If you have postpartum depression or are struggling with your transition to life with a new baby, know for one thing that you are not alone. It’s estimated that between 10-15% of mothers develop postpartum depression, and likely many more are suffering without a diagnosis (to learn more about the signs of postpartum depression, read this post).
One the hardest parts of depression is motivating yourself to make a change. Getting into the shower is often a big enough challenge, let alone reaching out to a counsellor for support.
Rest assured knowing that there are many simple things that you can do to feel better. Here are 5 simple strategies to manage postpartum depression.
5 Simple Ways to Manage Postpartum Depression
1. Set Tiny Goals
I know this might sound strange, but shoot low. Really! Avoid the temptation to set lofty goals for yourself (like go to the gym 5x/week, or cut out all sugar), and instead, focus on tiny and achievable goals.
Even if these goals aren’t that challenging, they get the ball rolling and build momentum. After you start experiencing successful changes (no matter how small) you will be more likely to meet subsequent (and more challenging) goals.
2. Ask For Help
Just because you can physically manage every… single… thing…why would you?
What if you allowed yourself to focus entirely on recovering, resting, and caring for your baby rather than taking on additional tasks that others could do? Sure, there may be some aspects of new motherhood that only you can do, but as far as most of the other responsibilities go, see if you can enlist someone else.
And here’s the kicker: when someone asks to help out, say yes! Ask them to bring dinner, make a cup of tea for you, hold your baby so you can relax in the tub. In past generations, entire communities and families would come together to support a mother. Now, we are often on our own. So if someone offers to give you a hand, take a deep breath and say “yes please!”
3. Practice Self-Compassion
If you are like many mother’s I have worked with, then you’re likely hard on yourself and have incredibly high expectations. You want to be the best mom, the best version of yourself, the best partner. You work hard to hold it all together, and then you feel awful when you can’t live up to those expectations all the time.
See if you can accept your imperfections, allow yourself to make mistakes, and above all, send yourself kindness during this vulnerable phase.
One straightforward tip is to avoid saying “should.” It’s a swear-word in my mind and usually just makes us feel even worse. You need to lift yourself up instead. Which leads me to…
4. Focus on What You Did Well
So the kitchen is messy, the bathroom is embarrassing, and you haven’t brushed your hair today. But what HAVE you done?
Did you feed your child? Great! Did you brush your teeth? Win! Did you cuddle your baby and help them feel loved? Amazing.
Focus on what truly matters (like showing love to your baby) and remember all the things you have done well today. Maybe even write a list!
5. Give Yourself Permission to NOT Love This Stage.
There, I said it. And guess what? Many women appreciate when I tell them it’s okay if they don’t love being a mother all the time.
You don’t have to feel guilty when you admit that this is hard, and you sometimes miss life before your child came along. This is all okay, and doesn’t mean you don’t want to be a mother or that you’re a bad parent. You’re actually just a normal human being who is pushed really hard right now.
Remember that you are a complex being who can hold multiple emotions at once. You can feel upset that your life is centered around a baby, yet also feel immense love and gratitude for them. That’s normal! So try to let go of any guilt you might be carrying about your thoughts on this phase of life.
I remember only a few pieces of advice truly resonated with me during my postpartum days. One went a little something like this:
Like everything else, this phase will change…the pain will end…the sadness will lift…the anxiety will fade. The challenges will transform and you will learn how to flow through the ups and downs. And until then, just take things one day at a time.
And a quick word on seeking support:
Research shows us that the best way to overcome postpartum depression is to seek professional support (through counselling and with your medical doctor) in conjunction with the self-help strategies that you practice at home. Postpartum depression isn’t something you can expect yourself to just “snap out of” but rather, it’s a serious condition that you deserve some help with. There is no better time in your life to receive the support that is available to you.
All my best to you in this journey,