Sometimes I wake up very energized and ready to take on the world. But there are also a lot of times when I wake up and I feel depleted, very tired, unmotivated and have a lot of trouble focusing. That is the reality for a lot of people who live with depression or anxiety. The following is a list of things that I do on the days when I’m feeling depleted and tired, and all of these things combined are really helpful to shift my mood and give me a little bit more energy to get through my day.
Get out of bed
This can often be the hardest part of your day. I love sleeping in but I have realized that on the days when I’m feeling down staying in bed only makes it worse, even though that is exactly the only thing I want to do. I have found that more often than not, when I am able to force myself to get out of bed, it really helps to make me feel better. No I’m not saying getting out of bed is the fix-all cure for when you are feeling depressed or down. What I am saying is that more often than not, staying in bed only makes you feel worse. So as hard as it is force yourself to get out of bed, and pat yourself on the back when you are able to do so.
Get plenty of Sunlight or do light therapy
Sunlight really is one of the best remedies to wake us up and make us feel more energized and motivated. I love being outside in the sunlight whenever the weather is nice and the sun is out, but when it’s cold or cloudy I use my sun lamp in the mornings and it really helps to get my day going. For those who don’t know, a sunlamp is a device that produces bright light, which mimics the effects of sunlight in the brain. It is used for the treatment of conditions such as seasonal affective disorder and can even help with jet lag and make someone feel more awake and alert.
I wake up every morning with my sun lamp alarm clock which is programmed to increase the brightness of the light gradually, imitating a sunrise and allowing for an easier transition from sleeping to awaking. Using the sunlamp or doing light therapy for at least 30 minutes every day has been very helpful for me and has increased my quality of life tremendously, especially during darker winter months.
During the warmer months when it’s sunny outside I intentionally plan out my day in a way that allows me to spend time outside for at least 30 minutes. Whether it is taking my dogs out for a walk, exercising outside, sitting on the patio and reading or doing some work on my tablet, being outside in the sunlight is extremely helpful in improving mental health.
Get eight hours of sleep
Our bodies absolutely need sleep in order to re-charge and allow us to have enough energy and focus to get through each day. Getting eight hours of sleep is necessary for good mental health. Those who live with depression sometimes end up getting more sleep, because they may be unable to stay awake through the day and end up falling asleep for long periods of time during the day. That habit is also not ideal for optimal mental health because it can disrupt your normal sleeping patterns, locking you in an endless loop where it’s hard to fall asleep during the night and stay awake during the day.
What I have found that has helped me the most in preventing that from happening or fixing it when it does happen is making sure that I get 8 to 10 hours of sleep during the night, then making myself stay awake through the day (by using the sun lamp or getting enough sunlight) and only taking a short 30-45 minute nap in the early part of the day if absolutely necessary. More often than not, getting into this habit helps to break the messed up sleep pattern, and allows me to get enough rest and feel better mentally.
Meditation has so many great benefits. Meditating every day has greatly improved my quality of life and my mental health overall. On days when I am struggling mentally, meditation can make me feel less worried or overwhelmed and it helps me focus on what is positive around me (which can be hard when you are living through a depressive period). If you have never tried meditation and feel intimidated by the idea, don’t worry because it is a very simple practice that can be done basically anywhere at any time. A good way to get started is to download a free guided meditation app. There are tons of great apps to choose from, and you can always try different ones until you find one that you like. I personally use the app Stop Breathe and Think, and I recommend it.
Plan out your day
An absolutely life-changing practice that has help me through some really hard times during depressive periods is making time in the morning to plan out my day. When I am feeling really overwhelmed and it’s hard to focus, sitting and planning out my day is incredibly helpful. It allows me to look at all of the things that I have to do and prioritize only the most important ones. The way I have my planner set up also allows me to check in with myself at the beginning of this process and figure out how I am feeling and what can I do to feel better or more energized.
Determining the most important tasks that absolutely need to get done allows you to focus on doing only one or two things, instead of giving yourself a giant to do list that you don’t feel like you have the energy or focus to get through.
Do not miss doctors appointments or therapy sessions
This is such an important one. A lot of times when we are not doing well mentally we feel like want to blow off our appointments, because we don’t have the energy to leave the house. That is a common mistake by those of us who live with anxiety or depression and it only makes things worse. No matter how little energy you have or how much you don’t want to leave your house it is very important to go to your doctors appointments and your therapy sessions. Keep telling yourself that even though you really don’t feel like it that is something that is going to help with your treatment in the long term. The least you can do for your own well-being is show up for your treatment. You deserve to give yourself the best possible chances of success and attending your appointments is one very effective way to make that happen.
Listen to music
I personally don’t know anyone who doesn’t like music. Music can be an effective way to raise your spirits and improve your mood. Except of course if you choose to listen to sad, depressing music, which I don’t recommend when you are having a bad mental health day. There are times when I’m feeling really down and have very little energy to do anything, and the last thing I want to do is put on happy upbeat music, but when I am able to force myself to do so, it works every time. It also helps when I (even reluctantly) sing along to it.
On the days when you are not feeling well mentally it is really important to not beat yourself up unnecessarily. Be very patient with yourself and reward yourself when you are able to do even the smallest things. On days like that it can be really difficult to accomplish even the smallest tasks so every time you do something that you found hard to do, you should give yourself a pat on the back and if possible a small reward
Some of the rewards I give myself on the days when I am struggling mentally are: getting a yummy iced coffee or whatever other beverage I enjoy; eating a type of food I like; lighting scented candles and relaxing for a few minutes while reading a book I enjoy or listening to some of my favorite songs; giving myself a manicure or pedicure, or going to get one at a salon; simply mentally acknowledging that although I am struggling today I am still a good person who deserves happiness and is capable of achieving great things.
You can choose to reward yourself for doing even the smallest possible tasks like simply getting up and brushing your teeth, or bigger tasks like leaving your house to attend a doctors appointment or social event. Your efforts deserve to be recognized and rewarded, especially on days when you are struggling.
Be kind to yourself
There might be days when even doing the smallest tasks can be not only extremely difficult but impossible, and that’s OK. It’s important to remember to be kind to yourself on days when you are struggling mentally or emotionally. A lot of times, especially during those days, we tend to berate ourselves for not being able to do some of the things that we expect of ourselves and that only contributes to making or us feel worse. Remember that if you are having an especially hard day and you aren’t able to do certain tasks, that is OK,O. You are not a failure, you are still deserving of love, happiness and understanding, and there’s always tomorrow when you can try again. Be kind to you.
Spend time with animals
Animals have the incredible ability to live in the present moment at all times, much more than humans, and that makes them the best and most mindful type of company. When spending time with animals we get to experience the presence of someone who is just there, enjoying our company unconditionally which can be very helpful during poor mental health days.
I know I talk a lot about gratitude and practicing gratitude every day but it’s only because it has been a life-changing exercise. On bad mental health days our minds tend to focus on everything that is negative and trying to focus on something positive can take a lot of effort. That is where a gratitude exercise comes in. Even though our minds may automatically highlight negative things we can always try to see the positive side of things even when that is really hard. It’s a habit that takes practice, and it may not feel natural for a while especially on those really hard days, but once we start actively choosing to highlight even the smallest positive details in our lives, that practice has the power to help us feel better. It can be as simple as thinking about how nice it is to have a comfortable bed to sleep in, or that one friend who did that one nice thing for you, that one time.
When I practice my gratitude exercise, I usually think about some of the things that I now have which I didn’t have at some other point in my life. I also think about how even though certain things may not have worked out the way I wanted, the situation could’ve been worse than it is. I find it helpful to do such an exercise every day, but it is especially effective on days when I’m struggling mentally.
An easy way to get started on a practice exercise is by downloading my free Mini Gratude Journal. It was designed with easy daily gratitude-focused exercises to be completed over a four week period. You can download the free journal here.
These are all the practices, habits and tactics I use when I’m having a bad mental health day. The combination of some or all of them is often very helpful to make me feel better, and that is why I recommend them to everybody. I believe it is very important to try different things and figure out what different methods work best for you.
On days when we struggle mentally it is important to be kind to ourselves, try healthy practices to get us through the day and remember that there is always hope that tomorrow will be better.