Parenting with Depression
Children change your entire life. Many of the changes are welcomed — hearing your children's first words, holding them in your arms and watching them grow is hugely rewarding. Other changes are less welcomed. Sleepless nights, stinky diapers, financial strain, frustrations, worries, and fears serve to wear you down physically and emotionally.
Even the most prepared, well-functioning parents experience periods of doubt, shame, guilt and resentment. Parenting with depression adds an extra layer of difficulty.
With depression, you are already prone to guilt, sadness, irritability and low energy. The added stress associated with parenthood only adds to your triggers, and as your children grow and develop, the triggers grow and develop, too. Instead of worrying about the cost of diapers, you worry about the cost of prom. Rather than stressing about the best formula, you stress over your son’s grades or your daughter’s relationships.
Effective parents with depression work to address their mental health and set goals for their parenting before addressing their children’s needs.
Take Care of Yourself
If you cannot take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. Self-care is always important, but especially when children are younger. Lifeguards are trained to maintain their own safety in the water so that they can assist others who are struggling. If you drown, your child drowns. Consider these strategies for keeping yourself afloat:
Set up for Success
Stress makes it harder to take care of yourself and not taking care of yourself increases stress. Make yourself the priority by making appropriate diet choices, allowing enough time to get eight hours of sleep each night and exercising more often.
These three things will help improve your physical health and boost your energy throughout the day. More importantly, they will boost your mood and your concentration and problem-solving skills will improve.
Reduce the Negatives
Take an inventory of your stressors and identify ones that create the largest unwanted impact. Work to eliminate or modify these to reduce stress. Be cautious, though. Spending too much effort trying to change something that is unchangeable only leads to increased stress. Choose your battles wisely.
You can never eliminate all negatives. Adding positives helps find balance and then tip the scales in your favor. If your positives can outweigh the negatives, you will feel more empowered and optimistic about the future. Rather than being glued to the couch, go for a walk outside or meet a friend for dinner.
Listing and scheduling your positives will make them easier to complete. The sense of accomplishment you receive will shrink your stress and leave you refreshed.
You know you need to relax, and so do the people around you. Learning how to relax can be confusing and challenging at first. Explore your options. Relaxation techniques begin with deep breathing and end at complex meditations. Too many people give up on relaxation far too quickly.
Completing multiple trials throughout the day for weeks at a time is the only way to know if the relaxation is a good fit for you. The vast majority of people achieve some benefit from relaxation. You should be no different.
For anyone with depression, therapy is a fantastic option. Your therapist can offer a third-party point of view that is valuable for improving your symptoms. If you are prescribed medications by a doctor, be sure to take them as prescribed to maximize benefit. Professionals are available to help you.