It’s the middle of winter AND the middle of a pandemic, and you may be preparing for birth or navigating postpartum. We understand this can be A LOT.
Rather than push these things to the side or try to distract yourself from these realities, it can be helpful to acknowledge and name what you are experiencing. This first step can support you in taking the new steps towards healing and support. In this blog, we will address the types of depression you may experience, as well as a range of tools for working with depression.
Naming Your Depression
Per NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Health, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that recurs regularly at certain times of the year, usually beginning in late fall or winter and lasting into spring. While the reported incidence of SAD in the general population is four to 10 percent, some studies suggest that up to 20 percent of people in the United States may be affected by a mild form of the disorder.”
Shorter days with less sunshine can contribute to changes in mood, appetite, and sleep. The symptoms of SAD can be quite similar to other forms of depression: irritability, low energy and fatigue, increased anxiety, difficulty focusing, and low libido.
In addition, the past several months of life with COVID have been very trying for everyone, and mental health experts are also seeing an increase in what is now being called Pandemic Affective Disorder (PAD). We are currently facing extreme levels of uncertainty and change during the pandemic. Amongst so many other things, our support systems have changed since March 2019.
Finally, as you have likely discussed with your care provider, “many women experience some mild mood changes during or after the birth of a child, 15 to 20% of women experience more significant symptoms of depression or anxiety.” (Info from Postpartum Support International) Some birthing people experience anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues as they navigate the changes brought about by pregnancy and postpartum. Check out our article on postpartum depression here.
All of these experiences of depression are real and valid. Furthermore, you deserve to access the care, resources, and tools you need to feel better, lighter, and held. If you or a friend are facing any of these forms of depression, we encourage you to reach out for help.
Tools for Coping with Depression
With all of these factors at play, your self-care and mental health care are CRUCIAL. Your wellness, which includes physical, emotional, and psychological is of utmost importance to us, and we invite you to take time to create or check in with your own needs and support systems. Please take what works for you from this and leave the rest.
- Connect with a therapist and/or psychiatrist. There are tons of great platforms for finding a therapist that aligns with your needs; these include Inclusive Therapists, Therapy Den, and Psychology Today. You can also search through your insurance.
- Make appointments to check in with yourself or someone else. Have weekly check-ins to assess how you are doing overall, what’s working, what’s not working, and so on. You might like to do this with a therapist, friend, partner, life coach, or accountability buddy, as well!
- Establish your routes of safety. These are 8 ways you can access and create safety for yourself. You’ll ask yourself “What makes me feel safe?” and consider 8 different routes to getting there.
- Spend as much time outdoors as you can. Because the daylight hours are limited, do your best to keep window shades open and spend time outside when you can.
- Engage in joyful movement. While sometimes we need more rest and coziness during the winter months, movement is an important way to get endorphins. Focus on movement that feels fun, energizing, silly, playful, and pleasurable.
- Connect with loved ones. Whether this is outside with masks or via Zoom, connecting with friends, family, and community is important. If you are feeling isolated, reach out and let a friend know you could use some company.
- Create boundaries with technology. While technology is one of the main ways we are staying connected, it can sometimes become a source of drain and depletion. Notice which apps and tech-based activities feel uplifting and supportive, as well as the ones that feel exhausting or uninspiring.
- Use a habit tracker to encourage supportive behaviors. Offer yourself some accountability to do the things you know are helpful. This mandala habit tracker can be a fun visual!
- Attend support groups. There are tons of online support groups happening due to COVID. Check out all of these options from Postpartum Support International.
- Ask for help from your support system. You don’t have to do this alone, and, in fact, you can’t. We need one another!
Your Midwife Team at Sweet Child O’ Mine Is Here For You
While there is a lot going on, it is our hope that you feel seen and supported. As part of your birth team, we are here to listen, support, and make referrals. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help taking the next step in navigating depression.
If you or a loved one is facing a mental health emergency, please use this text and hotline for support.