Posts Tagged ‘depression’

I’m Not Going to Stress-Eat the Holidays This Year

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

holiday health

I make a mean chocolate chip pumpkin bread. Totally tooting my own horn, I know, but it’s fine. It’s worth it. Because that bread is amazing. And because I grind the flour myself, and it has pumpkin in it, I convince myself that it’s practically a vitamin.

Vitamins are good for you, right? So it’s okay to eat it for every meal of the day.

It’s a lot easier to convince myself of this misguided truth when I am feeling the stress of the holidays. It seems that the shortened days filled with grayness and bitter cold are never ending, and yet there is no time to do all the things that need to happen between Halloween and Christmas. So while I’m engaging into the fourth hour of a 30-minute craft that we both know won’t turn out, desperately trying to give the perfect neighbor/teacher present, those baked goods scream that they will offer validation and comfort in my distress. So I eat, and I numb, and I eat, and I numb, and then I wonder why I don’t have any energy to get the things done that I need to.

This holiday season, it will be different. We will be different! Because we are going to health-up the crap out of this season. Here is my plan.

  1. Drink all the water. If part of your winter routine means putting on a Costco sized bottle of lotion each day, chances are pretty good that you aren’t drinking enough water. Shoot for half an ounce for every pound of body weight. You may pee every three seconds, but eventually, your body becomes accustomed to the increased water volume, and you return to your normal peeing patterns.
  2. Do an emotional inventory to identify what you feel like when you’re stressed. Sometimes during the holidays, we go into panic autopilot, where we just do things to get them done because we know we have to, and then we end up crashing and burning once our checklist is complete (or even when it isn’t). If you aren’t sure what your stress cues are, ask someone who knows you well what they notice about you when you’re stressed. Figure out what those are, and take a time-out when those cues pop up.
  3. Give yourself the gift of physical activity before the holidays start. Been eyeballing that Zumba class that meets at the rec down the street? Sign yourself up. Perhaps yoga is more your speed, or you’ve been wanting to try weightlifting. Find out what’s available in your area, and do what you can to treat yourself to this. Getting out and seeing other people who are taking care of themselves can be therapeutic in itself, and it will also give you the endorphins to make the stress more manageable. If nothing is available nearby, get a new DVD to work out with.
  4. Give yourself permission to say “no.” If someone asks you to do something and you don’t immediately want to respond with a resounding “yes!”, opt to take a beat to think it over. Practice saying no in the mirror until it feels comfortable. Decide that pleasing yourself is at least as important as pleasing others.
  5. Go ahead. Eat the pumpkin bread. Ask yourself first, though, if you’re eating to feel the joy inherent in delicious pumpkin bread, or if you’re eating to numb the stress and despair that can come with the season. Because when we eat treats to enjoy the treat, we are more likely to enjoy them, and we are satisfied a lot sooner. But if we eat them to stop feeling the difficult feelings, we tend to keep eating, and eating some more, and our poor emotional health starts to impact our physical health.

Enjoy the good things about this holiday season, because you deserve to experience joy. Seek out those things in your every day. And when it starts to feel like it’s getting difficult to find the joy, take a break. Watch some garbage television. Go to a spin class. Put the “me” back into “merry.”

Treat yo’self.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

What is PPMD?

Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

PPMD“So what brought you into the emergency room tonight?” I was seated across from the patient’s bed, desperate to remain composed and professional. It was the beginning of my shift, so professionalism should not have been a problem: I was rested, refreshed, and should have been focused. However, this particular patient had a three-week-old baby in the room, and it was taking all of my energy to pay attention to the adult and not the adorable bundle she brought with her.

My priorities realigned, however, when I noticed the strained smile on her face. There was a pause before she answered, as she struggled to compose her response, and suddenly tears spilled from her eyes as quickly as the string of words expressing desperation, sorrow, and guilt over how she was feeling about her new role as Mom.

Postpartum mood disorders affect up to 25 percent of new mothers, and symptoms can develop immediately after birth or months after your little one has come into the world. Depression manifests differently in different people, but typical symptoms include chronic crying, increased anxiety, feelings of despair or guilt, weight loss/gain, sleep disturbance, feeling distant from your child, and fixation on your child’s safety out of paranoia that something dangerous could happen, or thoughts of hurting your child yourself. Dealing with depression by itself is an exhausting task, and doing it while caring for a child can border on the impossible. Doing it without help can create dangerous situations, for both you and your child, and it’s important to ask for support when you recognize that things feel harder than they should.

So what can you do if you feel you or a loved one is having a hard time adjusting to parenthood?

  • Know the signs. Postpartum mental health concerns can arise at any point of the journey, including during pregnancy. Taking the time to check in with your own mental health on a regular basis can help you recognize when things are taking a turn, and knowing what to look for can help you see the red flags sooner rather than later.
  • Have a support person. Depending on where you live, the resources available for treating postpartum mental health can be difficult to navigate. Having someone to advocate for you while you find a good therapist and/or medication provider can make the difference between getting help and giving up.
  • Know that you aren’t alone. There are more individuals who experience postpartum depression each year than who sprain an ankle in that same year. As postpartum mental health becomes more widely understood, a “Congratulations!” will ideally be accompanied with a genuine, “How are you doing?”

When you’re feeling isolated, alone, and experiencing all the difficulties of depression/anxiety/OCD/psychosis, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to reach out and ask for help. If you are struggling, know that you deserve support, not only because it will benefit your child, but also because it will benefit you.

Keighty Brigman is terrible at crafting, throwing birthday parties, and making sure there isn’t food on her face. Allegedly, her four children manage to love her anyway. 

Coping with Weaning and Depression

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

weaning and depressionNursing is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do as a mom, and yet, I experienced a sadness each time when it was over, even though I some ways I felt like I had anticipated this moment from the time my daughters were each born.

Weaning marks a new freedom in your life, but also an additional separation between you and your baby. It’s normal and natural and good, but it can also be sad, especially so if this child is the last time you’ll get to experience the closeness of the mom/baby nursing relationship.

What can really complicate this already very sunrise/sunset moment is hormones. (Don’t they complicate everything? Geez.) Hormones are added and subtracted each time we cycle, get pregnant, have a baby, miscarry, start nursing, decrease nursing, or cease nursing. Each event kind of creates a trainwreck of the old mix of hormones making their way out while the new mix is making its way in, and that can make you feel pretty crazy, especially if you’re under any other additional stressors at the time.

There are some things you can do to help minimize the impact of the just the hormonal ups and downs. If there are additional things going on in your life while you are weaning, these tips may not help by themselves. You may need to talk to someone or seek some other solutions until things settle down in your life or until you adjust. But if you don’t have additional stress, try ideas for helping your body adjust to your new hormonal normal.

  1. Get exercise. When you wean, you’re suddenly deprived of oxytocin, that life-giving hormone that also carries with it a serious natural high. One way to get some of that high again is through exercise. New recommendations by some experts indicate that the average person needs not just 30 minutes a day, but an hour. And if you can get that exercise outdoors, even better. Sunlight and natural vitamin D are great for your immune system and your mood. I stay motivated to exercise by making it me-time. No double jogging strollers for me, thanks. I like to go it alone and have some time each day where I only have to worry about me.
  2. Breathe properly. Many times when we are feeling stress, the shoulders tighten, our chest tightens, and we end up hunched over and closed up. Focus on sitting with your shoulders back and chest open. Breathe deeply for a count of 5 or 8. Focus on your breath and nothing else. Here are 6 great breathing exercises that can help de-stress you. Encourage your kids to participate if they are with you and you need a moment.
  3. Don’t lean on sugar and caffeine to prop your mood up. It’s tempting to reach for a cup of coffee and comfort food when we feel down, but sugar can mess with hormones in a bad way. Make sure you’re eating enough protein and healthy fats, and try to keep processed foods to a minimum.
  4. Regulate your sleep. Sleep has a huge impact on mood and energy levels, but you probably didn’t need a blog to tell you that. Try to go to bed and wake at about the same time every day—even on weekends—and turn off electronics about two hours before bedtime. Dimming lights and eliminating screen time before bed will help everyone in your home transition to bedtime easier.
  5. Encourage the production of oxytocin. You can help wean your body off those big hits of oxytocin you used to get through nursing by giving it smaller hits. You get small doses of oxytocin released from your brain when you hug, snuggle, kiss, or cuddle with your kids and other loved ones. Oxytocin is also released when we spend time with our women friends, too. You heard it here first—girls’ night, doctor’s orders!

If you feel “off” during or after weaning and just can’t seem to recover your mood, talk to your doctor, midwife or doula, naturopath, or a counselor. There may be additional things you can do to help that don’t involve medication, but sometimes medication is a very helpful option, too.

Every mom’s journey is different, even the same individual with different children, so give yourself the space and grace to work through this time without judgment for how you get through it.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Oklahoma City.   

Shh! Mommy’s Meditating

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015


Shh! Mommy's Meditating

Gisele Bundchen shares an Instagram photo of her and daughter meditating.

I started my meditation practice a year ago. There’s a part of me that wishes I had started sooner, but then the bigger part of me knows that I wasn’t ready for it yet.

What I learned when I first started meditating is that you call it a meditation practice… practice being an important word. Practice because every single time you sit down to meditate you are practicing, and every single time you practice, you get better and better.

Whenever I mention to people that I meditate, they usually respond with “Oh, that’s really cool… I wish I did but I’m not really that good at it.” Or, “I know I’m not doing it right!” It bugs me that this is the response because there is no such thing as meditating wrong or right. So let’s discuss what the goal of meditation is.

The goal is to quiet your mind, to sit and be still…to sit and just BE. There is no doing in meditation. So you can never be “doing” it wrong. The intention behind meditation is to just exist for a little while, to just be.

A good friend of mine had her own meditation practice in place for five years. She said that when she was learning to integrate her practice, her teacher told her to think of meditation as a child having a tantrum. Perfect! We put the child in time out. They go to the corner kicking and screaming and within a few minutes, they start to calm down. They begin to relax and release their pent up energy that caused the tantrum to begin with.

This is how your mind works. You meditate by putting your mind in the corner for a few minutes. Your mind will kick and scream, thoughts racing, maybe you even feel guilt for taking time out for yourself…but within minutes, you are starting to calm down. The thoughts are starting to slow and you are practicing the state of being.

Moms need to meditate. Everyone needs to meditate, but moms in particular are stressful, chaotic, rattled creatures. My daughter dropped crackers on the floor this morning and I just about lost it.
I needed to meditate. Probably still do!

I know what you’re thinking… I’m a mom… I know.

I don’t have TIME TO MEDITATE!

Actually my friend, you do!

A meditation practice doesn’t have to be this holy ritual, perfect posture, perfect state of being in the right yoga clothes. You can meditate anywhere. When I worked my corporate job, I used to go into a conference room, lock the door and meditate. It was so helpful.

What I find is that guided meditations are good for me. There are thousands of these available on sites like YouTube and SoundCloud.

Another helpful way to meditate is to meditate yourself to sleep. If you find a nice guided meditation on YouTube, and set your phone up to play that as you wind down for the night, that is perfect. You can even just find some nice meditation music. Again, it’s the intention. There is no right or wrong way. I notice that when I meditate myself to sleep, I sleep restful, I remember my dreams, and I wake up happy and more fulfilled.

One of the most influential meditation teachers for me is a man named davidji. He has TONS of guided meditations and teaches us that you can really meditate anywhere and at any time. If you meditate and just focus on your breath for 5 minutes when you wake up in the morning…or before you get out of your car to go into work…that is so helpful.

It’s all about the intention.

Many moms are full of stress. We are…but we don’t have to be.

We absolutely, 100% deserve to have some time to be alone and just… BE. I want you to really soak that in because it’s true. And here’s the best part! When you begin to just let yourself be, and exist… parenting and raising happy, self-sustaining children is just an added bonus. Your kids will see you as an example and follow your lead.

So if you are a mom that only does things because of how it impacts your kids, take my word for it… you taking 15 minutes a day to meditate will only bring good things to the life of your children and help you BE a better mom.

I promise.

Sarah van Rijsewijk is the owner of Natural Peace Life Coaching in Glens Falls. She is the mother of one daughter.

Depression When You’re Weaning

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Depression When You're WeanThere is a wealth of evidence that many mothers experience the baby blues and post-partum depression after childbirth. But researchers have rarely studied the effect that weaning has on mom’s mood and well-being.

While you’re breastfeeding, your body is making more oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” Oxytocin is responsible for the muscle contractions that carry us through life: it plays a part in orgasm, birth, and breastfeeding. Truly amazing, complex stuff– and no wonder why the man-made copy, Pitocin, falls extremely short.

The window for postpartum depression has been greatly expanded in recent years, with studies showing that moms can experience symptoms starting just days or weeks after birth up to a year afterwards.

Scientists theorize that once the oxytocin levels return to pre-pregnancy levels after weaning, mom may experience a drop in mood levels because in addition to its contributions to creating life, oxytocin is also responsible for relaxation and psychological stability in our brains. But researchers don’t know for sure—because there is no data on oxytocin levels in women who wean naturally.

In 2012, a study was released linking depression with failed lactation, but that was centered around women who are forced to wean for one reason or another. Even then, it was hard for scientists to determine which problem was driving the other. Were these women weaning because the depression was too much, or was the weaning causing the depression? Most pregnancy research is baby-centered, admits Dr. Alison Stuebe, an OBGYN and assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina, who co-authored the study. “The mom kind of disappears from the radar” after that, she says. (Any new mom would probably agree that’s not just limited to research!)

Doctors say it’s normal to feel sad about the loss of the nursing relationship, even if you are ready to be done nursing. Many women say they feel tired, irritated, and sad, and experience mood swings similar to PMS.  These symptoms are completely normal and tend to disappear as quickly as they crop up. What you should watch for, say researchers, are symptoms that last more than a few days, change your daily activities, or your sleep patterns. If you don’t enjoy things that you used to, or find yourself lying awake at night when the kids are all sleeping peacefully, that should be a red flag.

I first became aware of post-weaning depression anecdotally. Mom friends from online group posted about having depressive symptoms, not after childbirth but after weaning, and I read a few mommy bloggers who talked about it. It was something I noted so I could be prepared for it with my second child. I hadn’t made it to a year with my first child, and hoped to nurse at least a year this time. However, I became pregnant when she was 10 months and she weaned in a few days when I started employing don’t offer/don’t refuse in a pregnancy panic. I was already awash with pregnancy hormones, and I never experienced weaning depression.

But now, I am in the process of weaning my third and final nursling. I’m not sure where in the process we are.

IMG_5789We moved a month after she turned one, so I committed to keeping it up for at least six more months so she could adjust completely to the change, and here we are at 18 months. Currently, she nurses first thing in the morning, and then on demand during the day. Sometimes it’s a few times, sometimes it’s just once that day. The sessions are very short and snacky, and she has to be extremely tired to actually nurse to sleep.

A month or two after she cut out regular pre-nap and pre-bedtime sessions in favor of reading books instead, I noticed a change in my mood. I would lose my temper and yell at the older kids. I didn’t want to go running, which I normally love to do. I quit caring if I got a shower or got dressed that day. I was putting off writing assignments until the last minute because I didn’t have the energy to do them. I felt hopeless and convinced that everything was going wrong in every area of my life. Sometimes I felt like everyone would be better off without me, even though I knew that wasn’t true. These feelings would last a day or two, and then I would feel like myself again.

I would love for someone to really study the effects of weaning on moms who wean naturally or purposefully. It’s confusing when you’re going through it because of how suddenly it stops and starts, and how the smallest thing can bring on such intense feelings. I feel crazy, because nursing is so hard, and you do look forward to not being confined to blocks of a few hours of freedom, to your children being independent and not needing you so much, and even to losing that layer of nursing fat that seems to hide all over your body. But then, when it comes down to really losing that relationship and never having that closeness again, it’s sad. It represents more than not nursing anymore; it’s you and your baby growing older and growing up.

I’m trying to work through my sporadic depression by taking the last placenta capsules saved from the birth of my last child, and committing to getting outside and running even when I have no desire to go. I know the sunshine, fresh air and the stimulation exercise gives my body will help. But at the same time, I am also committing to getting help and talking to someone if I can’t pull myself out of it, or if the symptoms last for more than a day or two.

If your child is weaning and you don’t feel like yourself, complete this depression checklist, which you can print and take with you to the doctor. Talk to your significant other, friends or family about how you are feeling, regardless of whether or not you think your feelings are warranted. If your doctor doesn’t understand, find one who will.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three who lives and writes in Queensbury, New York.