I’m lazy and depressed. How can I liven up?

Jane mugshot for JQAI am 59 and single. I work from home and look after my mother, 88, but recently I seem to have fallen into a rut: over­weight, drink­ing too much and lazy. My doc­tor has put me on anti-​depressants. How can I liven up?

Working from home while hav­ing to care for a frail eld­erly loved one is a big com­mit­ment and can leave you very isol­ated. There is no single magic solu­tion to depres­sion, but you have to start help­ing your­self some­where, so here are a few thoughts.

Getting out is essen­tial: if your mother is not mobile, it is likely that you are also spend­ing nearly all your time stuck indoors, which means mov­ing less, so phys­ic­ally you are prob­ably burn­ing fewer cal­or­ies while eat­ing the same (or maybe more, if you’re a bit of a comfort-​eater). Make a rule to get out of the house at least once a day (but don’t just head for the car /​pub!).

Talk to someone: These days the NHS recom­mends “talk­ing treat­ments” to com­bat mild depres­sion: cog­nit­ive beha­vi­oural ther­apy, coun­selling and so on. As with med­ic­a­tions, you may not get the kind of talk­ing treat­ment that works for you at first try, so don’t be put off by a single neg­at­ive exper­i­ence.

Exercise can help: Alongside talk­ing treat­ments, the health ser­vice offi­cially recog­nises that exer­cise can be as effect­ive as pills at beat­ing depres­sion. Thirty years’ worth of sci­entific evid­ence shows that reg­u­lar workouts do lift your mood and help to keep you pos­it­ive.

It doesn’t hugely mat­ter what kind of exer­cise you do, but bear in mind your cir­cum­stances. Being largely house-​bound, over­weight and drink­ing too much, you are start­ing to increase your risk level for heart dis­ease. So make a double dash for men­tal and phys­ical fit­ness by aim­ing at a daily half-​hour brisk (and I mean brisk enough to get you breath­ing quite hard) walk or cycle ride. Think cre­at­ively: can you go first thing in the morn­ing, or last thing at night? Can you com­bine exer­cise with an out­ing for your mother? Is there a deal you can do, offer­ing to walk the dog for a neigh­bour while they sit in with your mum?

If your time is more flex­ible, con­sider a three-​times-​a week visit to the local swim­ming pool or gym. At the gym you’ll also be able to do weight-​training – very help­ful for shed­ding unwanted flab.

Team up with oth­ers: Joining an exer­cise class (such as spin­ning at the gym or a power walk­ing group in the park) can really boost your motiv­a­tion. It will also give you a chance to meet people and chat.

Put your­self first: Be res­ol­ute in set­ting aside a small chunk of each day, prefer­ably at a fixed time so you can develop a routine. Let noth­ing get in the way of it and before long you may find your out­look and your energy reserves are both perking up.

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