If you are someone who struggles with depression or self-doubt, then you’ve had many days when you just don’t feel like it. If you’re a mom who struggles with depression, then you’ve had many days when that depression has affected your ability to be a great mom.
I have struggled with depression from as far back as I can remember. Then I struggled with postpartum depression twice (after having my first and then again after having my second child).
Some days are so bad that I literally start affecting everyone else in the house. If you have a good relationship with your kids, your mental state — your mental energy — will affect theirs simply because they care about you.
There are, however, some things I do to remain positive and keep positive energy in my home. So that even on the days when I am at my lowest, I 1.) don’t lash out at my family and the people around me (it’s never okay to be a b*tch to anyone just because you’re in a foul mood), and 2.) I am able to pull myself up out of the rut.
That’s what I will share in this post. Five tips for dealing with depression as a mom. PS: It should be mentioned that the tips I’ll share in this post can also be used by dads and pretty much anyone who struggles with depression.
Acknowledge and feel your feelings
Personally, I don’t believe in the idea that you should “avoid” what triggers you and that you should “think 10 positive thoughts for every negative one”. I also don’t believe in the idea that you should “distract yourself” from your negative feelings.
I believe that it is absolutely important for you to acknowledge that you are feeling the way you feel. This is healthy because it helps you to dig deeper. When you let your feelings flow over you, you get to examine those feelings and dig deeper to understand why they are there.
The truth of the matter is that you can’t truly solve a problem until you understand it. So distracting yourself from your feelings is only a temporary fix, if at all one.
Acknowledging your feelings allows you to understand your triggers. When you understand your triggers, when you understand your feelings, you are better able to manage them. You can’t control your emotions — and you shouldn’t try to — especially if you deal with depression.
If you are anything like me when you get depressed, that monster takes on a life form of its own. At the moment it hits, it quite literally eats away at your happiness causing you to feel like you’ve never felt happiness a single day in your life.
But while you can’t control your emotions, I believe you can manage and channel them. This allows you to control your actions that are influenced by your emotions.
So feel your feelings, dig deeper and come to an understanding of your feelings. This also helps you to be better able to articulate your feelings to your family. It helps you to help them to understand that you are in a rut right now and you just can’t deal with everything in this instant, but you will be okay soon.
If your family is anything like mine (my fiance and two boys) they are better able to understand how to love you in those moments — whether it is to give you space or to hold you closer.
Try not to dwell on/feed the negative feelings
This one sounds almost contradictory to tip number 1, right? Well, it’s not. Hear me out. When I say don’t dwell on or don’t feed the negative feelings, what I mean is that you don’t do things that will fuel the feelings. At least not on a prolonged basis. And most definitely not intentionally.
When I’m going through a bout of depression and I want to “feel my feelings”, I like to be alone with nothing but my music. I like listening to sad country songs and just let the feelings flow, but I try not to prolong this.
One thing I’m keen on is to never engage in victimhood thinking, I don’t self-pity and I try my hardest not to self-criticize in this state. I literally have moments when I “scold” myself for thinking thoughts where I’m attacking myself. Conversations in my head will go like this:
Depression: oh boy Lis, you really suck at…
Me: stop it.
Depression: yeah but…
Me: stop it. You know that’s not true
Depression: you don’t even know what I’m about to s…
Me: doesn’t matter. I know all the negative thoughts now are lies from the pit of hell! I rebuke them in the name of Jesus!
You don’t have to be religious to use this strategy. Even if you are an atheist, you get the idea.
Everyone has negative thoughts every now and then and if you struggle with depression, it’s way more often. But if you let those thoughts take root they can literally suck the life out of you and you become a shell of nothingness. Just a husk of sadness.
I know this because I have been there before and trust me it is not a nice place to be. There is no “cure” per se for depression but you can learn management strategies.
This is what I have done over the years and while I’m not perfect at it, it doesn’t interfere with my ability to be present for my kids and spouse.
Focus on what’s good about your life
This is where you start quite literally dragging yourself out of the rut. This and tip number four are probably the most difficult but most needed tools.
You see, when depression embraces you with its cold dark hands, it whispers the most convincing misrepresentation of your reality. It is so effective that if you embrace it for too long, you start believing the thoughts it feeds you.
This is why it is important to focus on what is good about your life. The problem with depression is that it makes it extremely difficult — nearly impossible – to do.
For me, it’s pictures or videos of my kids smiling. Pictures of past dates with Bae. These trigger the spark I need to remind myself that even though I’m in this negative state, they are still there waiting for me to “get back to normal” — for lack of a better word
Use positive affirmations
In tip one I mentioned that I don’t believe in positively affirming away your negative feelings. Then why am I now telling you to use positive affirmations? Because I believe there is a stark difference between positive affirmations and being delusional.
If my life currently sucks, I highly doubt that staring at myself in a mirror and saying “your life is awesome” will make my life any better. But I strongly believe that if my life sucks and I stare at myself in the mirror and say “it will get better”, it’s a hell of a lot more effective. It is honest. It acknowledges my reality and gives me hope for the future.
Positive affirmations are great for pulling yourself out of the rut, but for them to be truly effective they must acknowledge the reality of your current feelings. Some of my favorite positive affirmations to remind myself of when I’m experiencing the cold grip of depression are:
- You can get through this
- Don’t let this beat you
- You’ve been through worse
- I know you’re better than this
- You’re stronger than this
I have found that speaking to myself in the second person has been more comforting and as a result, a more effective way of pulling me out of the rut.
After going through steps one through three, positive affirmations are exactly what the doctor ordered. Exactly what I need. And since I am my worst critic, I have to also be my biggest cheerleader
Remind yourself that when you are at your lowest you are living like someone at their greatest
Recently, I was listening to a song (I don’t remember which) and this line jumped out at me “I remind myself that even when I’m at my lowest, I’m living like someone at their greatest”. The depth and reality of this line were so powerful.
It resonated with me so well because the 16-year-old me on her second attempt at suicide would never have guessed that she would ever make it this far. She would never have guessed that there could be joy and meaning in her life.
The problems I face now, that trigger me, my 16-year-old self would trade anything to have them because they also come with a family that loves me world without end.
It is so easy to get swept away and let depression sink its clutches into you but if you can find the strength to remind yourself that your worst is still someone else’s greatest, it really puts things into perspective. No, it does not automatically snap you out of your feelings but it makes it a hell of a lot easier for you to crawl back to shore after drowning in your emotions.
While writing this post, I created this free booklet to share with anyone who might need it. I know I won’t be able to help everyone but if I can help even one person, then this will all have been worth it.
Depression is not easy. It takes over your life and affects every aspect of it. Depression is crippling. That’s the reality of many moms today who put on a brave face and try to smile through it all.
If you are struggling with depression, especially as a mom, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Reach out to someone for help and most of all, remember it is okay to not be okay.
Remember you are not alone. Please share this post with anyone struggling with depression that you feel might need to hear this message. You can join the discussion in my Facebook group or leave your comments below. Share your stories and how you manage or overcome your depression, so we can inspire others.