We all experience bad days: those days where you just feel that the world is on your shoulders and you have all the energy of a permanently exhausted pigeon. For people who suffer from depression, anxiety, or a host of other mental health issues, this is not the exception – it’s the rule. It’s about being too tired to get up or having such low motivation that you can’t even think about doing anything other than just lying in the same position forever. This is the daily struggle of someone suffering from a mental illness. Although medication and therapy can and do make a big change in these peoples’ lives, happiness still relies on the person and the choices they make to keep themselves positive, happy, and motivated.
Now please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that someone with a mental illness should just snap out of it (I know that feeling all too well). What I am saying is that, as with most chronic illnesses and especially depression and other chronic mental health problems, it is a fight for health every day. The moment you give in or decide to just give up on life, you allow the depression to steal just a little bit more of who you are. Whether you are suffering from a mental illness, going through a slump, or just having a bad day, here are a few simple things you can do on a daily basis that will turn those down days into more positive and constructive days.
- Get up
We have probably all been there (me more than most) when you lay in bed trying to convince yourself that you have some terminal contagious disease and therefore you need to stay in bed. Or you have thought of every excuse in the book to not go to work! At some stage, you may have even considered faking your own death (I know I have). However, I have found when I just get up and get dressed (this is sometimes harder than moving mountains) it brings some purpose to my life. No matter how insignificant it may seem, it is an important step in getting your day off to a great start. Therefore, practice good sleep hygiene. Go to bed at a reasonable hour, get your 8 hours of Z’s, and switch off all electronics at least half an hour before bedtime.
- Get moving
One of the best natural combatants of depressive symptoms is exercise. For some, exercise is part of their daily routine and they tend to be quite energetic and healthy people, but if your biggest struggle in the morning is to just get your eyes open, going to the gym at 05:00 and working in 12 rounds of cardio may be a bit ambitious. It is here where most people miss the plot – you do not need to be the next CrossFit champion to fight your depression, you just need to get moving! Therefore, start small and easy. Go for a quick walk around your house, do 10 jumping jacks before you get in the shower, put on some of your favorite music and get dancing. It does not need to be an elaborate exercise plan, it just has to be something that gets your heart beating faster, your adrenalin pumping and your blood flowing.
- Get healthy
A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Make sure that you get enough vitamins and minerals in to keep you energized and going throughout the day. When we find ourselves in a slump or in the grips of a depressive episode, we tend to crave junk food, chocolates, sugar, and simple carbohydrates. The problem with this is that these foods take us on a sugar high and then drop us; they do not provide sustainable energy. So you end up getting these tiring dips that feel like you just do not have the energy to do anything. Eat a healthy breakfast in the morning and make sure you eat regularly throughout the day. Drink lots of water and cut down on your caffeine intake.
- Get going
Many people suffering from depression find it helpful to plan for the day ahead. In doing so, they know how much time they have for each activity and do not allow themselves the time to just sit around or wallow about their depressed feelings. Therefore, set goals, practice good time management and plan your day so that you can plan your energy. Write down the tasks for each day and make sure you do not overexert yourself. Make time for the things that are important in your life: plan for “me-time”, “family-time”, rest and social interactions. In doing so, it gives you a roadmap for each day that you can prepare for accordingly.
- Get help
You are not an island. So often we feel that we do not want to burden the people in our lives with our problems, as we may feel that they will not understand or they will judge us. This is very seldom true. Surround yourself with people who will support you and who are able to bring out the best in you. Make plans to go have coffee with a friend, or go watch a movie. If you feel that you maybe need to sharpen up your social skills, go do a short course. If it seems that your bad days are not getting better and you feel too overwhelmed, make an appointment with your psychologist, therapist, social worker or doctor.