By Guest Blogger Dr. Juan Santos, CRC, LCMHC, of Santos Counseling
According to the National Institute of Health, 1 in 7 women can develop postpartum depression. In that number, two key items to keep in mind are the number of women that do not disclose due to the stigma that accompanies the diagnosis or a lack of appropriate diagnosis.
Three clear ways to prepare for postpartum depression or symptoms of anxiety include (a) maintaining a relationship with your medical provider, (b) gaining education on the symptoms of postpartum depression, and (c) maintaining an ongoing relationship with a mental health counselor.
Your physician can provide you with screeners to identify symptoms that connect with postpartum. Depending on the result of the screener, your medical provider can support you in identifying the next step. This can include working with a mental health provider.
An ongoing relationship with a mental health counselor can equip you with the tools needed to address symptoms of postpartum. The importance of this is that you can learn what to expect when postpartum takes place and how to navigate the anxiety and depression symptoms of postpartum.
Navigating Postpartum Depression
Below are ways to navigate postpartum when you are experiencing depression or anxiety.
Journal writing with a focus on mood.
I want to encourage you to keep a journal where you have space to log your daily mood and thoughts. The purpose of this is to use the data from the journal to identify how you are doing and when it is time to make a healthy shift in life.
For instance, if you notice that in the past two weeks, you have struggled to get out of bed and had negative thoughts about yourself. While in the past, you normally were out of bed daily at 7 AM and had multiple social interactions per week. You can highlight this in the journal and clearly see that there is a change from what you were doing. At this point, you can work with a counselor to address the change.
Exercise and sunlight are wonderful, free medicines.
Ample research highlights that exposure to sunlight and exercise can provide around the same effectiveness as medication.
The benefits of sunlight and exercise include a boost in mood, improvement in sleep, regulation of the immune system, increase in energy, reduction in anxiety, improvement in self-esteem, stress relief, and increase in stamina.
I want to encourage you to include sunlight and exercise as consistent practices in your life. You can start by going for an outdoor walk. This way, you get sunlight and exercise at the same time.
Self-care is a must.
The role of a parent in life requires an immense amount of energy. Often energy that most of us do not have.
Consider self-care in two domains. The foods you take in and the practice of rest. You can start by working with a nutritionist to gain a clear understanding of the foods you can take in to create a positive impact on your life. For instance, foods with iron and vitamin B12 can serve to improve energy. The intake of omega-3 fatty acids such as fish can support improving mood.
Rest is an area that must be considered when discussing postpartum. Typically, the first weeks after delivery are critical in the area of rest. I remember my wife undergoing a procedure that led to losing nearly half of her blood. This required a need for ample rest and recovery. I want to encourage you to evaluate your life and consider what a healthy and realistic amount of rest means to you.
You can start by engaging in the different types of rest. There is a wonderful TED Talk discussion, “How to Be a Better Human.” The discussion covers seven types of rest: physical, mental, sensory, creative, emotional, social, and spiritual.
Try to start with one per day.
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