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.
In the aftermath of postpartum depression, the key to keeping symptoms under control is to stay one step ahead of them, otherwise it’s very easy to drown in the shuffle of everyday motherhood.
*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust. **Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.
What is self-care?
It’s all the things you need to do to take care of YOU. Self-care is a huge topic among parents, especially SAHMs. Because 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 parent is always to put their children first and therefore, self-care often gets bumped to the bottom of the priority 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.
If you need some additional help trying to figure out how to fit self-care into your already busy life, you can join this FREE Self-Care Challenge or enroll in the Love Your Life Self-Care e-course from Peace of Mom.
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.
Start with the basics
Brush your teeth
So simple right? Not when you’re awoken by the loud screams of children at 7 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.
But putting it off means you’re putting yourself off, and self-care is all about putting yourself FIRST! So take the shower!
If it means putting on a tv show for them, or letting them use the tablet while they sit on the bathroom floor – then do it. If all else fails – take them in with you! I’ve brought my babies into the shower with me and sat them in the Bumbo chair… they loved it!
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.
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.
Add in some extras
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.
Write a positive message on your bathroom mirror in dry erase marker and change it up every few days/weeks.
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? Try one of these starter kits from Plant Therapy)
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.
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 this one 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.
Write it down
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.
Click HERE to get this free printable workbook that can help you document your journey through postpartum depression.
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.