Many of my clients who struggle with depression also struggle with sleeping too much. If you are depressed, you feel no energy, are physically exhausted, and when you think about the days activities or the things that you have to do on your to do list you may become overwhlemed and shut down.
Your mind might also begin to ruminate on negative messages such as:
· ” Why should I even get out of bed”
· “I am such a loser”
· ” Why even try?”
Sometimes the things you are avoiding are not really difficult tasks that you need to do like go to work, or do your taxes, or bills. Sometimes they are tasks that might normally bring you happiness, but are suddenly difficult because of your depression. They may be social, such as going out with friends, or going to the gym. They may be ones that require energy, but bring you great happiness or satisfaction because they are important to you: going to the gym, or participating in your hobbies such as writing or artwork.
In these cases, the thoughts may be more anxious ones such as:
· ” Everything will go wrong”
· “What if I fail at this?”
· ” Everyone will judge me “
This is the pattern that my clients often describe to me. It’s no wonder that you wouldn’t want to get out of bed and would spend every moment you could sleeping. It’ natural for us to move away from difficult thoughts, feelings, and sensations. In fact, we are wired this way so that we survive.
The problem with this strategy, as you know if you are struggling with depression, is that in the moment you feel better. You can escape from those terrible thoughts about your day, and yourself, and surrender to the curtain of sleep. When you awake, however, the things that you need to do are still there. In the case of the things that you like to do, but don’t have the energy to do, not doing them contributes to your depression. If we deprive ourselves of the things we enjoy while we are depressed because they are hard, then there isn’t much satisfaction to life.
One thing that I recommend to my clients that they can do in these situations is to pick one small thing that they can do each day. This may be picking a difficult thing off their to do list. If it is a large thing, then dividing that thing into steps. So, if, for example, they need to do their taxes, they may need to divide that thing into steps over the course of a week. This is usually something I help them with so you may need to find someone to help you with it too.
Then each day they will pick a small-time frame, one half hour or so, when they can devote the time to that small thing and accomplishing it. Usually when their mind overwhelms them, they are thinking of all of the things they have to do, and then they become overwhelmed, shut down and get back in bed. This strategy is often effective.
This strategy can also be used with things that you enjoy. If you have found that you are isolating yourself, and you realize friendships were important to you in the past, and now you are not connecting to your friends, you can set aside 15 minutes and make a phone call to a friend one day, or even send an email, whichever you feel you can do. Then you have done your task for the day.
After completing your task, you may then want to allow yourself to get back into bed if necessary. In this manner at the end of the week you will have done a lot of little tasks that you otherwise wouldn’t have done.
Often when we are struggling with doing something hard, and especially when we are depressed, our impulse is to criticize ourselves to get ourselves motivated. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. If it did, you likely wouldn’t suffer from depression. Criticizing ourselves makes us feel bad, and then when want to avoid more. A strategy that can help when we want to avoid,
Say to yourself:
1) This is a difficult moment for me it’s hard and stressful. Pay attention to how you are feeling.
2) Other people have trouble with this too. I am not alone. Remind yourself how hard it is to be depressed and struggle in this way.
3) Put your hand over your heart, or give yourself a hug if you can and say to yourself “May I be strong and patient with myself as I do this hard thing”. Offer yourself kindness.
At the end of the week after having done some difficult things, your depression will be a little better than it was before. When we avoid and distract ourselves from the pain and don’t do the things we need to most in our lives, it always exacerbates our depression.
Learn more about the self compassion break and Kristen Neff who developed it here.
Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.