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By: Jessica Morris, MA, LMHCA
Depression is a mental illness that is characterized by overwhelming sadness, despair, irritability, having little energy, being apathetic, and other behavioral changes. It is estimated that 16.2 million people in the United States had a major depressive episode in 2019. Those numbers are expected to rise as a result of the pandemic.
One of the symptoms of depression is feeling tired (fatigue). When that happens, the body's natural response is to rest and lower its overall activity level. This may be why people with depression have a difficult time getting out of bed and accomplishing seemingly basic tasks. If we do not have energy, we tend to be more sedentary and lethargic. These behaviors reinforce depression, which then worsens the overall feeling of fatigue. Most people with depression understand this. The problem is that without the energy to get out of bed, any task beyond that seems impossible. This often leads to the person feeling even worse about themselves since they are unable to help themselves. This is what is known as the depressive cycle.
The problem with the depressive cycle is that depression can lie to our brains to make us feel tired when in fact, we may not be tired at all.
So, what should I do?
First, recognize and understand that if you have depression, this symptom may not be real. Then, make a commitment to be active for just twenty minutes. Oftentimes, twenty minutes is all it will take for a person to be able to break the depressive cycle and feel better.
Get out of bed and take a long shower. Go for a short walk down the street and back. Pick five of your favorite songs and dance to them. Find a part of a room to clean. It does not matter as much what you do as much as it matters that you are doing something to get your body moving. Strenuous activity is not necessary.
After twenty minutes, sit down and check-in with yourself. If you still feel tired, you might actually be tired. Give yourself a chance to rest. At least you will know that the fatigue is real and not a lie that was planted by depression.
Many times, though, you will feel better and may truly feel like you have more energy. If that is the case for you, congratulations! You have broken the depressive cycle. Keep this strategy in mind because oftentimes it will need to be repeated to improve overall depressive symptoms.
It is important to remember that this strategy is not a replacement for therapy. This will not cure or treat depression. To speak with a qualified professional about overcoming your depression, please reach out to our staff today!