Depression, whether or not it’s related to a cute new addition to your family, can make your life incredibly difficult. For some it’s a niggling feeling in the base of your stomach; an intrusive thought that keeps popping up out of the blue; something you can control but never really goes. For others, it is a complete life changer and makes each small everyday activity seem impossible. You might find yourself cancelling plans and snapping at your partner for no reason. You might spend an entire day, week, month curled up in front of the TV, binge-watching a show you’re not really interested in and eating your weight in junk food. And then there are those in between, who experience both ends of the spectrum. No matter which group you fall in to, I hope that some of these coping methods will work for you.
It is very important to talk about how you feel. Don’t bottle it all up inside and risk a complete breakdown, because that’s the last thing you need. Talking doesn’t have to be something you do with a friend or a loved one. You could decide to take up conselling and talk to a profession, or talk to other parents who are in similar situations via a Facebook group or parenting forum. Do whichever feels most comfortable to you; whichever you find easiest. You ideally need to be able to explain the basics to your immediate support network (partner, parents, best friend etc) so that they can be there for you, but you don’t need to divulge every single little detail. Find the place that suits you best, and then just talk.
Socialising is a great way to keep up with your friends, and to have something to take your mind off your thoughts. Those with young children could go along to baby and toddler groups (try your local family center or church), where you will probably find another parent experiencing something similar to you. Relationships are important when you are coping with depression, because they help you to feel less alone. So strike up as many relationships as you can with people around you that you get on with, and just see how it goes.
3. Daily plan
If you are experiencing a lack of energy and motivation, try drawing up a daily or weekly plan. This plan could include things like going to the park, doing the washing up, having story time, and watching your favourite TV show. Include your meal times and any nap times your little one (or you!) may need. A plan will mean you don’t need to make any decisions on the spot; you can follow your own direction, and tick off everything you have completed as you go along. At the end of the day, you’ll be able to look back and see what you have managed to achieve, which in itself will help build motivation for the next day. Keep this up for a couple of weeks, and you might find you no longer feel like you need to rely on it. You’ll be able to take each day as it comes and plan for the future instead.
4. Tackle each problem one step at a time
If you are struggling with something, take a step back and breathe. It could be your housework has built up, or you have something big to plan for (eg a birthday, holiday or Christmas). Don’t let it overwhelm you. Grab a pen and paper, and make a list of everything that needs to get done…break it down as much as you can. Washing up, laundry, ironing, putting clothes away, running the hoover around. Buying a cake, booking a hall, sending out invites, arranging entertainment. With that list in front of you, then rewrite it so that you have the most important tasks at the top. These are the ones you will need to tackle first. Work on each task one at a time, giving it your full attention. You’ll soon find that it’s not as overwhelming as you first thought. And if it is, call in reinforcements! Never be afraid to ask for help.
5. Balance your thoughts
When those negative intrusive thoughts come to play (I’m not good enough, everyone will laugh, I’ll just fail anyway), try to look at them from the opposite perspective. Here’s an example. Your baby is finally settling into a sleep routine, and you have a bit of extra time in the evening. You want to pick up sewing again, because it’s a hobby you used to enjoy. It’s been too long, I won’t be any good. Just because you haven’t touched your sewing machine in a while, doesn’t mean you will suddenly have lost all your skill. Practice makes perfect, and because it’s a hobby you used to love, you will enjoy practicing. You will be able to finally look at all those saved ideas on Pinterest again with out feeling and regret because you don’t have the time. You might even be able to start making your own things to sell on and make a little extra cash. That original thought doesn’t seem so bad now does it?
We are all different. We all experience depression in different ways, and as such we have different methods of coping. If you find you are struggling, try a different approach; try a different method. Find one that sounds promising, and tweak it until it works for you. There is something for everyone; never give up and give in. You can make it work.