24 Things to Do When Depression Won't Let You Get Up in the Morning
Article updated Feb. 25, 2020.
The alarm buzzes, beeps or sings — and it’s your cue to get up for the day. Whether you allow yourself a few extra warm minutes under the covers or need to spring out of bed to get to class in time — when you need to, you’re probably able to get out of bed and start your day, even if you’re a little grumpy about it.
But for many people with depression, this “simple” act of getting up in the morning is more than an inconvenience because you just want “five more minutes” — it can feel nearly impossible. When you’re struggling with depression, it’s sometimes not a matter of when you start your day, but the fact that you have to start your day at all.
“Depression can literally feel like you are carrying a heavy weight that you cannot escape from, so having a hard time getting out of bed makes sense,” Mighty contributor and therapist Daniela Paolone, LMFT, told The Mighty. “Every physical movement they make requires a lot of effort and they are tired because the sense of heaviness is relentless.”
But just because you have trouble getting out of bed doesn’t mean you’re “useless” and it will be like this forever. When Paolone works with clients who are struggling with depression, she said taking small, incremental steps often help to start shifting the weight of depression. And you don’t even have to start with your sleep routine.
For example, Paolone said small changes can look like writing down one thing you’re grateful for each day. Keeping a gratitude journal reinforces a daily routine and challenges negative depression thoughts. Another practice Paolone recommends is to notice all the details at the start of your day. Whether that’s listening to your favorite song when you wake up, drinking a cup of coffee or lying in bed and experiencing the light coming in your window.
“Beginning with one small thing and slowly adding to it are ways to challenge the negative thoughts so that they do not continue to take over,” Paolone told The Mighty, adding:
Depression is a cycle that can feel hard to get out of, which is why I recommend exercises like these. Interrupting the depression thought cycle can happen when we bring attention and take part in activities that bring some level of comfort and enjoyment.
To share other ideas on what may help when the weight of depression tries to keep you in bed, we asked our mental health community to share one thing they can do when it’s hard to get up in the morning.
Here’s what they told us:
1. “When depression makes it hard to get out of bed I try to give myself a few small goals to accomplish. Like shower and put clothes that aren’t pajamas on, turn on some music or my favorite show and make myself sit somewhere other than my room. Actually get up and make breakfast (or lunch depending on what time I end up getting up).” — Mariah S.
2. “I tell myself my puppy needs me to get up and take care of him because without me he has no one to take him outside or feed him. Even if I can’t take care of myself, I can’t abandon my responsibility to take care of him.” — Cassandra D.
3. “Honestly, I just force myself. I pep-talk myself. And if I get up early enough I’ll open the curtains for natural light and brew coffee. But after an hour of being up, I get exhausted so I usually have to go back and lay down to rest up.” — Eden L.
4. “I put on some fast or uplifting music that makes me want to get up to dance and sing because it makes me feel alive, and nothing else matters when I listen to music. Can’t be anything too introspective though.” — Ethan J.
5. “To get myself out of bed on especially hard days, I look at photos of things that make me smile: friends, family, pet, good times, etc. This helps remind me there are things worth getting up for.” — Sandy S.
6. “Although this isn’t something I do for myself, I normally leave my door closed when I sleep so a lot of mornings I’ll wake up to my dog crying outside my door because he wants to come in to see me. This is really motivating since it makes it so I have to get up and open the door, not only to have him stop crying, but it also makes me excited since there’s someone who is so excited to see me first thing in the morning.” — Kira M.
7. “On those days, I narrow my list down to as little as possible and allow myself a nap if it’s just for 30 minutes. I might add an extra guided meditation, and I make sure self-care is my top priority for the day.” — Amy L.
8. “I remind myself getting out of bed helps me get out of my head… going to work, going on a drive, seeing my family or friends, seeing my dog. I remind myself that depression doesn’t have to be my reality. I remind myself that there are people who love me and will be by my side the second I call (even if I still question that fact in my mind constantly). I remind myself today is just a day and it’s not the end of the world if I truly can’t make it out of bed… tomorrow is a new day and a new chance to do what I couldn’t do today.” — Allison L.
9. “Just feed the pets, grab a water bottle and some food and you can go back to bed. Maybe I will push for a shower and clean clothes…maybe not. Taking one day off is OK…the deal is that I get back into it tomorrow.” — Samantha S.
10. “Honestly, I haven’t yet figured out that one ‘aha’ mechanism that I can use on demand when my depression gets bad. So for now, I let it take reign, consume me, wash over me or however you want to say it. I just lie there and let the thoughts rumble. I ruminate and am actively aware I’m struggling, but I truly have zero physical and mental power in those moments to change how low I feel. But I do know that eventually the rumbles turn into rolls and the rolls into distant ripples. And then I check my phone and see unread texts from my parents asking me to ‘acknowledge’ them or ‘to go outside,’ so I roll my eyes and finally get out of bed. If you can’t tell, I’m having one of those moments right now.” — Betsi L.
11. “I forget about tomorrow or the next day and just worry about today. I look at how many hours I have to put in, where I have to go and what I have to do. Basically, I look at it as rationally as I can and pep talk myself into it.” — Mallory T.
12. “Try to make just a goal of taking my meds, drinking enough water, getting enough movement/blood flow and maybe, taking a shower or even putting on makeup, even if I just get right back in bed when I’m done.” — Lizzy G.
13. “I promise myself an afternoon nap and an hour of chilling out. I plan a few things so that the day goes steadily. I plan an easy meal for the evening so that I don’t feel addled when making it. Also, I have a puppy who needs to be taken out.” — Julie B.
14. “I reach out to the people who know I struggle and tell them I’m having one of those days. Isolating myself makes everything worse. It helps having someone there, even if they lay around in bed with me. It brings a sense of peace and brings me back. As much as I hate talking to people when I’m down, it’s always so worth it. Even if they don’t talk, it’s all I need.” — Krissy U.
15. “Small goals like sitting up, getting out of bed, showering and making sure I reward myself mentally for achieving those goals. If I can’t even do that I ask for help. Having people in my life who understand and just surround me with love when I need it because sometimes the only thing I can do is send a text.” — Belinda S.
16. “I remind myself of my amazing wife. I hear a lot of people tell me I have to take care of myself first, but when depression creeps on I am worth nothing. That’s how it makes me feel anyway. So I remember the love and acceptance of my wife. And that’s how I get out of bed every morning.” — Bridgette W.
17. “I get up in micro-movements, talking myself through each step: sit up, sit on the edge of the bed, stand up, walk… then I keep doing that as long as I need to.” — Sheri K.
18. “I think of the reasons I have worth living. I remember all those times I made it out of depression and that motivates me to get up and keep trying. I try to work towards my goals despite depression. I just being it along for the ride.” — Hiram M.
19. “I take a bath or a shower. And that always feels like a major accomplishment on days like that. And I allow myself to feel like it is a victory, because anyone with depression knows that’s exactly what it is. I always feel a little better after I’m fresh out of a bath, no matter how small, the point is I feel better.” — Ashley M.
20. “I make a list of small things to do so I can have that sense of success, and eventually move on to bigger projects that need to be done. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. But it works a good amount of the time for sure.” — Wendy Y.
21. “I force myself to get some form of exercise. Whether I go for a walk or hit the gym, I just force myself to get a workout in. Most of the time that helps me get through the rest of the day. But if I end up spending the rest of the day on the couch, it’s OK.” — Michelle B.
22. “On those days, I think of three things that I can look forward to or accomplish that day, even if that means just getting a cup of tea and reading a book somewhere quiet. I can tell myself that I did it, that I got through it.” — Megan B.
23. “I open my blinds and the window. It helps me. Or when I finally get out of bed just stepping outside or opening the door for a few seconds helps me realize the world is out there.” — Jennica M.
24. “I stay in bed. It doesn’t undo the hard work you’ve done. You just start again in the morning. Sometimes you need to just have a ‘you day.’” — Chloe-Jane W.
For other tips for coping with depression, check out these other Mighty articles: