The weather, our hormones, the way our lives change when we become mums and dads, financial woes, broken sleep, so many responsibilities, things not working out the way you had dreamed… There are many reasons for parents to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, or depressed.
The first step in dealing with depression is often simply admitting defeat: “I AM SO DEPRESSED!” We are used to carrying on as normal, saying “I’m fine thank you,” and not making changes for our health. Often we are so very busy, we feel that we cannot stop and give ourselves the time and love that we need. But a parent who is tired and unhappy is not the best parent, partner, or friend they can be.
- “There is no doubt that depressed mothers can also have a big
negative impact on their babies’ brains.”
– Sue Gerhardt, psychotherapist
If making ourselves happier is going to help our kids to thrive, then bring it on I say!
Old wives used to say “Fresh air and Exercise, that’s what you need!” and there is certainly something in that. Walking in the sunshine is proven to beat some types of depression, and exercise releases endorphins, which acts like a shot of happiness.
Talking to others about it can help, if you have a spouse, friend, mum, fellow volunteer, or doctor with whom you feel comfortable opening your heart. Other people can often see a practical solution to a problem when we are just too miserable to think clearly.
Cleaning! When my house gets too cluttered and chaotic, I get crabby. It’s time to put on the cleaning music, grab a bag, and go from room to room throwing stuff out. By the time I’ve got all of the dirty socks in the laundry bin and wiped everywhere with nice-smelling stuff, I definitely feel better. I’ve even had friends come over and fold laundry while I tidied around them, which is TRUE friendship. (Okay, so they couldn’t find a chair to sit on unless they moved the laundry heap… but it’s the actions that count!)
Vitamins and a healthy diet: Omega 3, B vitamins, and several others nutrients are found to aid recovery. Our modern lifestyles are stressful and much of the food we eat is not of the best quality. I know that when I feel blue, I don’t feel like cooking, and go for easy snacks.
Hydration: Drinking enough water is a simple way to detox and feel more energetic. Drink your eight glasses a day!
Meditation can be useful in learning to quiet the mind and deal with stress.
Helping others can be uplifting. Volunteering your skills with a local charity, for example, will win you many enthusiastic friends!
And If That Doesn’t Work…
We all have bad days, but ongoing depression can be your mind telling you that something has to change. Unresolved issues from our own childhood can affect the way we feel about ourselves as parents, and talking about it can help.
Ask your GP for advice: they can often help you by listening, and they may have excellent suggestions. Your doctor can refer you to a counsellor or psychologist if you need further assistance, and these specialists are a wonderful resource. The earlier you can deal with the issues that cause you stress, the faster you can get on with your life and be the best parent possible.
Depression can also be a symptom of a medical condition, such as some viral infections or hypothyroidism, and your GP may want to check that you aren’t suffering from any treatable condition. So do see your doctor if you can’t seem to beat the blues.
Remember, most kinds of depression are temporary: Post Natal Depression will lift, and those of us who get depressed when the weather is grey feel better in the Spring, so there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Getting help can make you feel better sooner, and might just prevent recurring blues. Take care of yourself, so that you can be the best for your family!
by Nan Sheppard
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Photo graciously provided by Denis Collette…!!!, through a Creative Commons license, some rights reserved