When You Can’t Get Out of Bed

Everyone’s experience with depression is different. After many years, I was eventually diagnosed with atypical depression, named not because it is rare, but just in contrast to melancholic depression. Symptoms of atypical depression include fatigue, muscle soreness, and hypersomnia. In other words, I never wanted to get out of bed.

There are a lot of lists of Things To Do When You Are Depressed, and they are often helpful and well-meaning. Still, sometimes they ask too much. Here was my reaction to several popular tips:

Call a friend? I would never bother someone with how bad I am feeling and drag them down. I am just a toxic drain on this friendship anyway, so why would they care? My friends will be better off without me. 

Go for a walk? I can’t do that. I can’t see normal people who will expect me to smile or wave and I can’t give myself the chance to jump in front of a car, even though I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone else. I am trying really hard to stay alive, but bed is the safest place to do it. 

Exercise? Yeah, right. 

So I wanted to make a list of things you can do without leaving your house or even, with a little pre-planning, your bedroom. These are meant to be simple activities that you can do with little energy or effort, short-term solutions for when you can’t see past the day.

  • Try breath meditation. I am still a beginner meditator and struggle with my focus, but it does help. Try not to worry if you find your thoughts wandering. Just bring your mind back to your breath. I usually use the counting method: each full inhale and exhale is one breath. I try to count to five, then start again.
  • Do some simple stretches in bed. I really like this “Sick Day Yoga” article. If that’s too much, you can do simple things like pointing and flexing your feet, circling your wrists and shoulders, and gently rolling your neck.
  • Drink some water. Just sip on it throughout the day. I like it cold in summer, but room temperature the rest of the year. If you want a little more flavor and have a few things stocked in your kitchen, try adding lemon or lime, brewing herbal tea, or even a bouillon cube.
  • Have a small snack. Granola bars, crackers, peanut/cashew/almond butter, and fruit are all nice no-cook options that will give your body some calories without upsetting a nervous stomach. The key here is to always buy an emergency stash when you are feeling up to shopping, so you can have snacks on hand for your stay home days.
  • Read a book you already love. Some people hate re-reading books; I find it comforting. I also do not like trying new books when I am feeling very bad because there could be a trigger that makes me feel even worse. Children’s stories are nice here; I often re-read The Chronicles of Narnia, Black Beauty, and The Little House Books.
  • Watch a movie you know makes you smile. Similar to books, I am wary of new movies, but I can re-watch a favorite many times. If you have a DVD with a director’s or cast commentary it can be an interesting diversion. I also find commentary tracks soothing to fall asleep to, like a bedtime story.
  • Use extra pillows to build a fort. If you’re going to camp out in bed, might as well make it as fun and cozy as possible. If you don’t feel like building anything, you can still pile on some extra cushions and blankets to make sitting up and lounging more comfortable.
  • Listen to music. This doesn’t actually work that well for me, but I have friends who wouldn’t dream of not having music on pretty much all day every day. Try if you can, remembering that you want to feel light, relaxed, and calm. If music is too stimulating or triggering, you could try a white noise machine or app.
  • Write, draw, knit, or any craft you know how to do. This is not the time to try something new, but if you already keep a journal or sketchbook, it can make you feel better to spend a little time working on it. Knitting, scrapbooking, sewing, and other crafts are good too. This type of activity can distract you, but also give you a sense of accomplishment.
  • Sleep when you can. As I mentioned earlier, I often slept too much, sometimes 12 hours a night with a daytime nap too. I know others can’t fall asleep or can’t stay asleep, though. Take what you can get and don’t fight it if you feel sleepy. Your body knows when it needs to rest and repair.

I hope these suggestions are helpful or give you ideas for your own coping strategies. Sometimes all you can do is get through the day. Please remember that is all you have to do. Just stay alive for one more day, then do it again tomorrow.

Graphic with the list of the 10 suggestions in the article.