I am a night owl forced to be on a morning person’s schedule. Having depression doesn’t help because the day ahead looks too overwhelming. It is not easy– I’m too ashamed to say how many times I hit the snooze button– but I have found some things that help me get out of bed.
1. Set the alarm for 15 minutes before you absolutely have to get up.
I often spend a lot of time lounging in bed after waking up, trying to persuade myself to start the day. I am often still tired and would love nothing more than to pull the covers back over me and sleep until I decided was ready to get up. I often feel, sometimes unfairly, that I have to be on all of my cylinders in order to do my job. If I’m tired, I’m not on all my cylinders, so I fear work and being confronted with things that I do not have the brainpower to deal with. Knowing that I will need some extra time in bed to rev myself up, I set my alarm for 6:45. This habit gives me more time to completely wake up without being so late that I later feel rushed. Stress is not the way to start your day.
2. Have as many things already done as you can.
Sometimes if I wake up very fatigued, even taking a shower and picking out my clothes for the day seems like too much. I do as much as I can the night before so that it will take very little stress or energy to get ready in the morning, and that makes the routine seem easier. I eat breakfast at work, so I either get it prepared the night before or, even better, I get things that are nutritious yet easy to grab as I’m running out the door. For me, I prefer a small container of Greek yogurt and Nature Valley Breakfast Biscuits, which are not only tasty but claim to give you four hours of energy after consuming them.
3. Think of something that you can look forward to.
This tip is especially helpful for depression sufferers when the thought of getting up and facing life is overwhelming, and you feel that you are nailed to your bed. I think of something that I can look forward to, but only something that I can receive if I get out of bed. It doesn’t have to be anything big. Sometimes I think to myself, “If you get up, you can go get the yummy coffee that is in the bookstore at work.” Since I love coffee, sometimes this is enough. It’s not only something that I will enjoy, but the caffeine will also give me another boost. At this point, I don’t worry about how tired I am because I know that through my anticipation–and chemicals–this should not be an issue.
4. Take things one step at a time.
When I suffered a severe bout of depression in 2014, getting out of bed seemed very overwhelming, even more so than usual. What I found helped was breaking down my morning routine into steps and only forcing myself to complete one step at a time. Saying, “You just need to take a shower” seemed a lot less threatening than thinking of the myriad of things I needed to do. It was small and attainable. After I was done with the shower, I would say, “You just need to get dressed.” I would also sometimes give myself an “out” that if the one task before me was too hard, I could quit. I know this seems counterintuitive to getting things done, but it was reverse psychology that worked for me. Giving myself permission had the opposite effect of making me work harder.
5. Practice good sleep hygiene.
Sometimes getting up in the morning starts the night before. If I go to bed with a lot on my mind or unresolved problems, I often don’t get good, quality sleep, and that will make me more tired. So before bed, I dim the lights and read. Reading always seems to get me out of my monkey mind. Sometimes I might also check news and Facebook on my phone. This is supposed to be a big no-no because of the blue light that is emitted from the screen, but if I am having trouble relaxing any other way, it does help. Seeing what is in the news and going on in the world–as long as it’s not political or traumatic–and catching up with my friends’ lives again takes me out of my noisy, cluttered mind.
6. Make sure you do not have an underlying sleep problem or disorder.
A lot of people have trouble getting up in the morning, but sometimes there can be a specific reason behind the tiredness and fatigue. When struggling with depression, my therapist asked me how my sleep was and referred me to a psychiatrist who would prescribe medicine to help. It turns out that I could fall asleep just fine, but I was often only going into the light cycle of sleep, which is not the sleep that rejuvenates and repairs your body. Once I started taking a sleep aid, I started getting better quality of sleep at night which would help with my feelings of being tired the next morning.
I debated on whether to include this step. I have heard that exercise first thing in the morning can get your blood pumping and that blood will deliver much-needed resources to the rest of your body, “waking” it up. This hasn’t really worked for me. My brain thinks, “You will get yourself worn out before your day even starts!” However, I’m also not used to exercising. If you already have an exercise regimen, it could be easier to wake up to this because your body will not have the same difficulty in working out.