When individuals are fighting depression, simply getting out of bed can be a difficult task. But just because they are dealing with depression doesn’t mean that their physical health needs don’t need to be addressed. However, people are having an issue simply moving from the bedroom to the living room, suggesting that they go for a run isn’t practical advice.
So, how does a person fighting depression maintain proper physical health? Here are three suggestions:
Depression & Physical Health Tip #1: All Movement is Good
I’m the first person to admit that exercise is difficult even when I’m feeling fantastic. I’m not the physical type at all. I enjoy sitting on my butt staring at the television. But, when it comes to maintaining our health, movement is important.
It can be unreasonable to expect a depressed person to “go for a walk” or “get some fresh air.” It’s that kind of ill-advised suggestion that makes a person feel isolated and alone in the first place. So, rather than setting your sights on the treadmill, set them on the shower.
Often, when depressed, personal hygiene in the first to suffer. Why shower, shave, and get dressed if you are not planning on leaving the house? Because it’ll make you feel better, that’s why.
Don’t get bogged down in how long it takes, either. It once took me an entire day to shower, shave, and get dressed. Write a list on the mirror (look, more movement!) and cross items off as you go. Consider things like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, etc. As you start to feel better, add household chores and errands.
Celebrate the goal and move forward. Trust me. All movement is good, even in small amounts. Add that to the mental burst of energy you’ll receive from completing a goal and it’s a win-win.
Depression & Physical Health Tip #2: Watch What You Eat
Watching what you eat is the most common advice there is when it comes to maintaining your physical health. It’s so common that you already know it, but you’re probably not doing it because you think it is too difficult. Especially when you are depressed.
Here’s the thing: many people believe the only eating options are healthy and unhealthy. That is simply nonsense. We would all feel better if we ate only fresh fruits & vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy grains. Conversely, we would all feel horrible if we ate only ice cream, cake, and potato chips.
But, there is a middle ground. Drink water, as an example. Before you panic, I’m not suggesting to stop drinking soda or coffee; I’m merely suggesting adding some water.
Many people complain that they can’t eat healthy because they are too depressed to cook. I certainly understand that. But there are plenty of healthier options than some of the standard junk food you may be consuming. And, I’ll point out that cooking will help you get in more of the movement I suggested above.
For starters, “diet” microwave meals, pretzels, and plain bagels are all healthier options than, say, canned pastas, chips, and pop tarts.
Eating better and eating perfect aren’t the same thing. When I’m depressed, I often eat the worst-of-the-worst types of foods. Drinking more water and adding foods that are middle-of-the-road will make a huge difference.
Depression & Physical Health Tip #3: Maintain a Stable Sleep Schedule
Like the above, maintaining a proper sleep schedule also has both physical and mental health benefits. Sleeping too little or too much can cause not only adverse physical effects, but mental ones, as well.
Sleep schedules are often set by external factors, such as when we need to get up for work or school. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for the average adult between the ages of 26-64, but everyone is a little different. Read here to help figure out how much sleep you require.
Once you have determined the proper amount, choose your bedtime accordingly. Then it is lights out at that time every night. Literally, lights out. Not lie in bed on your tablet or phone, not read a book, and absolutely not watch TV. Turn off the lights, crawl under the covers, and shut your eyes. Then lie there until you fall asleep.
No matter when you fall asleep, wake up at the same time every day – or at least as close to it as is reasonable. It’s okay to sleep past your normal wake time if necessary, but avoid getting your entire eight hours, or you may not be in a position to be able to fall asleep at your normal bedtime that evening.
The bottom line is this: Respect sleep. Don’t abuse it by sleeping too little or too much. Don’t force yourself to stay awake watching Netflix when you should be resting. Being physically exhausted will not improve your depression and, in fact, will absolutely make it worse.
Depression & Physical Health Tips Conclusion
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Maintaining our physical and mental health is no different. We tend to psych ourselves out and decide that if we can’t run a marathon or eat perfectly, then there is no need to try at all. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every day, depressed or not, make any small positive step forward and you will be better off. Small changes absolutely lead to gigantic victories.
This article originally appeared on PsychCentral as “3 Ways to Be Physically Healthy While Fighting Depression.”