One of the hardest symptoms of depression to manage is the overwhelming fatigue. Everything seems to require so much effort, which you just can’t access. It feels like you’re moving through mud. It might take longer to complete projects at work or chores at home. Getting off the couch or out of bed may feel impossible.
The key is to have your depression properly treated. And with treatment, you’ll start to feel better and gain more energy. But there are things you can do on your own, in addition to working with a therapist and/or taking medication.
In a previous post, we listed five tips for overcoming the fatigue of depression. Here are five more.
1. Do something small.
Clinical psychologist Margaret Wehrenberg, PsyD, stressed the importance of not lying around. Because you’re tired, this feels like a natural thing to do. But it only fuels your depression.
Instead, do something small that’ll boost your energy every day, she said. “Moving your body helps you move away from negative thinking.” Think of these gestures as “tiny triggers in the right direction.” This might be taking the dishes from the living room into the kitchen, she said.
When you get home, don’t sit on the couch. Instead, put on your gym shoes, and get your mail or take the dog for a five-minute walk, she said. Exercise is “one of the best antidepressants that exists,” said Wehrenberg, author of the book The 10 Best-Ever Depression Management Techniques. That’s why physical activities are so important.
2. Have a buddy.
Ask others to support you or accompany you in performing different tasks. For instance, if you can’t motivate yourself to take a walk, ask a friend to come over as you get dressed and lace up your sneakers, said Shoshana Bennett, PhD, a clinical psychologist and author of the book Children of the Depressed.
Ask them to call you at the same time during the day and discuss what you’ve done for yourself, she said. “They can be on the phone with you as you go out the door.”
3. Have a reasonable to-do list.
Create a daily list of three to four feasible things you can accomplish, Bennett said. Make sure that one task is for you, she said.
Your list will depend on the severity of your depression (and anxiety, which often goes hand in hand). “At the end of the day, you want to feel like you’ve been productive and checked things off your list.” Doing so also creates structure, Bennett said.
4. Switch between tasks and rewards.
For instance, students with depression often like to play games on their computer or phone. Wehrenberg suggests they use this as a reward for doing other tasks, such as homework. She asks them how many minutes they can devote to their assignments. It might be 10 to 15 minutes.
Then they agree to spend that time working. Afterward, they reward themselves with 15 minutes of game-playing. And they keep switching between the two activities.
This technique helps you get things done and boosts your sense of accomplishment. What task do you need to do? What is a reward for you?
5. Brighten your environment, literally and figuratively.
Bennett suggested opening up the curtains and turning on more lights. She suggested surrounding yourself with people who aren’t critical, skipping the news (at least for now) and choosing uplifting things.
As mentioned in the other piece, try to be gentle and patient with yourself. You’re dealing with a complex and challenging illness that batters your mind and body.
Depression drains you, creating overwhelming exhaustion. But with proper treatment, self-compassion and small steps, you will get better and return to yourself.