Tips for dealing with perinatal depression

Making the most of your depression treatment plan through self-care.

Michigan State University Extension recognizes that taking care of a newborn baby can be physically and mentally draining. If you are a woman with perinatal depression, those demands can feel even more draining.  Besides your prescribed treatment plan from your trained medical or mental health professional, there are things you can do to help yourself cope with your depression symptoms. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests things to help you deal more effectively with your symptoms including engaging in pleasant activities, maintaining and building your circle of support and learning relaxation skills. 

Activities

Activities and mood go hand in hand. When you feel down, you may not feel like doing anything. However, participating in positive activities can lead to more positive thoughts and feeling, which can make you feel heathier and happier.

  • Self-care activities  so you are healthy enough to take care of your child: get enough sleep, plan nutritious meals, drink plenty of water and exercise every day (even if only for a few minutes at a time).
  • Fun activities – to bring joy to your life: watch a movie with a friend, go for walk with your baby, listen to music and play with your baby.
  • Learning activities  help give you a sense of accomplishment: start an exercise program, take an online or community class or read an interesting book on a subject you want to learn more about.
  • Meaningful activities – to help boost your self-image and bring purpose to your life: concentrate on being a good parent and friend, do small acts of kindness for family, friends and strangers, participate in social, spiritual or community activities and spend time cuddling and bonding with your baby.

Support

Having people in your life that you can depend on for encouragement and support is part of being healthy, especially in times of high stress, like being a new parent. Make a list of names and phone numbers of people you can call on for support and post it where you can get to it easily. Include people who you can call on no matter what, to help deal with the big or small stuff. Include those you can call on just to make you smile, laugh or feel good about yourself.  Find a support group, or form one yourself of other moms with new babies, because sometimes talking to someone who ‘gets you’ feels good.  

Relaxation

Relaxation skills are one way to help deal with feelings of stress and being overwhelmed. You could try something as simple as deep breathing. Take a few deep breaths in and out. Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose and out your mouth. You could use your imagination to picture yourself in a peaceful place. Close your eyes and pretend for a few minutes that you are on a beach, with the warm sun on you back, a gentle breeze through your hair and imagine listening to the waves splashing on the shore. 

Mindfulness meditation is another method that offers many techniques to help deal with stress. Michigan State University Extension offers a five-part course, Stress Less with Mindfulness that cover topics like mindful breathing, eating, walking, thought surfing and laughter. These courses are offered in many communities across Michigan. 

There are many paths to wellness when dealing with depression. It is key to remember that it is a health issue and it is very treatable. While you are going through your treatment plan, be sure to try some of the self-help tips provided above to help you manage your symptoms and feel better. 

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