Getting up in the Morning is the Hardest Part of the Day if You Have Depression

Getting up in the Morning is the Hardest Part of the Day if You Have Depression
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

People with this kind of disorder in any of its varieties (major depressive disorder, dysthymia) share a common desire. They wish they had pain that was visible. That way, their suffering would be more evident and they’d get more understanding, more compassion from from people.

Say, “I can’t get up in the morning” to a psychologist and he will understand this may be depression. But in the eyes of people at work, friends, or even family, something like this could be interpreted as laziness, apathy, or even an excuse to get out of personal or work-related responsibilities.

It’s not easy. Depression is like an internal tornado. It sweeps everything up and changes it. A large part of our body’s processes will slow down, it’ll change our metabolism, our perception of reality, and that neurochemistry that brings about what’s known as “daytime variation in state of mind.”

We’ll be talking about that next.

a man suffering from depression

Good Morning Depression, It’s You Again

Andrea is 46 years old and, right now, she’s going through another depressive episode. Even though two years ago she was able to beat it thanks to medication and psychotherapy.

She noticed it coming back for one very concrete reason. It was constantly getting harder for her to get up in the morning. Her energy just left her every day through leaving her apathetic and negative, until finally she recognized it. Depression had come back.

This familiar enemy tends to be worse those early hours for these reasons:

  • Daytime variation of state of mind is characterized by waking up full of negative feelings, discouragement, and enormous physical fatigue. These, in general, slowly get better as the day goes on. 
  • As various studies explain, most people with depression have altered circadian rhythms. Hormones like melatonin are released in lower amounts or at the wrong time. This kind of thing causes the depressed person to have, for example, insomnia or feel a certain sleepiness throughout the day.
  • Still, this alteration to the depressed person’s circadian rhythms might also make them feel colder in the morning. They might have low or nonexistent energy, and even be incapable of reacting to certain stimuli because of their low level of alertness.

We should add another factor to this. It’s the clear sensation of not feeling up to the day that’s just started. This defenselessness and certainty of not being able to handle our responsibilities will only increase the feeling that we’re completely losing control of our lives.

an angel statue looking depressed

How to Confront the Hardest Part of the Day

Let’s go back again to our main character, Andrea. She’s the woman who must be back in depression after hoping it was gone for good. Even though depression is an old “friend,” she doesn’t hesitate to go back to her specialist to see about what prescriptions may be helpful.

Treatment can help regulate specific neurotransmitters that alter circadian rhythms. On top of medication, Andrea got into certain routines to help her confront her illness much more effectively. 

Let’s look at them now.

depression is worse in the mornings

Guidelines for Facing Morning Symptoms of Depression

Before anything else, it’s important to remember that both interpersonal therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy can be very useful.

Our main character also decides to see her primary care doctor to get some tests done. She knows that things like her thyroid, a low vitamin B12 level, or even a liver problem could cause or worsen this lack of energy in the mornings.

  • Then she’ll get into a routine starting with morning stretches. As soon as she gets up, she does 10 minutes of gentle yoga exercises in her room.
  • After that she forces herself to shower and get dressed.
  • What comes next is as simple as it is therapeutic. Andrea has to call someone on the phone every morning to get in a better mood and up her energy and willpower. In her case, it’s her mother. For you maybe it’s a sibling or a mentor who can motivate you.
  • After that, Andrea eats breakfast calmly and does not rush. She almost never wants to, but she makes herself do it because she knows that her brain needs that energy in the morning.

Last but not least,  she sets aside time to meditate. 15 or 20 minutes is plenty. It’s a special time of connection with yourself where you can process your thoughts and negative emotions a little better.

By doing this, Andrea gets a little more peace and motivation. She uses it to face the day’s challenges a little better.

These simple tips can be a big help for you too.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.