Taking time for themselves is something that all moms need to do but practicing a self-care routine is essential to treating postpartum depression.
Self-care doesn’t always need to consist of spa days or alone time. While different things appeal to different women and personalities – there are some simple, basic, everyday tasks that can make a huge difference to one’s mood and patience level.
Keeping postpartum depression symptoms under control means having to stay one step ahead of them, otherwise it’s very easy to drown in the shuffle of everyday motherhood.
Here are some self care tips for mothers battling postpartum depression.
What is self-care?
It’s all the things you need to do to take care of YOU. It’s not being selfish and only focusing on yourself. It’s adding your needs to the list, at the same priority level as everything else.
Self-care is a huge topic among parents, especially stay at home moms. And the biggest question it raises is how the heck are you supposed to take care of yourself AND the tiny humans who demand so much of your attention?
The nature of a mother is to put their children first and therefore, self-care often gets bumped to the bottom of the to-do list. I’m quite guilty of it myself and sometimes life gets SO busy that I don’t even realize how long it’s been since I showered or blow-dried my hair.
When to do self-care
Trying to fit a self-care routine into an already packed day is impossible, I know. There are never, nor will there ever be, enough minutes in the day to get everything accomplished.
This means you’re going to have to sacrifice something. It could be sleep (sleep? what’s that?), it could be that extra time with your kids before bed, it could be the gourmet dinner you cook every night.
Or perhaps there is a way to work your self-care routine into your existing routine with the kids. There’s no rule that says self-care must equal alone time so feel free to involve your kids or partner.
Whatever you need to do, do it and make time for you.
Why to do self-care
During my own battle with postpartum depression – I could never look at myself in the mirror. I was embarrassed and ashamed of the pile of muck I had become.
I had a ghastly image of myself in my head and I feared that if I looked at myself in the mirror I would realize it had come true. The few times I did make eye contact with myself, I immediately broke into tears because I absolutely hated myself and standing in front of the mirror meant coming face to face with my worst enemy.
But I wasn’t afraid to look at myself when I had a little makeup on. When I was showered and my hair was done and I was in decent clothes – for a moment, I forgot about that pile of muck. This was someone else I was looking at, talking to, admiring in the mirror. That pile of muck was still there but I didn’t have to look at her. I didn’t have to face her and all the sadness she brought with her.
So while some might consider self-care a type of vanity, I felt that it was the only way for me to escape the rut I was in.
Developing a good self-care routine is extremely important both during your battle with postpartum depression after you’ve started treatments to reduce the chance of a relapse.
How to Do Self Care
Begin with the bare minimum. It’s sad that we have to remind ourselves to do these things each day, but over time they become less and less of a priority. For a new mom, it’s hard to figure out how to take care of two people instead of one. Or for a mom with a mental illness, these are some things that don’t seem worth the trouble. But they are worth it – and it is possible to do them, every single day.
Brush your teeth
So simple right? Not when you’re awoken by the loud screams of children at 6 am. You rush out of bed to see what’s happening and deal with whatever new fiasco they’ve created. And then coffee is the first thought on your mind. You’ll brush after coffee – that makes sense, right? Then you won’t have coffee breath! Smart woman!
Except you never, ever, finish that cup of coffee…
It sits there getting cold. Maybe you walk by once or twice and stick it in the microwave to heat it up and then forget about it there. Before you know it the hubby is home from work and for some reason he’s not going in for that smooch…
Take the shower!
There are so many days when this feels like an impossible feat. It takes more than a few minutes and we all know what kind of trouble kids can get into in that time. If it means letting them have some extra screen time while you shower, then it’s worth it. If all else fails – take them in with you!
But putting it off means you’re putting yourself off, and self-care is all about putting yourself FIRST! So take the shower!
A nice, hot shower before bed is a great way to help you sleep at night, so if you can’t fit one in during the day – try to squeeze it in after the kids are down for the night. If the thought of taking a shower feels like the last thing you want to do after an extremely long day, then it’s what you need most. Trust me and just TAKE THE SHOWER!!!
Change your clothes
Changing from flannel pajama pants into black leggings counts. Don’t stay in your pajamas all day even if they’re the comfiest thing on earth and you’re not going anywhere anyway. I’ve gone so far as to use the excuse that I don’t want to make more laundry for myself. But even if you wear the same “daytime” clothes for a week – change out of your pajamas.
The act of changing your clothes – even if they are from one pair of sweatpants to another, is enough to trick your brain into thinking you’ve done something productive.
Do your hair & makeup
This one is more important to some than others. I’ve never been a “full face makeup” type of person, but some women absolutely love the process of experimenting with makeup. I got a chance to try the Marc Jacobs Velvet Primer and Mascara for free and it was like putting on false lashes without the fuss! Join Influenster and you can start getting free products to try, too!
If you have a particular problem area that makes you self-conscious then take care of that so you can feel confident enough to face the world. It might sound superficial or vain, but it’s amazing how much more confident you feel when you know that you look good. And keep in mind that the only person you’re trying to impress… is yourself.
Give yourself a pep talk
Every time I start to feel overwhelmed, a little “you can do this” under my breath reminds me that I need to stay positive. It is SO easy to lose that motivation when you are battling postpartum depression because you are in a constant state of darkness. Find some way to remind yourself to stay in the light.
Download these 4 FREE 8 x 10 Inspirational Prints in the Running in Triangles Free Resource Library, available exclusively to subscribers of the Postpartum Depression Survival Guide. Click here to subscribe.
Take your vitamins
Sufferers of postpartum depression are infamous for their terrible eating habits – either not enough or too much. And because of that, we often end up with all kinds of vitamin deficiencies which can have a huge effect on our mental health. So if you’re not able to eat as healthy as you should, you should be taking supplements in order to get your levels back up to where they should be.
- Magnesium is what worked wonders for me. Magnesium deficiencies are known to cause symptoms of depression, so make sure that you take a regular magnesium supplement to keep symptoms at bay.
- Vitamin D – get outside in the sun! Not only does 20 minutes in the sunshine top up your Vitamin D levels but the fresh air does wonders for your soul.
- Vitamin B Complex to make sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrition despite your messed up appetite.
Here’s an article on www.livestrong.com that has more details on the best herbal and vitamin supplements to treat postpartum depression.
Aromatherapy and essential oils have huge mood-boosting benefits. An easy way to fit aromatherapy into your postpartum depression self care routine is by using an essential oil diffuser. Have your favorite, calming, essential oils and blends fill your entire home all day long to make sure that you’re surrounded by positive energy. (Not sure where to start? Check out the mood collection by Rocky Mountain Oils)
Try Yoga and Meditation
Yoga is a great low-impact exercise that can help to get rid of some of the physical aches and pains associated with postpartum depression. You don’t need a gym membership or any fancy equipment, so it’s very easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. It also helps you to clear your mind of distractions and intrusive thoughts, which is important if you want to try to remain positive on a daily basis. Deep breathing can help greatly to reduce stress and it’s something that you can do anytime throughout the day. For more information on the benefits of yoga, check out this guide from Freedom Genesis.
Find ONE thing
And it doesn’t have to be a BIG thing. A spa day is great but so is binge watching Netflix. A beach vacation may not be in the budget, but relaxing outside in a hammock or inflatable couch is. [I like the ones from Pouch Couch]
Focus on ONE extra activity that makes you feel happy and relaxed and ONE thing only. As moms we spend most of our days multi-tasking, and there is so much pressure to become a mom who can bake and sew and do crafts and plan parties (thanks a lot, Pinterest) and it becomes overwhelming and exhausting.
Your self-care routine should consist of something that makes you feel happy and relaxed afterwards. It doesn’t have to be productive and you don’t need to justify it. You just need to do it.
It can be difficult to fit in time for self-care, especially as a busy mom. Check out my post How to Create a Self-Care Routine as a SAHM for more tips plus download a free workbook to help you create a schedule that works!
Write about it
Keeping a journal of your thoughts can be hugely therapeutic for postpartum depression survivors in many different ways. Not only is the act of writing out your thoughts and feelings a way to release them, but it also helps you keep track of whether they are getting better or worse.
Whatever self-care routine you end up carving out for yourself, make sure that you stick to it in order to prevent relapses. Communicate with your partner about how important these things are for your mental health so that they can support you. And don’t ever feel guilty about putting yourself first because if mom is happy, then the entire household is happy.