This is a difficult topic for me to write about but since I have researched it myself and haven’t found many personal accounts, I wanted to open a discussion with readers. Moms get a lot of criticism already, but when you add depression or any other similar condition, the judgments come pouring in! This is where I have found the Bohemian/hippie mindset has helped me tremendously, but that’s for another post.
What is depression to me?
For some reason, the clinical definition doesn’t resonate until you have experienced it. Ten years ago, when my mom would talk about how she has struggled with it, I thought it was a feeling of being sad. It seemed to me that you just needed to force yourself to do healthy things to get out of the cycle. While that is partly true, once I experienced postpartum depression for myself, I realized the depth of how it affects your life. It peaked with the pregnancy and postpartum with my second child, and I was forced to throw myself into anything I could do to recover. I was meeting my children’s physical needs but could barely muster interacting, guiding, or disciplining them.
How I gauge my mental health is not based on feelings. I track how well I am functioning. If taking a shower or making a meal is so overwhelming that it’s easier to not do it, I know I am slipping back into the cycle and I need to get proactive. If I am making progress with investing time and energy in my children, my home, and myself, I know I am doing pretty well. My number one issue with depression was extreme fatigue and lack of motivation or focus. It was completely physical. I remember telling my mom on the phone that I felt like everyday was a battle and just dragging myself through the day was overwhelming.
Here are 13 ways that slowly helped me pull out of the hole. I tried medication for a short time but found it leveled my emotions, but didn’t improve my energy or functioning at all. Unfortunately with this illness, no one thing will pull you out. It takes trying different things and monitoring your cycles and improvements. There are many causes from hormonal to situational and even to lifestyle (how you take care of yourself.)
Tend to your mind
Monitor your thoughts. This one is still something I am working on. Sometimes it’s called positive thinking, being mindful, or being optimistic. The most helpful strategy I found on regulating my thoughts was “Dialectal Behavior Therapy.” It involves recognizing your triggers, removing negative labels that are in your mind, and not dwelling on the negative. One way to do this is to start a habit of listing all of your blessings in life, big and small, until you drift off to sleep at night. Positive thoughts actually rewire your brain.
Having animals. I am an animal lover and have found having animals is very therapeutic. There are many conditions where animals are used as part of therapy.
Monitor social media usage. How many articles are there out there that social media actually harms your mood and your satisfaction with life? It is part of life, sometimes for business and sometimes just to keep in touch with family. But make sure you aren’t compulsively scrolling through feeds and comparing your life to the “virtual” lives of others.
Talk to friends or family. I found talking to my mom and learning from her experience with depression was extremely helpful. I believe it is also good to be somewhat open with your family; sometimes they have more understanding and empathy rather than jumping to conclusions about your behavior.
Tend to your spirit:
Prayer or meditation. I recommend prayer for everything and think it has immense power in your life.
Read a Proberb a day. The Bible is very overwhelming for many people (at least for me!). There are 31 chapters so it’s perfect to read one a day for a month and takes the confusion of where to start out of the equation. There is wisdom and hope throughout Proverbs.
Memorizing scripture. Scripture and God’s Word are some of the most powerful things you can put in your mind. The longer you memorize them, the more they combat the negative things in your mind and perception. I like using verses as mantras throughout the day.
Tend to your body:
Increasing your energy. My biggest barrier to improving was complete lack of energy. When I discovered a vitamin energy drink called Spark, it gave me a big enough boost to start exploring other ways to improve. Some people do coffee, some do exercise, and some do energy drinks. Whatever works for you, focus on increasing your energy so you can start applying yourself to getting better.
Nutrition. This one was huge for me. I found that forcing myself to eat protein, carb, and something fresh helped me avoid postpartum depression with my 3rd child. When I don’t feel good somehow it seems acceptable to eat junk food all day and no meals. I finally came to the conclusion that taking care of my kids also meant taking care of myself so I could be a better mom to them.
Going outside as much as possible. Studies show that getting sunshine improves, well, everything. I found gardening hugely helpful in giving me motivation to go out. There is nothing like watching the miracle of seeing a tiny green leaf sprout through the soil, or being surrounded by flowers and bees and butterflies, or picking your own fruit to enjoy. If you have children, it is just as good for them as it is for you and will even keep them occupied a bit better than playing indoors.
No artificial sweetener. This was one I discovered recently. I have always been a Diet Coke addict and recently I dedicated myself to stop drinking it. A few weeks later I realized I was so much more productive!
Sleep enough and exercise. I found that, being a stay at home mom, it gave my day structure to get out of the house to work out in the morning.
Supplements and Essential oils. It is generally accepted that a decent all purpose vitamin, Vitamin B, and Omega 3 all improve your mental and emotional health. Some good essential oils to start with are Lavender (yes it’s the miracle oil!), chamomile, rose, Ylang Ylang, and one not commonly listed that I have found helpful with energy is peppermint.
I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an expert or a doctor. Talking to your doctor is always the first thing you should do. But I have a passion for connecting and sharing experiences with others. I believe mental health is tied to physical health and just as important to tend to. There isn’t a single person that I know well that hasn’t, at some point in their life, had to deal with their mental health. Most have tendencies towards something, whether it’s depression, anxiety, ADHD, OCD, personality disorders, or attachment disorders. But these labels seem to do more harm than good. Having tendencies shouldn’t be a crutch or an excuse. But understanding each other and learning how to improve how we function in our lives and relationships is what matters.
Tell me about your experience! What has helped you?
Live, love, and lavender