As someone who has lived with clinical depression for years, I know first-hand how easy it can be to let depression spiral out of control.
I’ve read the articles and blog posts by people who quite obviously have never experienced the heavy fog that is depression, proposing “solutions” that seem no more realistic than growing wings and flying away from your mental illness.
Go for a run! Take a shower! Go to the gym! Think positively! Yeah, right.
When your place is an ungodly mess and it’s stressing you out but you have no motivation to clean. When your hair is greasier than the day-old McDonalds remains that litter the floor (because you definitely didn’t feel like cooking) but you can’t even bring yourself to get in the shower. When the list of things you’ve been putting off is getting longer and longer and at this point it seems so insurmountable that there’s no point in even starting. When you’ve skipped work or school so many times that the thought of showing your face at this point seems pointless and mortifying.
The obvious solution? Depression nap.
On the days where I can’t force myself to get out of bed in the morning, nothing seems more attractive to me than to bundle up in the dark and sleep the day away. At the time, depression naps always seem like such a good idea, am I right? The thing with depression naps, however, is that all the problems you had before the nap (I say “nap” loosely – depression naps can last anywhere from one hour to a full day) are still there when you wake up.
And then there’s the guilt. Why did I just sleep for six hours when I promised myself I would go to class today? At this point I would normally resign myself to my misery and sink blissfully into another depression nap.
Lately I’ve been making a conscious effort to pull myself out of this cycle, which brings us here. I have compiled a handy list of 5 realistic substitutes for a depression nap that are productive, and hopefully not too cheesy.
1. Wash your face
Orange you glad I didn’t say “take a shower?” This, ladies and gentleman, is a more realistic alternative because I realize that actually getting in the shower feels impossible sometimes.
Depending on your mental state at the time, this can be anything from a full facial pampering session to simply splashing some cold water on your face. Although you might not consciously realize it, letting the grime build up on your face can really do a number on your mood. If you can’t bring yourself to treat yourself to a full shower, giving your face some much-needed TLC is the next best thing. It wakes you up and makes you feel more alert. Not to mention, it can make you feel more confident.
If you’re able, take five minutes to cleanse, exfoliate and moisturize. If not, don’t. No pressure. If you feel even the tiniest bit better after this, try a face mask if you have one on hand. If not, there are tons of easy homemade recipes you could whip up in less than five minutes. These recipes all have 3-4 ingredients you can find around the house.
At this point your skin should be feeling refreshed. Now it’s time to get that greasy hair out of your face. Always keep an elastic on your wrist for this purpose, or if you’re rocking short hair like me, make sure you have a few headbands nearby. Out of sight out of mind, right?
2. Take 10 minutes to learn about meditation
The jury is back in. It’s official, meditation does help curb depression.
Long story short, meditation fosters introspective focus that can help break the toxic connection between your prefrontal cortex and your amygdala, the two regions of your brain that feed off each other to cause depression.
If you have a hard time clearing the clutter from your mind enough to actually engage with meditation, no problem. Meditation is a difficult practice that can take years to master, and no one expects you to incorporate it into your daily routine overnight.
However, even if you think it might not be for you, there’s no harm in taking 10 minutes out of your day to learn how it might help. If you don’t find it helpful, perhaps you can pick and choose certain elements to incorporate into your daily routine. At the very least, you can say you’ve learned something new.
QUICK LINKS: Meditation Resources for Beginners
- MEDITATION 101: TECHNIQUES, BENEFITS, AND A BEGINNER’S HOW-TO (Gaiam)
- How to Meditate – Meditation for Beginners Day 1 (Youtube – Part 1 of a series)
- Headspace (Free meditation/mindfulness app for beginners)
- Evenflow (Free meditation app combining insights with specific subjects to target stress points in real time)
- Dharma Mind Worldly Mind (Ebook by David Smith on Buddhist meditation)
- Exhaler (Five minute web-based breathing activity)
- Do Nothing for 2 Minutes
- Meditation for Beginners: 20 Practical Tips for Understanding the Mind (Leo Babuta – ZenHabits)
3. Start a journal
As someone who writes for a living, getting my thoughts down on paper has always been one of my favourite ways to talk myself out of a depressive episode. I’ve had many journals throughout the years, and they vary from fancy art journals to homemade bullet journals to dollar store notepads and even to wrinkled pages of loose-leaf paper scattered around my apartment.
If the thought of a “Dear Diary” format turns you off, remember that a journal is for you and you alone. Don’t feel bound to a specific format or writing style. My journals often include everything from song lyrics or artists, to grocery lists, bad poetry, dream recordings, word vomit, quotes and everything else under the sun.
If nothing else, journaling is a great way to map out your emotions, identify triggers and develop constructive coping skills. It’s also a great way to get things off your chest if you don’t have a reliable support network. Pro tip: writing down all your crappy feelings and then burning the page is sometimes more cathartic than therapy.
4. Do something nice for your wallet
Self-care takes many forms. For a lot of people (including me) financial stress can be a huge trigger. Taking baby steps toward something that will make or save you money can be a productive distraction when you don’t have the energy to dive head-on into work or other financial matters.
Going online and finding coupons or other deals on things you need is a great way to do this without even leaving your house. Hip2Save, Smart Canucks and Extreme Couponing Canada are all popular resources for finding coupons. If you have a newspaper lying around, clipping coupons not only helps save you money but also gets you working with your hands with minimal effort. Sold!
Another option would be to go on Amazon and find a great deal on something you need, but might have been putting off buying. Honey is a browser extension that automatically searches for coupons at checkout, which can save you even more money! It’s online retail therapy without the guilt, especially if it’s something you needed to get anyway. And you can do it all in your pajamas.
If you aren’t in a position to spend money, another quick and easy way to be nice to your wallet is to create a budget. Even if you don’t end up following it, there is catharsis in the activity itself. It’s a small and relatively painless step toward better financial security. There are dozens of free budget templates available online for download.
5. Take a catnap
This suggestion comes courtesy of my fiancé, who reminded me of the hard truth: sometimes the temptation to sleep your responsibilities away is too powerful to ignore.
If this is the case, and you feel like you’ve sunk so deeply into a negative headspace that there is absolutely no other option, taking a 15-30 minute catnap can curb the urge without sacrificing your entire day.
According to my fiancé, the best way to do this is to settle down somewhere you will be less tempted to fall into a deep slumber like a chair or a couch. Having some background noise, like Netflix or a podcast, is another way you can make sure your nap won’t go from a snooze to a coma.
Make sure you set an alarm, or make sure there’s someone nearby who can ensure you’ll actually get up after a set amount of time. If you’re one of those people who has a tendency to hit the snooze button, set multiple alarms or have a friend call to make sure you get up.
My fiancé says he usually grabs a glass of water or a snack to resist falling back asleep. The most crucial thing is to stand up and stretch your legs right away, even if it’s just for a trip to the bathroom. Continuing to lay there scrolling through social media on your phone lets the negative thoughts gather energy in your mind and traps you in that dreaded sleepy fog.
When it comes to curbing the symptoms of depression, everyone has a different process. These are just some of the things that help me personally.
Whether you decide to try one of these things, all of them or none of them, just remember that doing something is always better than doing nothing at all. No matter how minuscule, taking even a small step toward directing your energy to something productive will make you feel good.
Next time the dark clouds are looming and you feel the urge to fall back into bed, remember that everything that is making you feel depressed now will still be there when you wake up. Instead, wash your face and try your best to dedicate that time to bettering yourself.