6 Tips to Help You Deal With the Baby Blues
Motherhood: It Ain't Easy
It's the end of a long day. Newborn screams tear through your ears like a siren as you cook dinner for the toddler. Dishes are dirty, floors are cluttered, and an abandoned art project is scattered across the dining room table.
This is not what you envisioned before you entered this phase of your life. But here you are: the temporary bliss of pregnancy is long gone as a heaping dose of reality splatters all over you. And it smells like sour milk.
Stir this all together with hurricane hormones, and what do you get? For many, the result is postpartum depression or the baby blues. But even outside a textbook PPD diagnosis, a new baby can bring on stress levels like you've never known.
I'm not a doctor. These tips I share for dealing with postpartum depression and the stress of a new baby are from my own experiences. They are certainly no substitute for a physician's advice, only ways to cope and find relief from the pressures of everyday life as a new mom.
1. RECOGNIZE THE GUILT
When I feel overwhelmed and frustrated with the impossible task of keeping my child and baby happy 24 hours a day, guilty feelings may creep into my brain. "Someday, you'll long for these days," along with "You have no idea what you're doing," are phrases that echo in my skull.
It's useless to fight back when you're working your way through guilty feelings. Recognize that they are merely thoughts in your mind. Taking these thoughts captive--noticing and acknowledging that they will pass--depletes them of their power.
And besides, the gummy smiles and adorable gurgles are what you'll miss, not the poopy diapers and screaming fits!
How About You?
Do you struggle with postpartum depression, or have you in the past?
2. MEDITATE IN THE SMALL MOMENTS
I never truly understood the Calgon commercials of my youth until I had children of my own (70s kids will know what I'm talking about): "Calgon! Take me away!"
It would be nice to relax in a bubble bath whenever the tension mounts, but unfortunately this isn't going to happen. What I can do is use short moments throughout the day to meditate.
When stress hormones stay elevated without relief, stress levels continue to rise. This keeps your body in a state of fight or flight, making it difficult to relax. You have the power to cool down these stress hormones: focus on your breath--even if you have only 30 seconds--while concentrating on sensations in your body. These meditation moments will balance stress hormones, keeping them under control before they get the best of you.
The Signs of Postpartum Depression
- Not feeling like yourself
- Guilt, comparing yourself to other moms
- Lack of connection, lack of joy, lack of pleasure
- Anxiety, scary or obsessive thoughts
Check out this clip from Katie on the signs of PPD:
". . . the stigma is huge . . . there's so much shame that moms are reluctant to talk about how bad they feel about being a mother." -Karen Kleiman, founder of The Postpartum Stress Center
3. REWARD YOURSELF
When I was a kid, my dad would bring home a little gift whenever I was sick. Whether it was a comic book or toy from a gum-ball machine, the surprise always lifted my spirits.
Things haven't changed much. When I'm down, a new Kindle book or favorite meal can always put a smile on my face.
If you're feeling anxious or depressed, think of simple things that can give you a boost. It might be a bottle of glittery nail polish or a fruity-scented candle found in the aisles of the supermarket. Just a little something that says your feelings matter, because they do!
The National Institute of Mental Health Discusses PPD
4. REFLECT ON THE DAY
Days don't always go according to plan. Sometimes I try too hard to get things done, even when it's not possible. My frustration creates tension and keeps my stress levels rising higher and higher.
Being a mom is hard! But there are many occasions when I can make it--or could have made it--easier for myself. Life is pleasant when I'm flexible: when I'm fine with leaving the toys in the living room or a ignoring a pile of laundry on the floor.
When the day is done, reflect without judgment. What thoughts or events brought on the anxiety or depression? What can you do to avoid it tomorrow? There's no need to dwell on negative thoughts, but awareness is key to making tomorrow a better day.
5. SAY SORRY IF YOU NEED TO
Stress and a lack of sleep make me snippy. Maybe you can relate? Combine that with hunger after neglecting myself for the day, and I'm a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
I try my best to take deep breaths and stay mindful of the fact that my frustrations are no one's fault. But those around me can easily become victims of harsh words or angry tones.
This leads to the guilt I mentioned earlier. But a heartfelt apology and hugs help make things right, not only with those around me, but with myself as well.
There's something in saying, "I'm sorry" that helps you to forgive yourself. And it always feels good to clear the tension and move on.
For Husbands and Partners
6. DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP
I have the tendency to try too hard. I want to be Super Mom! I want to take care of my family's every need while cooking awesome meals and generating a decent income and keeping the house clean and remembering to shower and brush my teeth.
I don't know why I do it . . . maybe it has something to do with the stay-at-home stigma. I'm afraid I'll look like Peggy Bundy from Married With Children, sitting on the couch, eating bonbons and whining about my husband.
For the most part, I've learned to ask for help when I need it. Yes, I forget every now and then. Recovering from Super Mom Syndrome is a process.
You need to ask for help. You might think your partner should know what to do and when to do it, but most of the time they need direction. If you're anything like me, the I can do it myself attitude can be intimidating to those around you. Allowing someone to help you can strengthen your relationship.
Whatever You're Feeling, Talk About It
The simple act of talking about your struggles is a powerful way to relieve sadness and tension. Find a friend you can trust, or look online for a PPD or moms support group. Meetup.com is a great place to find groups in your area.
Have you looked over the signs of postpartum depression and still aren't sure if they apply to you? Talking to your OB or midwife is still a good idea.
If you feel overwhelmed after bringing home a new baby, you're not alone. If you struggle with postpartum depression or new-baby stress, look for support and take measures to ease daily tensions. Go ahead and leave those dishes in the sink--better yet, ask someone else to take care of them--and stop leaving your needs on the back burner.