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Depression

Do You Have Depression or “Lifestyle Fatigue”?

Take this "lifestyle fatigue" test to find out.

Key points

  • The pandemic played a big part in creating a sedentary lifestyle of isolation, inactivity, and mindlessly scrolling through screens. 
  • Change is the antidote to "lifestyle fatigue" by introducing new activities to your day that disrupt monotony or predictability. 
  • Any change in your daily routine will do, such as taking walks in new places, establishing a restful sleep schedule, or contacting old friends.
 whoislimos/Unsplash
Source: whoislimos/Unsplash

“I’m soooooo tired!“

I hear this declaration every week in my office. Session after session, people complain about feeling chronically exhausted with barely enough energy to get through the day.

How bad is it? They don’t want to venture out of their homes for weekly psychotherapy sessions.

“Do I have to come in today?” they whine. “Can’t we just talk on the phone?”

What started this epidemic of fatigue?

The Pandemic Effect and "Lifestyle Fatigue"

Like most people, you probably spend too much time at home, scrolling through your cell phone, binge-watching shows, or mindlessly clicking on TikTok or YouTube videos.

I know. I’ve been there.

The pandemic played a big part in creating this new sedentary lifestyle. Being stuck indoors, couch-bound, isolated, inactive, with limited in-person social contact for months, you’re certainly going to feel unsatisfied with life.

But what effects does this postpandemic lifestyle have on your mental health?

Feelings of Depression

When you sense that you are slipping into a depression, chances are you start to feel overwhelmed with insecurities and self-doubt. You may begin to ruminate, question your choices, scrutinize your history, and dissect your career and relationships. What's worse, you may start to lose your grip on reality; your mind may begin to play tricks on you. You may ask yourself, Why do I suddenly feel depressed?”

Too often, the answer is hiding in plain sight.

"Lifestyle Fatigue"

Rather than comb through your history, book an appointment with a psychiatrist, or blame yourself for how you’re feeling, consider this essential question:

Is your depression a product of your lifestyle?

When you consider the most common triggers for depression—such as social isolation, a sedentary existence, or a lack of creative stimulation—it’s clear that such repetitive habits are a breeding ground for depression.

Depression Versus "Lifestyle Fatigue"

In my post The Keys to Understanding High-Functioning Depression, I note that high-functioning depression (also known as dysthymia) can be hard to spot. Unlike major depressive episodes, high-functioning depression is low-level, chronic, and doesn’t have a clear trigger.

"Lifestyle fatigue," however, does have obvious triggers and is more likely the result of feeling stuck in a rut rather than a predisposition for depression. ("Lifestyle fatigue" is a term I use and not an official diagnosis.)

"Lifestyle Fatigue" Checklist

Read through the list below and note which questions you answer “Yes” to:

  1. Does every day feel the same?
  2. Is your work dull and unrewarding?
  3. Do you dread leaving your house?
  4. Are you avoiding friends and social interaction?
  5. Do you spend more time with screens than people?
  6. Have you lost your creative drive?
  7. Has your sex drive gone missing?
  8. Do you end to ruminate or obsess about your failures?
  9. Are you overeating or undereating?
  10. Do activities that used to give you pleasure now feel like a waste of time?

If you answered yes to five or more of these, you may suffer from "lifestyle fatigue" (although "lifestyle fatigue" does not preclude the possibility of depression.)

How to Break Free of "Lifestyle Fatigue"

"Lifestyle fatigue" lives and breathes in sameness and repetition; breaking free starts with one powerful word: change.

Any change in your daily routine, such as waking up earlier, going to bed earlier, contacting an old friend, or going to a concert or the theater, will do. Look for new activities that disrupt monotony or predictability.

It doesn't matter how big or small. Change is a powerful antidote. For example, a patient in psychotherapy with me says that she started to break free of "lifestyle fatigue" just by reorganizing her kitchen; another patient felt better after enrolling in a dance class, and another patient booked a trip to a tropical island with friends.

Such choices bring fresh energy and vitality and remind us that life is what we make of it. Even tiny changes can refresh your spirit and give you the boost you need to reboot your lifestyle.

For more ideas on challenging yourself and breaking free of "lifestyle fatigue," check out 9 Ways to Cure Your Own Depression.

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