July 13, 2022
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Collage design by Ryan Hamsher; Photo provided by Sam Finch
Blues Qs is an advice column covering all things clinical depression, written by Bezzy Depression community guide Sam Dylan Finch. Diagnosed with clinical depression over a decade ago, Sam has seen it all — from medication mishaps to grippy sock “staycations.” He’s here to help you navigate your own depression journey with a little humor and a lot of heart.
If you’ve ever experienced major depression, you already know that getting out of bed when you’re depressed requires a herculean effort. It can feel almost impossible to leave the comfort of your covers, just to face another day you knew was coming but wished would never arrive.
If you’ve ever opened your eyes and thought, “Ugh, another day,” then you know exactly what I mean.
The truth is, there’s no magical advice that’s going to make getting out of bed “easy” with depression. That’s because depression doesn’t make much of anything easy — and that’s not your fault.
Depression is not a willpower issue. If getting out of bed with depression could be made easy, surely you would’ve figured that out by now.
Instead, let’s figure out how we can meet you where you’re at. Let’s make this very difficult thing a little softer, so at the very least, you don’t have to dread waking up.
I know it’s tempting to set 10 loud alarms to make sure you wake up. But what does that do for you emotionally?
One of my favorite options for a less jolting wake up is a sunrise alarm clock. These clocks use light and sound to mimic a sunrise, gradually waking you. Using light can help with overall alertness, making it easier to get up and get going.
Even without a fancy alarm clock, sleeping with your blinds partially open to let the morning light in can be a helpful boost.
Light therapy in general can help when we’re talking about mood, so don’t hesitate to soak up some sun, even if that’s just having your morning coffee near a window.
Consider the sounds you set for your alarm, as well. A loud, upsetting tone might be working against you. Using an upbeat song, nature sounds, or gentle chimes could be more helpful in setting the mood. You can always set a louder backup alarm if you’re worried about sleeping through them.
What’s the rush? Forcing yourself to move at a hurried pace can cause more stress than it’s worth. Plan to set your alarm early enough so you can move at a pace that isn’t hurried.
Start your morning by grabbing another pillow nearby and propping yourself up, helping you to rise gently. You might do some simple stretches in bed or try a morning meditation from your phone.
You could also turn on some music or diffuse a zesty essential oil — like peppermint, orange, patchouli, or bergamot — to wake yourself up a little more.
(Yes, your brain is probably going to resist these suggestions because they sound obnoxious when your world is figuratively on fire. But sometimes the small things really do add up.)
When I say, “go slow,” I mean it very literally, too. Start by wiggling your toes, and then hanging your feet off the side of the bed. Once you’re touching the ground, don’t hesitate to pause, and gently slide out of bed as your body allows.
It’s OK if it takes a while to get up. Give yourself the runway you need to move at your own pace.
Buy the fancy coffee. Get yourself the fun waffle maker. Put your Nintendo Switch on the couch for a little entertainment when you get up. Save a podcast specifically for your morning shower. Wear an outfit that makes you feel like a boss. Even sex or masturbation can be motivating for some people.
While you may not be in the mood for fun, it may be the ingredient you need. Indulge in rewards that give you a reason to be excited about your morning — or at least not dread waking up — and reserve them for this time.
Sometimes, your depression may be so severe that you need to make your morning as basic and accessible as possible. This means ditching any unnecessary tasks that you wish you could do, but aren’t realistic for when you’re depressed.
I recommend creating a routine that you can rely on during a mental health emergency. This should be just the essential tasks — nothing aspirational, like journaling, yoga, or other “wish we coulds.” Just the basics.
My depression routine looks something like this:
“Remembering to remember” can be hard when we’re depressed, so automating as many parts of this as possible is important. I use an app called Routinery to walk me through my routine, but you can also get a whiteboard and write it down in a visible place.
You can always add additional steps to your routine as you start to feel better, but sticking to the basics will help ensure you don’t get overwhelmed.
As much as you might like to have a perfect morning routine, where everything goes according to plan, it’s important to remember that you can be OK even if your mornings aren’t what you hoped for.
You aren’t defined by your ability to have a “productive” morning. In fact, with depression, some mornings are just going to be rotten. And the best you can do is be kind to yourself when they are, just like you would be kind to a friend experiencing the same.
There’s a societal pressure to wake up at 5 a.m., do some cardio, drink a green smoothie, journal, and meditate… the list goes on. While this type of morning routine might work for some people, it most definitely doesn’t work for everyone. Nor does this type of morning routine guarantee that you’ll be healthy or even happy.
It’s necessary to throw these ideals out the window and start creating the type of morning that works for you, even if it doesn’t look like somebody else’s.
Sometimes, this means you’ll wake up late, frantically make your way through your home just to find two socks that match (speaking from personal experience, here), and stumble out the door forgetting to brush your teeth.
Depression has an interesting way of forcing people to slow down. And sometimes, that means your best is just managing to get by, crawling your way through. Sometimes, your best is staying in bed, knowing that your limits have been crossed and rest is needed.
The important thing to remember is that you’re not in this alone. Should you find yourself having mornings like these more often than not, it may be time to reach out to a mental health professional or supportive loved one to look at all your options.
In the meantime, I hope these tips give you some softer ways of waking.
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