4 Ways to Beat Depression’s Fatigue

depressed“I can’t always muster the strength to even stick my nose outside or walk up the stairs, or eat my vegetables. Today, I got outside for ten minutes. I will try again tomorrow. And I will try again the day after that.”

When blogger Rosalind Robertson wakes up to face the day, she is dealing with the fatigue and sadness of depression as well as the near-constant pain of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, as she shared in a popular post on her website. But she does what she can and lives a fairly normal life, off and on.

Robertson is not alone. Depression, whether from bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, or a traumatic event, is an illness that debilitates many people, and it has to its own special characteristics that determine the ways it can and can’t be overcome. There are many online resources about managing depression. Below is a compilation of some of these suggestions.

baby steps1. Take Baby Steps.

If you’ve seen the 1991 film What About Bob?, you saw how a man once paralyzed with mental health issues slowly starts to make a life for himself with “baby steps.” One small step at a time leads to bigger things.

Even if the day seems overwhelming to you, small, gradual, and consistent efforts can take you from staying in bed all day to taking a shower, making dinner, walking around the neighborhood, and hopefully one day, attending your child’s middle school choir performance.

Try to avoid mentally picturing this as a lifelong project. You cannot must start the day with failure in your mind. Instead, focus on the day and congratulate yourself on whatever successes you have–even something that might seem simple, like getting dressed.

2. Reach Out. Know You’re Not Alone.

The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) offers a free support group for those with a mental illness that might help you. The Peer-to-Peer Support Groups are in most areas of Utah.

If you can’t attend a group, you can participate in the NAMI online community. Read other peoples’ stories and share your own story.

3. Participate in Your Regular Activities.

You know the feeling. It’s that time of day when you usually go to work, or create, or shop, or play with your kids, or volunteer, etc. But you don’t want to. You are certain you can’t–your body and mind won’t let you. So you don’t.

But that’s not actually helpful, some experts say, like Dr. Karyn Hall in a PsychCentral article.

The problem is that the more you act consistent with emotions, the stronger the feeling becomes. If you isolate yourself in your room because you are feeling depressed, then your depression is likely to increase. If you avoid people because you are anxious, then your anxiety will increase.

So as difficult as it may be, try your best to keep doing your regular activities.

vegetables4. Eat Well, Sleep Well, and Move.

Try eating more protein, like eggs or nuts.

Eat small, regular meals. Your lack of energy could come in part from lack of food.

Cut out caffeine, which gives you energy but then makes you crash.

Put yourself on a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time. You might still be fatigued for the next week or the next month, but over time, your body will adjust and benefit.

Move. You don’t need to commit to going to the gym four times a week for an hour. But you can commit to taking a ten minute walk before you hop in the shower. Or dancing to your favorite music when you’re tempted to go back to bed.

It’s well-known that the activities that help a person with depression are oftentimes things that a person with depression is too tired or sad to do. But don’t give up hope. It takes time and experimentation to find the lifestyle that helps you manage your depression, but chances are you will find something that works for you. Remind yourself of things that are important to you.

Photos courtesy of Rafael CastilloDonnie Ray Jones and David Saddler