This article was originally published on January 20, 2012.
Editor’s Note: The suggestions in this article are not intended as medical advice or as the sole treatment of major depressive disorder. We hope the ideas here will inspire you in your motherhood today.
Are you depressed? If so, you’re not the only one. In fact, the third Monday of every January (last Monday) has been dubbed “Blue Monday” since 2005 when psychologist Cliff Arnall came up with a pseudoscientific formula for depression based on variables such as length of time since Christmas, holiday debt, lack of motivation after giving up on New Year’s resolutions, weather, and the “hibernation effect” – a time of year when people feel tired, don’t exercise, stay indoors and eat comfort food.
Depending on your situation as a mother, you could also be dealing with pregnancy or postpartum hormones, a feeling of isolation, physical exhaustion, incessant crying and whining, lack of appreciation for your work as a mother, or inability to find time for yourself to do anything rejuvenating. Sound familiar?
Of course, the symptoms and causes of “Blue Monday” are different from serious clinical depression which requires medication, but even this mild mannered form of depression can benefit from some form of “treatment” depending on how many variables are at work.
I, for one, am susceptible to this brand of depression. In fact, just last week I was having “one of those days” when an article about the winter blues caught my attention. Clad in my completely un-utilized workout clothes and ready to dive bomb into a carton of ice cream after spending one the most unproductive days in recent memory watching more Food Network than should be legal, something inside me suddenly clicked and I was back on track within 24 hours.
What made the difference? Realizing what was going on and then remembering there were things I could do to change the way I felt.
To illustrate, if you developed something as simple as the common cold, you would take action and do everything possible to get yourself feeling better again, right? So why is it that when we find ourselves feeling depressed, rather than treat the symptoms immediately and appropriately, we practically beg for more by brooding over every last detail of our lives (past, present, and future), eating lots of carbohydrates, staying home and keeping to ourselves, and avoiding anything productive that would actually make us feel better. Pardon the mental health pun, but it’s crazy!
And that’s the irony of depression: You don’t feel like doing anything that would actually make you feel better. But if you really do want to feel better and don’t believe you have clinical depression requiring medication (seek professional help if you’re not sure), please do yourself a favor and get in bed early tonight with a firm determination to wipe the slate clean tomorrow by treating those blues with more diligence than you would that common cold.
Following is my personal list of “helpers” for when I’m feeling down, but please add your own in the comments section below. There are so many moms out there (myself included) that will thank you for your shared wisdom!
- Use light therapy. This is the most commonly suggested treatment for SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) or the “winter blues.” I have a happy lamp that I sit in front of while reading or using the computer during the morning hours. I’ve also replaced the dingy, yellow light bulbs in my house with bright white “daylight” bulbs. What a difference! If you can, it also helps to get outside for a few minutes each day when the sun is at it’s brightest.
- Get more sleep. This is especially hard for mothers who have babies and children with nighttime issues, but if a lack of sleep throws you for a loop like it does me, it may just be worth it to let go of some of your daytime duties in order to nap whenever possible. (And please don’t stay up past midnight doing who knows what just because the house is quiet. It’s never worth it the next morning when the baby wakes up at 5am!)
- Exercise. I know. You don’t have time to take a Zumba class at the gym, but you could probably swing a half hour of doing Just Dance on the Wii with your kids (my latest fav) or taking a brisk stroller walk through the mall while running other errands. Do whatever you can to make exercise happen, because the benefits are huge.
- Watch your mouth. What goes in it, that is. Food has a very real effect on our moods, and the more we use that to our advantage the better. I take extra vitamin D and fish oil during the winter months, and I also try to cut back on unrefined sugar and carbs as much as possible. (The very thing I crave when feeling depressed! Ahhh!)
- Break out the aromatherapy, happy music, and good comedy. Again, doing Just Dance with my kids actually combines exercise, happy music, and good comedy (if you know what I mean) so this may be my top tip of the day. Now for a citrus scented plug-in in the playroom . . .
- Get out and get social. Women are social creatures, and we almost always feel better after getting out of the house and talking with other like-minded women. Start a Learning Circle, join a play group, or simply head out to story time at the library. A little goes a long way when it comes to human interaction.
- Last but not least, something NOT to do: Don’t punish your cluelessly upbeat husband through silence or anger because of his inability to read your mind, sense your every feeling, and interact with you like a professional therapist after being at work for 13 hours and putting the children to bed!
QUESTION: Are you depressed? If so, what do you think you can do about it?
CHALLENGE: Take the bull by the horns and turn “Blue Monday” on it’s head!
Photo by Fuschia Foot at www.flickr.com.