How many times has it happened when you’ve been woken up by a cry in the night or whimpering, and you’ve been sleep deprived for weeks, that you have questioned your very sanity at the decision to become a stay at home mom? When did you go from a perky, energetic, fun-loving woman to the tired looking, grumpy person that just can’t take it anymore? Do you find yourself getting angry for having given up your free lifestyle to be a slave to dirty diapers, baby formula and sleepless nights, only to feel guilty for having those very feelings?
You are not alone.
While being a parent can be one of the most joyous and rewarding things in life, it can also take its toll on the mother, leaving her depressed. Dealing with depression can seem like a lonely uphill battle, and at times it just doesn’t seem worth getting out of bed in the morning. Feelings of doubt, resentment and hopelessness are fairly common among stay at home moms. Recognizing the symptoms of depression is very important so that you may cope with it better. Some of the signs include:
-- Feeling tired all the time
-- Sad or unhappy most of the time
-- Inability to sleep
-- Loss of appetite
n Feelings of helplessness or worthlessness
n Suicidal thoughts
Understanding your depression
During your pregnancy your body underwent a lot of changes—physical and chemical. Now the post partum world is a rollercoaster ride of hormones trying to shift back to normal, resulting in what can be dramatic emotional episodes. Physically your body is changing again as well and the stresses and responsibilities of a new life style take its toll. Old familiar routines are gone and a whole new regimen takes its place.
Depression occurs with an imbalance of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which regulates mood and sleeping patterns. Another neurotransmitter, norepinepherine, affects the sympathetic nervous system (the “fight or flight” response), which is dominant in stressful circumstances.
These changes all contribute to the chaos of what life has become for you now, and depression is very common, especially with new mothers who up until now have only heard second hand of what to expect. It can often come as quite a shock!
Coping with Depression
No matter who you are, everyone needs time to themselves. There was no “Mothers Day Out” when I was growing up, but it is a wonderful idea that mothers should take advantage of whenever possible. Just find a way to get out of the house where you can be a person again.
Don’t lose touch with who you are. The kids come first, that is a given, but keep in touch with the person you were before the children came. What were you interested in before? What activities did you like? Go see a movie or do something that stimulates your adult brain! It is important that you maintain your mental and physical health so that you can be a healthy parent, otherwise it will affect the children. Make time each week to reconnect with yourself, even if only for 30 minutes, so that you are grounded in who you are and do not feel like you are so overwhelmed with the tasks and joys of raising a family.
Reach out to mothers like yourself, a support group of some sort—even if it is just another mom you can talk to.
Acupuncture for Depression
Acupuncture has shown to be effective in the treatment of depression. When certain acupoints are stimulated, it is found that levels of serotonin and norepinepherine increase, and the various symptoms of depression (fatigue, insomnia, mood swings, anxiety and stress) begin to decrease. Stress brings with it its own troubles—the heart races, mood becomes irritable, blood pressure elevates, sleep loss develops—and adds to the feelings of depression. Acupuncture is very effective in reducing stress, and calms the rollercoaster of emotions as the body’s hormones are brought back into balance.
A thirty minute acupuncture session for depression or stress can leave one feeling refreshed and very relaxed (almost like a mini vacation). With the placement of a few tiny sterile needles in specific locations, this painless experience can be a sanity saving treat as well as a “recharging” down time that the mother needs. The rest of the family will notice and appreciate the difference.
The Mother Feeds the Child
The importance of this statement goes much deeper that what you may think. The young child is like a blank slate. His/her experience of the world is impressed upon that blank slate and will form his/her world view, which will affect how the child will interact with others in life well into adulthood. The mother has to be healthy in all her aspects to feed the child healthy experiences so the child will grow with a healthy world view. If the mother is depressed, exhausted and angry, what is she feeding the child?
Mothers, take the time to take care of yourselves, so that you can nourish the world.
Max Norris, D.C., Dipl. Ac.