day, where you would interact with people. Small social interaction could lead to a trip to a more crowded place. Simply going outside could help you accomplish your goal of becoming comfortable around large groups of people again.
Develop a Routine
Anyone struggling with issues that make it hard to perform daily functions can benefit from a routine. In some contexts, routine is considered dull and boring. For someone who has bad days, however, routine can help you remain productive even when your emotional concerns escalate.
A routine can help you move through the day and remain focused on each moment rather than worrying about the big picture. If you know that at noon you stop what you’re doing to eat lunch, for example, then you won’t struggle to figure out what to do. Your emotions will be overruled by your routine.
Create a routine that works for you. Pay attention to the times of the day when you feel most focused and motivated. Tackle difficult tasks during that time. If you don’t like to clean the house and avoid it because it seems like an impossible task, add it to your routine when you’re the most energetic.
Identify other tasks that you usually avoid and do them when you feel most energetic, too. If you start slow in the morning but tend to feel better later in the day, create a routine for yourself. Perform house-cleaning tasks after dinner, rather than first thing in the morning.
The key to a routine is that you do the same things at the same time every day. When you set up your routine, be sure to include all of the must-do tasks like making your bed, getting dressed to leave the house, preparing meals and cleaning your house. Getting out of bed at the same time every morning should be part of your daily routine.
After you practice your routine several days in a row, it will become habit. You will automatically complete those basic tasks each day. On the days you’re feeling good, the routine will help you efficiently manage your time. On the tough days, the routine will keep you moving and ensure you accomplish basic tasks.
A good way to keep from being consumed by your own thoughts is to focus on something else. If you’re having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, become involved in your community. You can become involved in small ways first. Starting with smaller activities and short commitments of time will help motivate you and increase your level of energy. You’re also helping your friends and neighbors and that can lead to a sense of accomplishment.
Knowing that you have something on your schedule can motivate you to get out of bed. It’s okay to start small and plan to meet a close friend for coffee. If you tend to become anxious in social situations, you may want to limit the amount of time you commit.
Having at least one activity on your schedule each day will give you something to focus on besides your emotional status. On tough days, knowing someone is expecting to meet you could be your only source of motivation to leave the house. As you start to feel better, you can increase your scheduled activities.
Activities on your schedule give you something to look forward to. A fitness class, lunch with a friend or shopping with your sister seem like small things to many people, but when you struggle to get up in the morning and you spend your day cocooning inside your house, they are exciting events. In time, you’ll schedule bigger events that take you out for longer periods of time and are more rewarding.
When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, you tend to focus on the negative. You may remind yourself of all the things that you cannot do because of your emotional status, or you might compare yourself to others who seem to move through life effortlessly. Negativity has a way of growing and catching you in a downward spiral.
Focus on what you can do and reward yourself for what you accomplish. The size of the task is not important: the fact that you completed it is all that matters. When you’re depressed, everything seems hard. Each time you accomplish a hard tasks, like getting ready for work or getting out of bed in the morning, take a few minutes to celebrate your victory.
Everything you do in a day starts with getting out of bed in the morning. Give yourself a smile and a wink in the mirror while you brush your teeth. Little rewards will give you the motivation you need to face the day.
How to Find Motivation When Depressed
Depression is a clinical diagnosis that requires professional counseling to overcome. While you’re working through the underlying issues, you may notice your mood fluctuating. Some days you feel depressed, and it’s hard to find motivation, accomplish anything or even get out of bed in the morning.
Staying in bed all day is not a healthy option. Even if you don’t have anything on your schedule for the day, staying in bed will not make the depression go away. You have to find a way to find motivation and move forward with your day. Here are some suggestions:
- Ask for help — One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when you’re depressed is asking for help. Most people experience some form of depression now and then, and the people who know you best should not judge you. Reach out to a friend or family member to talk about how you feel. Sometimes speaking about it helps you move past the depression. Your friend may motivate you to leave the house and participate in an activity that could take the edge off for a while.
- Set small goals — Everything seems overwhelming when you’re depressed. Try committing to a task for ten minutes. Tell yourself you will fold laundry or clean the house for ten minutes. When the time is up, reward yourself for reaching your goal. If you want, continue the task for ten more minutes or move to another task. You may find that the ten minute commitment was long enough to become involved in the task, and now you want to finish it.
- Find your courage — Change is risky, even when it would represent an improvement from the current state. Fighting depression is hard, but if you’ve been doing it for a while it is also familiar. In order to break the cycle, you have to make a change — and change takes courage. Taking a small risk will help you find your courage, and then you can build it into bigger risk. Do one thing differently and then realize that in taking that risk you displayed courage.
- Skip to the outcome — Instead of focusing on the task in front of you, imagine how you will feel when it’s done. Taking a shower or preparing a simple meal can be exhausting when you’re depressed. As you think about the process and the effort it will require, you kill your motivation. Forget about what it will take to do the task. Be confident and replace your anticipation with the mouthwatering sensation of eating the meal you’re preparing. Staying focused on the outcome will help propel you through the hard parts.
- Be your own friend — The self-talk in your head is probably sabotaging your efforts to accomplish even the simplest tasks. Depression usually comes with negative loops of criticism, but you can change the message. Talk to yourself the way you would a good friend. You don’t offer harsh criticism to a friend who is struggling. You offer compassion and encouragement. Think of yourself as a good friend and change your self-talk to encouragement.
- One step at a time — Break your goals down into smaller steps. When nothing gives you pleasure anymore and you lack the motivation, remember that progress starts with a single step. Commit to participating in an activity that you used to find fun, but do not worry about the fun part. Simply do it, and then reward yourself for doing it. Eventually, you will find it fun again.
Motivation is the key to overcoming depression, anxiety and a number of other mood altering conditions. Figure out what works for you, and then do more of it. Offer yourself some pleasurable tasks and rewards to get you through the things you don’t want to do. Eventually, you will realize that you’re spending more time doing and achieving than you are being stuck. Motivation can be contagious.