5 Powerful Tips On How To Beat Postnatal Depression

Most people have heard of postnatal depression (PND) only on a theoretical level. Likely, they perceive it as something that does not concern them (of course, unless they have a personal experience with it or a loved one who suffered or is suffering from this illness).

I perceived it the same way until it hit me hard. So hard that I ended up being on the verge between life and death.

That is when I understood very quickly that postnatal depression concerns every parent, regardless of their age, gender, mental health history, or lifestyle.

Now, what actually is postnatal depression?

A professional definition says that postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. It’s a common problem, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth (note – these are the cases that have been reported, but I cannot help but think about the number of cases that never have been). It can also affect fathers and partners. It’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed, as your symptoms could last months or get worse and have a significant impact on you, your baby and your family.

However, from a PND survivor’s perspective, postnatal depression is a synonym for hell. It is the darkest place you can get to. Something that takes over your brain and you suddenly have no power over your thoughts or deeds (or both). It is a disease like any other, the only difference is that it is not visible.

In my opinion, the definition does not really matter for a lot of mums who struggle and don’t seek help because they believe “it is not depression”. Sure, it might not be at that moment, but not seeking help might mean it will lead to it.

So if you feel something is not ok with you, don’t underrate it. It does not matter if you feel sad or suicidal – in both cases, it is essential to act.

Now, what should we do?

Since postnatal depression is a disease, it is essential to seek professional help.

However, when you hit rock bottom, it is not easy is to speak to professionals about how you feel. I get it. I have been there so I know very well it is much easier said than done. Sometimes, only the idea of doing so can cause you to feel even lower.

As a new mother, you get all the relevant phone numbers to reach out should you ever feel low, but let’s be honest, how many people do you know that would talk to a stranger about how they feel if they happened to be on the edge?
If you feel like talking to a professional is too much for you right now, start with baby steps (how ironic).

Here are my 5 tips I recommend to start with.

1. TALK.

This is the most important thing you need to do – no matter what. Even if you do not follow any of the below advice, this one is an absolute essential.

By no means, keep your feelings to yourself. Choose someone you trust and talk to them about how you feel.

I also welcome you to join my Facebook group You Are Not Alone where you can share anything without worry to be judged in any way, meet other like-minded mums and get relevant support and advice. Talking to strangers can be an important step that gives you the courage and strength to talk to your loved ones.

When you speak out, not only will a huge weight be lifted off your shoulders (this itself is pretty therapeutic), but it will likely lead to further sources of support.

I suffered from postnatal depression in silence for a few months and when I finally opened up to my friend about how I really felt, I suddenly could not understand why I hadn’t spoken out much earlier. Speaking out itself encouraged me to speak more. And frankly, it was the most powerful step on a way to my recovery.

So please – never keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself. Not even those scary ones – especially those!

Talk to other mums and I guarantee you will learn they feel the same or similar to you. Remember the old days when mums spent most of the time together, constantly helping each other out? Today, we go through motherhood alone. We are afraid to ask for help and we don’t talk to each other about how we feel, which itself causes a lot of extra stress and pressure.

2. EXERCISE

Exercising has proved to be one of the most effective therapies for a lot of mums, myself included. Whatever problem I had been dealing with on that day, after leaving the gym covered in sweat I felt like there was nothing I couldn’t handle.

This feeling is so empowering and special that it cannot be compared to anything. A real brain reboot. Incredibly powerful and healing!

So however hard it might feel – choose an exercise you enjoy and do it! Don’t think about it too much – just do it.

Exercise like your life depends on it.

Because it does.

3. ASK FOR HELP

Almost every mum has a tendency to do everything by herself and almost every mum learns the hard way to eventually ask for help anyway.

So the sooner you ask for help, the better for you and your family. Yes, getting help benefits your whole family.

Ask your friends or/and family members to cook for you… To watch your little one while you take some time “off”… To help you with housework… To do the shopping for you… The list is endless.

Don’t worry thinking that you will bother anyone. People are flattered when asked for help. It’s a win-win.

As someone clever once said – asking for help does not mean that you are weak. It means that you choose to remain strong.

I could not say it better indeed.

4. GET A REGULAR ME TIME

The term regular is crucial here as if you do something for yourself only once in a while, it won’t benefit you to a significant extent (although it will surely benefit you more than doing nothing for yourself whatsoever, that is).

Go out as much as you can. Get your hair done. Get your nails done. Spend time with other mums and perhaps set up a regular mums night out? Or even a 15-minute walk on your own. All these big little rituals are extremely beneficial for your well-being and for your family.

It might be hard at first, but the more you do it, the easier and more enjoyable it becomes.

If you feel you can’t take the time off for ‘YOU’ because you constantly have to look after your little one?  Then please Check the point #3 again. 😉

5. GO OUT

Spending most of the time at home with your baby is one of the worst things you can do for your mental health. I made this mistake myself and it was only with hindsight that I realised how bad it impacted me.

So go and attend the baby groups, go for a walk, a coffee, to a shop, a playground, soft play, a swimming pool, visit a friend, arrange a play-date… Just don’t stay isolated at home.

Being out of there releases the pressure you are under big time!

I know it is easier said than done, but if I could do it, I know you can do it too!
I call these ‘baby steps’, but in fact, they are not small at all for they significantly improve your wellbeing and therefore your life.

And as soon as you are ready, talk to a professional! There might be times when you feel strong enough to think you don’t need professional help anymore. However, don’t be fooled by this illusion.

(Postnatal) depression is a serious disease so if you have even the slightest suspicion it has got to you – is getting to you – or was getting to you – don’t put it off and talk to your GP, health visitor, counsellor, midwife or anyone else you trust and are comfortable with as soon as you can.

When you have physical pain, you go and see a doctor, don’t you? If you don’t, the pain might go away or gets more bearable for some time – but most likely, it will come back eventually. And perhaps even stronger than before.

The very same goes for depression or any other mental issue for that matter. It is a disease like any other, the only difference is that it is not visible.

In any case, always bear in mind that this is just a stage that will pass. Just like all other stages in your life did… Once your baby starts to be more independent, once they start to smile, hug you, tell you they love you, make you laugh… You won’t be able to imagine your life without them anymore.

Always keep this image in your mind and let it be your light at the end of the tunnel whenever the dark thoughts take over.

As my husband once said to me – this is not the end, this is just the beginning.

God, how right was he! (They do get it right sometimes ;o)

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About Ivana Poku

I am a postnatal depression survivor, award-nominated blogger and author of 'Motherhood - The Unspoken' that reveals the unspoken truths about motherhood, helps set clear expectations and, in the process, reduces the risks of postnatal depression.

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