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Top tips - when you can't get out of bed

It's a feeling we've all had, at some point. Getting up is just too much.

We all want to lie in every now and then, and we all have that sick day or the low-energy day when escaping the doona seems impossible. But when that becomes tomorrow, and the next day, and the next - it can quickly make getting on with life somewhat harder.

First of all, this is a classic sign of something deeper going on, whether that's depression, anxiety or something else - and my first recommendation is to talk to someone and find out. Your GP is a great first port of call. You need to understand if there is a deeper cause to this.

But in the meantime, here are some simple tips to help you manage the symptom, and get out from under the covers.

1. Set small goals

One of the reasons it can be hard to get out of bed and get moving is because we see before us an insurmountable task, a mountain we must climb today. We have to get dressed when we can't even decide what to wear and hate how we look, then go to work where everyone will expect us to look great and be 'awesome', and that's before we even start with that thing we have to do. We simply can't do it!

So, set a smaller goal.

If you'd never run before you wouldn't set out by trying to run a marathon on your first day, you'd probably decide just to jog around the block - or even just walk it quickly. Small goals are quick wins that help us see we can achieve things, that we are not what those thoughts in our heads tell us we are.

Set a simple goal, such as getting up to eat a healthy breakfast. You can be in your pyjamas if you like, you can head straight back to bed afterwards - but you'll have achieved a goal, and started to move. That's a win. With that running analogy you'd start with going around the block and build up, half a kilometre, then one, then two, and before you know it you're up for that marathon. the same is true in every aspect of life; start with that breakfast, and tomorrow you can stretch it to stepping into the garden or walking around the room a few times. Before you know it, the doona is no longer holding you prisoner.

2. Make yourself accountable to a friend

It's a sad but true saying, that we are often kinder to others than we are to ourselves. Just this morning I called myself a few terrible names when I took what I thought was a great picture of me - only to see some cranky old man had mysteriously replaced me in the photo.

The same is true when it comes to delivering the goods; we'll happily let ourselves down, but generally find it harder to let down our friends and families. So, a great tip is to make yourself accountable to someone.

A simple way to do this is to ask someone you care about to meet you in the morning, for a coffee or a walk - or both! Once you've made those plans it can be much harder to simply let your friend down and not show up - which in turn makes it much harder to stay in bed.

It's important that you pick someone you care about, as you need to feel that drive to not let them down - a new walking group might not work as well, as they won't know you yet and you probably won't stress about being a no-show. But if you've been with the group before and have made friends, that's a great way to hold you to account. Make sure your plans are solid, and book it in a calendar, so it's fixed.

Make realistic plans - a 5am sunrise expedition to the cliffs is great, in theory, but when you're struggling to get out of bed each day, it's potentially just going to feel like way too much. A simple catch-up with someone who's going to be there waiting for you is enough; and hopefully, as with all the best things in life, there's coffee involved!

3. Make yourself accountable to your dog

Dogs are amazing. Sure, you spend your life picking up their poo and apologising to the bleeding vet nurse (or maybe that's just me?) but they truly are our best friends, at times.

And as our best friends, they do a great job of convincing us to live in the moment. For a dog the right time for a walk is always 'now'. There's a great proverb that says you cannot mount the camel that left yesterday, nor the camel that arrives tomorrow. It's the camel before us, in this moment, that's the only camel in town. Dogs know that instinctively, and are ready to drag us out the door whenever we're upright and breathing.

It can be easy to ignore that, but a great way to get out of bed each morning is to allow time for that special time with your special friend. Set up that calendar item, so your phone buzzes and let's you know it is time. Set aside the lead and those poop-bags, have then by the front door and ready to go. Imagine you have promised this to your pet, that they've heard it and are ready for it - it'll make it easier to not let them down.

And again, with a little planning and a warmed kettle - there might be coffee!

4. Set up your environment

It can be easy to stay in bed when the room - or even the whole house - tell you that's the best place to stay.

When it's cold, quiet, dark and closed down, a home is uninviting and the world is hidden from view. Bed is warm, cozy and inviting - so who's silly enough to get up?

Most of us find that changing our environment changes our mood, at least to some degree. Sunlight wakes the brain naturally and has numerous health benefits, music has also been shown to have a positive impact on our mental health.

So we can easily set up our bedroom and our home to make it more inviting for us to get out of bed. You might be able to leave curtains or blinds open, or if not then set a small goal to open them when you wake. If it's warm enough, consider opening a window or two - the fresh air moving into the room can bring the scents of the world and the sounds of life from outside. If it's winter then consider setting a timer on your aircon or heater, so that your space is warmer when you're ready to get up.

There are many ways you can extend on this - using a defuser to bring outside scents into the bedroom and filling your space with images of the outside world - lakes, trees, beaches, mountains.

It might feel like this is a pointless exercise at first, but when you're laying in bed and need that extra pull to slip out of the PJ's and into some clothes, having an inviting space will absolutely help.

5. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, being aware of what's going on with your body and your mind. Whilst you can spend a lifetime learning about mindfulness (and some do!) you can also learn the basics in just a few minutes.

One of the benefits of mindfulness is that it helps us to focus on the present moment and not on the past and the future - two of the reasons we can struggle to get out of bed in the morning. We're worried about what happened yesterday, or what we need to do tomorrow or even an hour from now. We start to list all the difficulties we'll have today, and just want to avoid them. When the day is going to be that hard, why not simply stay in bed, right?

This is one space where mindfulness can be particularly helpful. I'll share a simple exercise I developed a few years ago, which some have found helpful. I call it the Monkey Mind activity.

The 'monkey mind' is a Buddhist concept, it describes a mind that is restless and leaps from thought to thought, like an easily distracted monkey. We try to focus on something, but that monkey keeps disappearing off to have a different thought.

The monkey mind activity is extremely simple; as you lay in bed, or sit, or stand, close your eyes and picture a monkey - any kind of monkey you feel comfortable with. Now picture a rock, sitting in the sun. Imagine that monkey sitting on the rock and baking in the glorious morning light, simply relaxing and doing nothing. Make sure your mind is simply on that image of the monkey and not on anything else.

You will probably find after just a few seconds that you've lost that vision in your head, as your real monkey-mind has now moved on to think something else. Don't worry, don't berate yourself or get angry - just gently bring back that image of the monkey on the rock, sun-baking.

Over time, as you practice this small mindfulness activity, you will find that you can picture that monkey for longer and longer. And as you do, your actual mind is calmly relaxing, and basking in the peace and quiet.

Once you've practiced some mindfulness, even just for a few moments, you'll hopefully find that your mind is more focused on the moment and less focused on the thoughts of the past and the future. And with that focus on the moment, it can be easier to convince yourself to step out of bed - and find the coffee that someone keeps talking of.

I hope these tips help; now I'm off to find my own coffee!

Gary's signaature


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