I’ve been struggling with depression caused by pregnancy the last few months. Having to deal with this very complicated issue has given me so much empathy for people who struggle on a daily basis with chronic depression. It’s so very real and it’s so very hard to understand if you’ve never been there. My midwife gave me some very practical advice on things that I could change to help relieve some of my depression symptoms.
This advice was very sound and I really want to share it. Of course I’m not a doctor (though my midwife is very seasoned and I trust her opinion well enough to bring my children safely into the world). I feel like these tips are for people who are dealing with situational depression, seasonal depression, or a pre/post baby/hormonal related depression. If depression is something you deal with on a regular basis these tips might help but they aren’t meant to replace medication where it’s needed. My midwife gave me these tips to try for a month. She said if things were still bad at my next appointment then we could discuss more serious options (which I assumed meant medication), she also knew that they wouldn’t work for everyone, but in general they are a really smart place to start if you are in a funk that you just can’t seem to shake.
5 Simple Ways to Combat Depression
1. Stop Eating Processed Sugar
I feel like we eat a pretty balanced diet but when I really take a look at what sugar I’m eating it surprises me how much sneaks in. I love food. Homemade chocolate chip cookies are little rays of sunshine! Choosing to not eat sugar is the hardest but one of the most powerful suggestions I have for you today. I’m not diabetic, so a little sugar is ok. I like this. I like that I can taste Thomas’ dessert at dinner, have a spoonful of ice cream when the kids are having a treat, or enjoy three or four conversation hearts. I need to avoid feeling deprived about as much as I need to stay away from sugar. I can have a bite; I shouldn’t have a whole serving. Just a taste is better than for me mentally than saying I can’t even lick my finger. I feel like 2 bites of sugar a day is satisfying to me while keeping my health in check.
2. Get a full 8 Hours of Sleep Every Night
Sounds easy doesn’t it? When you mix in young children who don’t always sleep through the night, insomnia, and poor choices to stay up later than I should, that 8 hours is actually hard to come by. I have to go to bed early, period. That way, no matter what the night hours bring, I at least have a real chance at getting in the proper amount of sleep. Night time was often when I would blog and that’s taken a bit of a back seat, but there’s a time and a season for everything right? I also have a really supportive spouse who wants me to feel my best. He knows I need to sleep and he often gets up with kids in the night. I’m so thankful he’s willing to do that. If you need more sleep I highly recommend asking your spouse for help in that area. I think we mothers often play the martyr roll all night long. Yes, lots of our husbands get up and go to work all day long, they need their sleep. But so do you. Your spouse could choose to go to bed earlier with you if he were helping out with kids at night.
I also have to be really careful about napping. I can get away with laying down in the afternoon for a half hour if I’m exhausted but sleeping for more than an hour during the day really throws off my nighttime sleep. I’m generally better off when I choose to not nap. I’ve discovered that a long nap means I’m generally awake for a few hours in the middle of the night and then am even more exhausted the next day. It kind of turns into a bad cycle quickly for me. Just a thought.
3. Exercise Every Day
I really struggle with this one. Exercise is not a priority in my life at the moment. My excuses are I’m too tired, too sick, and have too many little people in my life. That being said, my exercise of choice is walking. I try to choose to walk to the post office or walk to the Shanty to feed the hens or walk to a friend’s house. My midwife recommended 20 minutes of exercising a day and even though I break it up into little walking chunks I can hit the 20 minute mark almost every day if I really want to. One day I’ll get serious about weight-loss and exercise but my heart isn’t in it until I’m done having babies and know that changes will last more than 3 months (peril of having lots of kids close together…). On the days I’ve had a sluggish day or felt really bad all day I’ll suggest a little family walk after dinner. It’s easier to get out and walk when it feels like family time.
4. Get Plenty of Vitamin D in the form of Natural Sunlight
Sounds easy enough doesn’t it, but getting outside in the middle of the winter just doesn’t happen as much as we might want. This tip caused me to go outside with my kids more and that is a good thing too. When I bundle them up to go play outside I make myself go too and I try to stay outside for at least an hour. We live outside during the spring, summer, and fall, but winter is its own story. There’s no garden to weed, less animals to enjoy, and the weather isn’t great. Sometimes I’m feeling so yucky that all I do is lay on the trampoline (which produces a bit of heat because it’s black!) and watch them jump and talk to them. Sometimes I even take a blanket out to lay on the grass and just let my face soak up the sun. I also try to walk to and from school every day in the morning and afternoon. Every little bit of sun helps I just have to be intentional about getting out into it.
5. Take your Vitamins
In my case this meant taking my prenatal vitamin. This week has honestly been the first time since the first week of December that I could swallow any kind of vitamin or supplement without throwing it back up right away. I told her that I’d been throwing it up and she said blend it in my smoothie! Why didn’t I think of that? No matter how healthy you are eating chances are good your body could use a little more of something. This is especially true in the winter when so many favorite fruits and vegetables are out of season. I highly recommend taking New Chapter Perfect Prenatal Multivitamin, pregnant or not. This is an organic plant-based vitamin. Instead of a traditional vitamin that is made from synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements, this vitamin is made from plants. I figure if God made it, it’s the best option. It’s a little more expensive than some but you really are getting what you paid for. I also like to take fish oil capsules and recently started taking a good magnesium and calcium supplement.
I had a magnesium deficiency last pregnancy that manifested itself in the form of horrible nerve pain and Charley Horses in my calves and feet (no matter how many bananas I ate). I was talking with one of my best friends who shares a lot of ideas that I do and she mentioned that after her last baby was born she was a bit depressed and had a hard time getting past it. She went to her midwife and was tested positive for a magnesium deficiency which she was told played a major roll in mood! I had no idea they could be related. So after my history of low magnesium and my pregnancy depression I asked my Midwife if taking magnesium again would be ok and she thought it was a good idea.
So take your vitamin and make educated choices about what other supplements might help you be your best.
I know these seem simple, but often times it’s these simple little things that we let slide and I think our body takes notice. I’ve been dedicated to faithfully trying to do each of these 5 things every day and it has helped me ten fold. Even if it’s just a placebo affect, it’s worth it. Feeling like I can wake up in the morning and face the day ahead is a feeling I’ve missed. No, I don’t feel 100% like myself; I’m still pregnant and pregnancy is hard. I do feel like a fog has been lifted though and that I can function on a fairly healthy level.
I know I’m not the only who who has dealt with depression. We aren’t alone in this struggle.
If you have, on a small or large scale, I’d love to know. Have you found anything that helps you feel more like yourself?
Thanks for letting me spill. You all are my friends and I appreciate your kind words and comments daily. Thank you for being here.