Is Your Depression Spiraling Out of Control? You Might Be Making This Common Mistake

I read an Instagram post by the amazing Elizabeth Gilbert once that changed something for me on days when I am dealing with depressive symptoms.

In the post, Gilbert talked about how she made herself a deal that if she were awake, she would get up. She said she had noticed that lying in bed and THINKING was very dangerous for her mental health. 

She called it “horizontal thinking”. 

I felt a light bulb go off! Yes! I had experienced this exact same thing. A morning where I didn’t have to get up for anything would quickly spiral into a depressive disaster if I just stayed in bed thinking. 

I began to employ her strategy: wake up and then get up before the horizontal thinking could begin. She was right – as soon as I got up and moved, things improved. I noticed that the longer I stayed in bed, even if I really WANTED to just lay around, the worse I felt. My brain could easily begin down a path that went nowhere but sadness. 

The trick to combatting depression, I often tell clients, is to do a bunch of things you don’t want to do. Unfortunate but true. When you’re depressed, often the simplest things become challenging and might even feel downright impossible. Only by doing the things that we KNOW work can you begin to outsmart your depression.

One of those things is to get out of bed. Depression will tell you that staying in bed is what you want to do. Getting up might feel like the biggest challenge of the day. 

But trust me; horizontal thinking will feed your depression. 

One coping strategy I help clients use to fight their depressive symptoms is what I call “feet on the floor”. The strategy is simple (note I didn’t say it was easy); as soon as you are fully awake, you put your feet on the floor. 

Get up, go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, put some pants on…anything that requires that you first put your feet on the floor and climb your way out of bed.

Depression is often described as a deep hole that it feels impossible to climb out of. I want to give you some hope, though. It is possible to climb out. I’ve seen so many brave people find their way out of that dark place. 

I suggest that as a first step, you make yourself a promise: No matter how you feel tomorrow morning, as soon as you wake up, you get up.

When you remove horizontal thinking, you will have taken the first step toward feeling better.

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