Postpartum Depression Treatment: Self-Help
If you’re experiencing The Baby Blues or mild to moderate symptoms of Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, self-help is a great place to start. And one of the best ways to make sure you “help” all the parts of your “self” is:“NURSE”
N= Nourishment and Needs
R=Rest and Relaxation
Nourishment & Needs
Pregnant and postpartum women need good “food” for the body as well as the mind to ensure emotional health:
“I know it can be a challenge to eat nutritious, balanced meals with a new baby, so here are some suggestions: 1) Make and freeze postpartum meals before the baby comes, 2) Stock the fridge with ready-to-go fresh foods like cut up fruits and veggies, & lean protein like boiled eggs, cooked chicken, or almond butter (yummy with apples!), 3) When preparing meals, make extra and save it for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner, 4) Put together “snack bags,” complete with nuts, dried berries, or other healthy and easy-to-eat snacks you enjoy; when it’s time for a snack, grab and go!”
1) Ask yourself, “What am I eating?”: Are you eating enough? Are you eating too much? Are your food choices those that will give you increased energy?
2) Eat nutritious, balanced meals to give you energy: Create a food plan including small, frequent meals and easy, high-protein snacks.
3) Drink plenty of water: Approximately 64 oz a day is recommended for most women, but breastfeeding moms will likely need more.
4) Limit caffeine and sugar intake: Caffeine and sugar can amplify emotional symptoms, especially anxiety. Reexamine your use of these substances and adjust as needed.
5) Ask yourself, “What are my needs?”: We’re not just talking nutrition here. It’s important that you identify your emotional, intellectual, social, physical, and spiritual needs too. Identifying your needs is the first step in meeting those needs.
“Create a “breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding) basket.” Keep it stocked with a full water bottle, nutritious snacks, and whatever else you need. This makes drinking plenty of water and eating healthy a built-in part of your baby’s feeding routine!”
All pregnant and postpartum women can benefit from having a safe space where they can examine their emotions and needs, and receive insights or support. Try one or more of these:
1) Journal, or write down experiences, emotions, and needs. Writing 1) helps get it out of you, and 2) enables you to go back later and see the bigger connections.
2) Talk to an understanding support person. Simply sharing, crying, or “venting” to a trusted other can make a world of difference.
3) Join a pregnancy or postpartum support group. In a support group you can meet other mothers who are feeling similar to you. It’s a great place to share how you’re doing and to remind yourself that you’re not alone.
4) Read materials about pregnancy and postpartum emotional health. Books or websites can help you learn about and better understand your emotions.
5) Try psychotherapy. Ok, I may be a little biased, but research shows psychotherapy can really alleviate emotional distress. It’s always helpful to have a non-judgmental person and place where you can discuss and work through your emotional struggles and concerns.
Rest & Relaxation
Pregnancy is exhausting; then add in labor and delivery followed by feedings around the clock and new parents are worn out before they even get started! In addition to sleep, new moms and dads need (and deserve) a little time to relax too. Here are some suggestions:
“Naps help! Even though 5 solid hours is recommended for mental wellness, sleep has a cumulative effect and every little bit counts.”
1) Make sleep a priority. Most don’t realize how much sleep deprivation impacts emotional health, so let me just make this clear: Sleep is critical to mental health! Make it one of your top priorities. Naps help! Even though 5 solid hours is recommended for mental wellness, sleep has a cumulative effect and every little bit counts!
3) Find someone to care for the baby. Letting others help you is important for your emotional well-being. Help with the baby, housework, or meals can free you up to get some much-needed rest or relaxation. [Tip:Even breastfeeding mothers can get a little more sleep by pumping and allowing their partner, family member, or friend to take over a feeding once in a while.]
Tip: “Even breastfeeding mothers can get a little more sleep by pumping and allowing their partner, family member, or friend to take over a feeding once in a while.”
4) Focus on relaxation. In addition to sleep, you need some time to relax each day. Even ten minutes for a bath, stretching, quiet time, or reading can do the trick. Whatever relaxes you, do it. It will not only improve your ability to sleep more peacefully, it will bring you more peace of mind during the day.
Spirituality can have a different meaning and practice for each mother or father, but the important part is to keep connected to your spiritual nature and meaning during pregnancy and postpartum:
1) Focus on experiences that bring you joy and keep you uplifted and connected to your higher power.
2) Engage in activities that foster your spirituality, including: meditation, deep breathing, prayer, attending religious services, reading spiritual texts, being around family or in nature, listening to uplifting music, practicing gratitude, and giving service.
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your mental health. It is also a well-validated component of postpartum depression treatment. Exercise increases levels of the feel-good chemicals in the brain (like serotonin and endorphins), leads to improved quality of sleep, improves thinking and problem-solving, and is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety. Some tips for perinatal exercise include:
“Research shows that even two 10-minute segments of cardio can give you the same benefits as 20 continuous minutes!”
1) Always clear exercise with your doctor before you begin/resume an exercise program.
2) For the best mental health benefits, consistent cardiovascular exercise is key: 20 minutes a day 3-5 days a week is all you need!
3) Exercise isn’t just walking or running: Walking is a great exercise in pregnancy and postpartum, but there are many other options. Swim, try a class, hike, bike—even housework or gardening counts as long as it’s done for 10 minutes or more at a moderate level. Find what you enjoy and do it.
4) Find an exercise buddy. Research shows that those who are the most consistent with their exercise plan are those who partner up!
Self-Help & Beyond
The important thing is to find the suggestions that work best for you and do them. Consistent self-help practices like those mentioned here can make a big impact on your emotional well-being.
If, however, your emotional symptoms intensify or do not improve within 2 weeks or so, I suggest you seek professional help. There are many options for Postpartum Depression Treatment —find the right one for you. You (and your family) will be so grateful that you did.