There are days when getting out of bed takes grit.
There are two kinds of people in the world: those who make their beds in the morning, and those who do not. If I ever become one of the latter, you’ll know I’ve given up.
“What’s the point making my bed when I’m only going to get back in it at the end of the day?” the anti-bed-making camp says. “No one’s going to see my bed anyway. Why should I care?”
Here’s why: because making a bed is easy, it looks nice, and you are going to see it. But let me back up.
All my life, I’ve struggled with low-level depression. It comes and goes, like a cold. Like a sniffly nose, it’s rarely enough to completely knock me out of commission, but it’s enough to make me miserable when it hits. Those are the days I write “take a shower” on my to-do list and feel good about crossing it off.
Those are also the days when, if I don’t make my bed as soon as I get up, I might just crawl back into it.
I don’t want to downplay the role of antidepressants and therapy. Depression can and should be treated by mental health professionals, which I most definitely am not. But even when depression is well-managed by medication or other means, there are days when getting out of bed — and staying out of it — is a battle. Knowing how to deploy a crisp hospital corner is just one of the weapons I bring to the front lines. Making my bed takes five minutes, and it makes me feel better all day.
Here are a few other depression-fighting techniques in my arsenal…
Drink a big glass of water
It’s amazing how being properly hydrated can make or break my mood. When I’m down, I tend to forget to drink water, so now I force myself to start the day with a big glass every day as soon as I’m out of bed. Throughout the day, if I’m feeling stressed or sad, I’ll stop what I’m doing, get a glass of water, and just breathe and drink for three minutes. It helps.
Get out into the sunshine
The last thing I want to do when I’m depressed is go outside. I’d much prefer to wallow in my misery and hide from the sun, like a vampire. But if the sun is shining, I make myself go and stand in it for a few minutes, at the very least. Like a houseplant, I perk up with a little sun and water. And even if the weather is crappy, a little fresh air always helps my state of mind.
There are days I force myself out the door for a run even while I’m mentally kicking and screaming. I’ll tell myself I can walk if I feel like it, or that I can turn around and go home after half a mile. Once I’ve started, I usually keep going. If I’m too down to self-motivate, I’ll go to a yoga class. Just breathing and stretching in the company of other people can be comforting.
Stay off social media
I’m most susceptible to social media stalking and hate-reading when I’m feeling low. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like everyone else has it better than me, and resenting other people’s vacations, jobs and relationships. Instead of being grateful for what I have, I fixate on what I don’t have. Banning myself from Facebook and Instagram for a while almost always improves my mental health.
Write it out
I’m a big believer in “morning pages,” as recommended in Julia Cameron’s classic, The Artist’s Way. She says to write out three pages, longhand, as soon as you wake up. It’s a way to sort of dump out your thoughts and start the day with a clear head. You write down whatever comes into your mind. It can be petty stuff or big stuff. It doesn’t matter. No one’s going to read it. The point is just to get it out. I don’t always do this in the morning. Anytime I need to get a grip, I grab my journal and go at it.
Talk to a friend
My instinct is to hide when I’m depressed, but human contact is essential — at least for an extrovert like me. I have a couple of friends who will come over and hang out with me even when I’m crying over dumb shit, my apartment is a wreck (except for my bed, of course) and I haven’t showered. They’ve seen me at my worst, and I know they still love me.
Elizabeth Laura Nelson lives in Brooklyn with her two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to get up and sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.
This originally appeared on SHESAID. Republished here with permission.