The fatigue that comes with depression can be debilitating. And, it’s only one of the effects of depression. Yet, it is one that can quickly isolate you from friends and family. With small daily efforts, there are ways to push back against fatigue. You may have good days and bad days, but as you build a healthy lifestyle, you can help your body function and feel better day by day.
Fuel Your Body with Good Food
Food fuels everything you do and think. We live in a society that’s flooded with highly processed foods full of empty calories. They fill your belly, but they won’t fuel the complex biological processes that take place in your body.
You need a healthy, well-balanced diet for your brain and body to function at peak efficiency. Lean proteins, fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a smidgen of healthy fats give your body the well-rounded nutrients needed for optimum health.
It’s not just what you eat that affects how you feel. When you eat is important too. Try to eat your meals at roughly the same time each day and keep them evenly spaced. The predictability establishes regular rhythms that regulate the timing and release of hormones, proteins, and amino acids.
Get Outside (and Exercise)
When you’re struggling with fatigue, a walk outside might be the last thing you feel like doing. However, the outdoors have incredible healing powers. A 90-minute walk in a natural setting has the ability to reduce activity in the part of the brain where depressive rumination begins. Other studies have shown that a short 40-second view of green space can reset the brain’s ability to concentrate and focus.
You can sit on your porch or balcony in the evening or use your outside time for exercise. A morning walk or a lunchtime stroll bring up your heart rate and provide a chance for companionship. Invite a coworker or friend to join you, so you’re getting the full benefits of the outdoors.
Remember that exercise causes the release of endorphins. These natural mood boosters flood your body and stay with you for hours after you’ve exerted yourself. Exercise and time outside can also help you sleep better. Physical activity wears you out, so you’re more tired at night, and exposure to natural light syncs your body’s internal clock with the Earth’s day/night pattern.
Focus on Healthy Sleep Habits
Sleep plays a vital role in your mental health. Without adequate sleep, your emotional processing center becomes oversensitive to negative thoughts and feelings. Normally, the brain’s logic center keeps these feelings in check. However, without enough rest, this part of the brain becomes inactive. The results can magnify the symptoms of depression. Be sure to focus on:
A Regular Bedtime: Your body is designed to recognize patterns of behavior and adapt to them. A consistent sleep schedule will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Developing a Bedtime Routine: The predictable pattern of a routine triggers the sleep cycle. It also provides a chance to reduce anxiety and relax before bed. Meditation and yoga can be particularly effective for those struggling with depression as they help focus the mind and reduce the heart rate.
Avoid Stimulants and Electronics: Caffeine blocks sleep hormones for four to seven hours. Keep stimulants out of your system as they can seriously delay the onset of sleep. Also, be mindful of your electronic use. Electronics can emit a bright light that suppresses sleep hormones. They may also have content that stimulates and aggravates your mind, making it harder to fall asleep.
Trust and Reach Out to Others
Depression often isolates people. Reach out to trusted, supportive family and friends. While phone calls and digital communication can be helpful, it’s that in-person contact that will make the biggest difference. If attending a group event feels overwhelming, invite a friend for ice cream or coffee.
You don’t need to suffer alone. Start with small changes like a regular bedtime and work your way into a healthy lifestyle designed to put fatigue behind you. You can do this one day at a time.