“Mothers are at a high risk of becoming depressed. Why? Because they’re often overworked and overextended. Sometimes they feel trapped because they don’t have the support of an involved partner.”
Kenneth N. Condrell, Ph.D. Child Psychologist
I am bringing the subject of depression because I know very few people, including many mothers, who haven’t dealt at some point or another with depression (including myself). And it’s okay to talk about it, it is actually good to talk about it, it is the first step to healing. Choose awareness instead of denial which gets you nowhere or to a bad place.
I know that the triggers of depression vary from one person to another. We all have a variety of family situations. From stable two parent homes to single struggling parent homes. The stresses in the later maybe greater but it does not mean that a mother in a stable two parent home is immune to depression.
I know that for me (identify yours) the top 6 most common triggers of depression are:
1. Extreme accumulated fatigue
2. Poor diet/No exercise
3. Being overwhelmed with the endless “to do” list
4. Looking around my house and feeling like I will never get on top of things
5. Feeling little support from my spouse (only occasional in my case)
6. Feeling like I can’t reach my goals because everything and everyone gets in the way/ Feeling like I am not accomplishing anything significant.
You may be struggling because you have special need children under your care, you support extended family members, you have constant crisis in your home, you or your partner lost a job, you have an abusive spouse, you deal with addictions in your home and the list goes on. You need to identify what triggers your depression in order to tackle the problem.
So what do we do about it?
First of all if you feel like a failure and you wish your life could end now. Please open your phone book or, since you have a computer, research a depression therapist near you and don’t delay to get help. If you go to church, please talk to one of your trusted ecclesiastic leaders. Also read the articles I have attached below. I personally know people who have died from depression–it is not something to take lightly.
If you are like me, your depression comes and goes, you are still able to wake up in the morning and function well the majority of the time–sometimes pushing through it—No one can really tell you are struggling with it, then here are my obvious but not so obvious remedies:
1. Fatigue issues:
Make sleeping at a decent hour a priority (I struggle with that one but I am aware). If you can, take a short nap or meditate (empty your mind) during the day. I have three kids (5, 4, and 18 months). The two oldest only have half day school every day and my baby hangs out with me all day. After school and lunch, my kids have a mandatory quiet time, my baby takes a couple hour nap, my oldest watch one movie and/or color, do puzzles, etc. That is for two hours. I clean up lunch then I rest for about 45 minutes. I may not always deep sleep (I can’t do that if my children are awake) but I allow my body to rest. Normal activity resume once youngest is awake from his nap. When I used to work outside of the home, I would cut my one hour lunch time in two and take half an hour to rest or meditate. When I did I wasn’t dragging so much the rest of the day. It’s a great way to re-focus your mind when you have too much going on.
Exercising is a big one for me too. It boosts my energy. When I don’t exercise, fatigue hits me even harder. Figure out what works out for you even if it is just a couple of times a week, it’s a good start. Don’t take it lightly, it’s your health we’re talking about. If that is gone everything else is too.
2. Poor diet:
I eat pretty healthy foods generally and that helps. My biggest problem is that I don’t drink enough water during the day. Simply because I forget, I am too busy and I forget to drink water. If you know your diet has too much fat, sugar, and carbs and not enough fruits, vegetables and fibers, you know what to do… Just have the good stuff out on your kitchen counter and you’ll be more likely to munch on that. Don’t finish up your kids plates! Keep it for THEM for their later snack.
3. Being overwhelmed with the endless “to do” list:
Well, I now have a post-it note on my bathroom mirror that says:
“What are my top 5’s today? Just Do It! No Excuses!
When I think about just 5 things to do instead of 20 for that day, I could do, it makes me smile and I don’t stress about it. If I manage to do more than the 5 on the list great, if not oh well!
4. Looking around my house and feeling like I will never get on top of things:
Well, after three kids (and I’ll say even after the first), one should just relax and accept that parenting is the “messy season” of life. Do what you can and worry about the rest when you can. Aaaah, it feels good just saying that. Now this comes from someone who used to vacuum and mop every day, could not go to bed (no matter how late at night) with a house unclean and disorganized (it stopped shortly after child #2), for the sake of keeping my sanity, I stopped being so OC about it. I still have my weekly crisis but at least it’s not every day…
5. Feeling little support from my spouse (only occasional in my case):
If you have a spouse, you need to find your happy middle. The situation is different in every household but one shouldn’t feel like he/she is carrying the family load all alone. If you are a single parent, build good relationships, get to know people around you, especially nearby and ask for help (i.e: Can my kid have a playdate with yours for a couple of hours so I can get some things done around my house?). I love to help my single parent friends whenever I can (and I know most mothers out there don’t mind helping when asked). I will ask help in return because to me that is what friendship is all about–we have fun together, we help each other in times of need and it goes both ways.
6. Feeling like I can’t reach my goals because everything and everyone gets in the way/ Feeling like I am not accomplishing anything significant:
That is one of my biggest struggles because I have a “driven, want to save the world now, must be doing something useful and significant every second of the day” mentality. And yes, when you become a parent, some days you are going to look back on the day and see that all you have done is change dirty diapers every time you needed to leave the house, you were late everywhere or didn’t show up, you cleaned up puke, cleaned up mess, you’ve been a kindergartner (or older kids) referee and you’ve just been pulled and stretched to the maximum and your house is still a mess at the end of the day. Then you try to remember: “What exactly have I done today?” And looking around the house it looks like… Nothing!
First of all, just laugh at it, yep that’s right you can imagine that you had been on a reality show all day and you’ll find that it was a pretty funny one. So detach yourself from the situation and laugh. Then remember this:
“Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling. You do not collect children because you find them cuter than stamps. It is not something to do if you can squeeze the time in. It is what God gave you time for.” (quoted in: “Children” by Niel L. Andersen)
That puts things in perspective. If all I do is take care of my children all day, it is okay and I didn’t “waste” the day and yes that includes all the “unpleasant” things that go along with having children. Sometimes I just need to be reminded of that simple truth.
Surround yourself with people with positive energy.
And last but not least tip to fight against depression – married people out there: Increase intimacy with your partner! It works.
by Julienna Viegas-Haws
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