Do you have any tips on coping with the fatigue that comes with depression/mental health in order to lead an active life?
As someone who was diagnosed with depression in university, I understand every task is magnified in difficulty when depression hits. The thought of even getting out from under the covers in the morning is enough to make the world seem like it’s crumbling. Fatigue and depression, for some, walk hand in hand, and when faced with fatigue rooted in depression, leading an active life can seem like an impossible task.
Assessing whether someone is leading an active life requires a holistic approach.
Taking a holistic approach means looking at all dimensions of a person’s being: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual etc. Leading an active life is measured by the successful setting and meeting of any and all goals that improve well-being in these areas.
I would encourage anyone who is experiencing fatigue related to depression to talk to their doctor before setting any new goals.
Overcoming fatigue related to depression sometimes requires the use of medication, which can help un-jumble thoughts, manage anxiety, and restore energy. If you are already taking medication for depression or another mental health concern, talking to your doctor can also give you a better understanding of the medication you have been prescribed and the possible side effects.
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Fatigue can be a side effect of some medications. If it is one of your side effects, be extra patient with yourself; many medication side effects will lessen or disappear after a few weeks of taking the medication.
Never discontinue taking any medication your doctor has prescribed for you, even if you think the medication may be causing fatigue, as this could cause more complicated side effects. If you’re seeing a counselor or other mental health specialist, discussing your goal of leading a more active life and using these people as support and accountability is encouraged.
Eating a well-balanced diet is also important in ensuring you have enough energy to lead an active life.
Eat according to Canada’s food guide (check it out here: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php). Dieticians are also good resources and are available for questions in B.C., Alberta, and the Maritimes, by calling 811, a 24/7 health line, or check out http://www.dietitians.ca/Your-Health.aspx for more great information on healthy, balanced eating.
The following is a list of some goal ideas for living a more active life. As you read, make a list of the goals you would like to set for yourself. Keep it simple: write down only the goals you feel you can achieve today. If it’s too overwhelming to think about an entire day, start smaller and write down your goals for the next hour. No goal you write down is too small. They are all working towards the same end goal–a more active you!
To lead a more active physical life:
- Get out of bed. This may seem simple, but just getting up is a great goal and a huge accomplishment when facing depression!
- Take 5 deep breaths. Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of one at the top, and breathe out for a count of 4, hold for a count of one at the bottom.
- Take a walk outside. Notice 3 things that you find interesting.
To lead a more active emotional life:
- Write down your emotions. When you are feeling sad, happy, or even when you are feeling nothing, acknowledge your feelings by writing them down.
- Connect with a friend or family member. This can be via e-mail, phone, or in person. It doesn’t have to be for long, just say hello!
- Acknowledge someone else’s emotions. If someone is having a sad day do something to comfort them; if they are happy, find a way to celebrate with them.
To lead a more active mental life:
- Think of something new you would like to learn. You don’t have to learn it today, just recognize what you are curious about.
- Do something creative. Make music, paint, or write. This stimulates the brain and can be relaxing.
- Spend 5 minutes doing a crossword or a Sudoku. You don’t have to finish it, but appreciate any little bit you do complete.
Aim to spend 5 minutes every day writing down new goals, and checking off or writing down everything you have been able to do. Take credit for every little thing you are able to accomplish, whether eating a new healthy food, showering and brushing your teeth, or initiating a conversation with a friend. Every little step you take is important on the journey to overcoming fatigue related to depression, and leading a more active life!
Victoria Wilkinson, BScN, RN
Disclaimer: This column is meant to serve as a safe place to ask questions and get opinions from educated professionals; but please always consult your own team before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process. Although our Experts are certified professionals in their area, their advice may not be suitable for your situation, and thus is not to be taken in place of that given by your recovery team and/or family doctor or personal therapist. Please use your own good judgment, and consult a licensed mental health practitioner for specific treatment. In the case of a crisis, please do not rely on this column, as answers may take several weeks to be published, and not all questions will be addressed. Please contact one of the Helplines listed in our Resources section if you feel you are a harm to yourself or in need of emergency support.
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