“Just move to the couch.”
Like almost everyone in the world right now, the depression from 5+ months of quarantine, the impending election, and, well….*gestures vaguely to the world* is starting to get to me.
I’m mostly hanging in there, but some days are harder than others.
And I’ve gotten to the point where some mornings it’s difficult to get out of bed.
For those of you who have suffered from depression before, or for those of you who live with chronic depression, this can be a pretty common occurrence.
For me, it’s been a long time since I’ve had depression bad enough that I struggled with this particular thing, and had forgotten how to handle it.
So as I was lying in bed the other morning, struggling to swing my feet over the edge of the bed and wander downstairs to start the coffee, I texted a friend of mine whom I knew had dealt with clinical depression most of their life.
“I’ve hit the point of depression where getting out of bed in the morning is moderately difficult.”
“I’m sorry Beth,” he responded. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“I mean if you have any suggestions on how to get out of bed when that happens that’d be great.”
I’ll be honest, at this point I wasn’t expecting him (or any human being) to really have solid advice for this situation beyond something trite or cliche like “You just have to figure out what works for you.”
But what he said next actually surprised me.
“Literally, just get up and move to the couch. It’s a small step, yet an important one.”
“Huh. Ok,” I responded, a little surprised that he had such clear and actionable advice for this particular situation.
“It’ll get your body moving. Then maybe that’ll lead to taking Georgie out for a walk.”
(Georgie is my giant majestic House Yak of a Great Dane, btw.)
“More like making coffee for me but I see what you’re saying,” I responded, as nothing happens for me in the morning before coffee.
I thought this was amazing advice, and here’s why.
I had realized that most of the time I spent in that brief moment between the lying-in-bed-phone-scroll and actually leaving the warm comforts of my blankets and pillows was spent going over the day and what I had to do.
“I gotta get up and make coffee, make breakfast, then it’s time for the morning meeting, then today I have to write a newsletter, get back to so-and-so about a Thing, do some photo and video editing, make sure the dog gets her meds, do the dishes, run to the grocery store,” etc.
But lately, I had so many other thoughts occupying that time.
“I miss my friends. I wish my friend from Milwaukee could visit. I miss going to whiskey tastings and cigar sampling events. I wish people would just wear a mask. I’m really stressed about what would happen if I caught the ‘Rona, because I already have long-term health problems. What happens in November if the elections end poorly?”
By the time I had gotten through all of those thoughts and moved on to thinking about what I needed to do that day, I was already mentally overwhelmed and exhausted despite having just woken up.
The thought of getting out of bed to do all the things I needed to do to start my day was Just Too Much.
So what I needed to do was simplify a little bit.
Instead of thinking about all the things I needed to do, maybe I just replaced that entire to-do list with “Move to the couch.”
Cutting the mental to-do list in half is not nearly as overwhelming.
Then once I got to the couch, maybe then I could think about what I needed to do next. Like make coffee.
Once I had made coffee, I could think about the next immediate thing, which would be breakfast.
And slowly, by focusing on one thing at a time, I could avoid overwhelm in such a way that allowed me to function.
So maybe if you’re also feeling overwhelmed with the state of the world, it’s time to simplify a little bit.
Don’t think about everything you have to do.
Just think about the next thing you have to do.
— Beth T.