Anxiety. Depression. Afflictions that can make a sufferer feel like a tiny boat lost in a violent tempest.
They can be especially agonizing after the birth of a child. After all, welcoming a newborn life into your family should be a joyous occasion, not one that leaves you feeling anxious, dejected, or even angry.
If this is your experience, how can you navigate the churned-up emotions that accompany postpartum anxiety and depression?
Here are some suggestions:
Talk to Someone Close to You
The most important – and probably the most frightening and difficult step — is not to bottle up how you feel but to talk to someone about it. It’s healthy to confide in someone when in crisis.
So, whom could you tell?
Why not start with someone closest to you, like your spouse or your mother, or another family member or close friend? Perhaps another mother, particularly one that you know has gone through postpartum anxiety or depression herself, could be of help.
Get Professional Support
Sharing your feelings and doubts with your perinatal health care providers can provide you with invaluable advice about what steps you could take to deal with your condition.
And finding a therapist, specially trained in working with perinatal mood disorders, can literally be a life-saving experience. You don’t have to face this condition alone. Individual sessions, support groups, and even online forums can provide you with needed connection and healing.
Perinatal health care providers can also help you decide whether medication may or may not be of help for you. If medications are introduced, there’s no reason to feel any shame or embarrassment. Your desire to overcome these challenges shows your courage and determination, and your love for your baby.
Keep Life Simple
Trying to do everything and be the “perfect mom” despite your anxieties will likely only make matters worse. Set small, attainable, goals for yourself each day and accomplish what you can, keeping your focus on the most essential things.
Be realistic. If more things mount up than you can reasonably handle, ask family and friends for help. Let them assist you with the care of your children, errands, or household chores. For example, ask your spouse to share in nighttime feeding duties for your baby, and let friends bring you a meal.
Do Something Positive for Yourself
Eating healthy foods, staying hydrated, and getting regular, gentle exercise, and enough sleep are important at this time. Sometimes, these can feel like monumental tasks that are impossible to accomplish. Be gentle on yourself. Trying to stay physically well will help you believe in yourself as a good mother and will help to keep you emotionally well.
Doing something positive includes things you can do alone, like reading a good book, taking a refreshing walk, or indulging in a relaxing bubble bath.
But it also means doing things with others that you enjoy and that make you feel good. Try participating in any social activity that gives you a change of scenery and some fresh air, like going to a favorite restaurant, or enjoying some time in the park with family and friends.
Patience is a virtue, they say. As much as you would like to just snap your fingers and make the anxiety and depression go away, it will take some time. Your mood will improve gradually, not immediately. The strength of the anxiety or depression, and therefore the length of time it might take to heal, can vary, but be assured that these episodes of emotional upheaval will be temporary.
A major key to applying the aforementioned suggestions and successfully navigating postpartum anxiety and depression is to work together as a couple, if you have a partner, or to have a “buddy” who can check in regularly with you. It’s imperative that you take certain steps to both help yourself, and find ways to be supportive and understanding of one another.