Feeling isolated and depressed as a stay at home mom? In this post, I share helpful tools for depressed stay at home moms.
Hi friends. My name is Chantal – welcome to my blog!
Let me start this post by saying that I am NOT a doctor of any kind. You should consult your primary physician if you are experiencing depression. Take my advice at your own risk. You know the deal. 🙂
That being said, all of the advice I want to share with you today is based on my personal experience. I have a long history of SAHM depression.
I’m a mom of two and I have been a stay-at-home mom for over six years now.
I have actually dealt with depression from the young age of 13 – so my history with it is truly LONG. I’d love to tell you that as a personal trainer and veteran SAHM, I have my SAHM depression 100% under control – but it just isn’t so.
But I have found several ways to keep my own depression under control – and I want to share those coping mechanisms with you. I also want to share other helpful resources for other depressed stay at home moms.
Beating Depression As A Stay At Home Mom
I feel that depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are a bit like alcoholism. You’re never truly “done” with it. You aren’t magically cured of any of it – no matter what drug or coping mechanism you try.
While you can learn to manage it, avoid relapses, and enjoy life after it, you will always be fighting it.
I tell you this not to discourage you – but to help you shift your perspective a little bit. This is something that I have found to be important on my own journey.
While I used to play the victim and blame my SAHM depression and anxiety on everything, now I have drawn a line that allows me to fight back more readily. I want to empower you to draw your own line in the sand, so that you can do the same.
My Philosophy When It Comes To Mental Health
I have two major beliefs when it comes to mental health conditions and treatment.
The first concept is that mental health is often related to physical fitness and nutrition. As a society, we are moving and eating completely differently than we were even fifty years ago. If you don’t believe that there’s any correlation between food, fitness, the huge influx of mental health conditions and positive diagnoses, I’d beg you to reconsider. As you’ll find out with a little research, there’s actually quite a bit of evidence that supports my idea.
I really think that we can to learn to manage mental health issues with food and fitness.
Secondly – and this might touch a nerve for some – I believe that it is easy for people with mental health disorders to play the victim. What I mean is that many people start to use mental health issues, from depression to bi-polar disorder, as an excuse for behavior.
I say this because I have done it – not because I’m trying to be judgmental.
The thing is that once you get diagnosed with something, you have something to blame everything on. (I am pretty sure that I’m bipolar, but I have actually been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I don’t want another diagnosis because I think the mental effect can be negative.)
My perspective is that it’s easy to use your diagnosis to excuse negative behavior. When you let it become your whole identity, it can allow you to feel worse and enjoy your life less.
That’s what happened to me, anyway.
I’d say, “I’m depressed,” and then just use that as an excuse to skip responsibilities, lay in bed, and not take any action. I avoided family members, and resented those who didn’t help me (even though they didn’t know they needed to). When I could have taken small steps to improve my mood or health, I didn’t. Now that I’ve drawn my “line in the sand,” I can now use my toolbox to turn my whole day – or even week – around.
Of course, it’s easier-said-than-done. I fully understand that depressed people don’t always have the tools to turn their lives around – but that doesn’t mean they can’t take the first step. (Stay tuned, because I’m going to share how I did it.)
How do depressed stay at home moms cope?
I quite literally became a certified personal trainer to cope with my own depression. After a long history of testing various medications, I had almost thrown in the towel. I decided that I would rather find ways to cope with my depression naturally than to rely on medication to dictate my mood.
However, you to be willing to take the first step in managing your depression. (Read my tips on combatting postpartum depression here.)
Once I realized that my days were significantly better after exercise (hello, endorphins!), I realized that I wanted to be a personal trainer. I wanted to be held more accountable for my own physical fitness.
But that didn’t always make it easy to show up for my work outs. I had to make that choice on my own – and I still struggle with it. But now I know what things can help me. I can pull myself out of a dark hole if I simply make the choice to put one foot in front of the other. P.S. – You don’t have to be a SAHM to experience depression or use these tips. 🙂
Now I want to share my favorite tools with you. Here we go.
9 Helpful Tools For Depressed Stay At Home Moms
1. Your Doctor
I have to admit – if I hadn’t been with the same doctor for over 20 years, I may have never gone to my doctor for treatment for my depression and anxiety. At least at that time in my life.
(Even though my doctor had put me on depression medication at about 14 after therapy didn’t work, I found myself back in her office for postpartum depression at 23.)
There’s some shame and embarrassment that comes with admitting that things aren’t “right.” I get it, I really do.
But trust me when I say that your doctor wants to help you – and won’t even bat an eye if you tell him or her that you’re struggling. (Mine didn’t! They got into health care to help!)
They’ll likely ask you about what you’re doing to fight back – exercise, food, medication? Then they’ll maybe try you on some meds for treatment. I was given meds, but I was also given some resources about nutrition, exercise, and how they play a part when it comes to depression and anxiety.
Just talk to your doctor if you’re feeling depressed – even if you think it’s just the “baby blues.” Trust me when I say that if not taken care of, it can turn into a long and deep depression – and you just don’t want to spend your life like that. Go to your health care provider, please. If you need help, reach out to trusted family members to see if one might go with you. It could help.
2. National Mental Health Hotline
Just like there is a suicide hotline, there is a national mental health and substance abuse hotline. (It’s not just for depressed stay at home moms.) I have never used it, but I wanted to put it out there in case you might. They are open 24/7, 365 days a year, and offer it free of charge. However, from what I gather, this service is designed to help you find local help. So, if you’ve already gone to your doctor, you might already have the hook up on resources. Still, it’s a good resource if you’re just taking your first step. 🙂
Obviously, you know that I discovered exercise as a great combatant against my depression. It’s a huge part of my personal treatment plan. You probably already know that exercise makes you feel good, especially afterwards. But there’s actually a lot of literature that supports it!
Exercise can really boost your mood and mental health – as there are actual physiological responses to an increased heart rate and exercise in general. The “feel-good” hormones known as endorphins are released, and cortisol (the stress hormone) is lowered. I promise that if you exercise in the morning, it will totally change your day.
I know it’s hard to just “motivate yourself” when it comes to exercise. It’s not easy. But my tip is to give yourself some accountability – sign up with a personal trainer, join a boot camp, or find some way to make your exercise time a social event. Others will be counting on you, making you more likely to show up.
Here’s some literature on the exercise / mental health correlation:
- Exercise + Depression & Anxiety
- Drugs vs. Exercise for depression (from Harvard)
- Exercise in alleviating clinical depression symptoms
(A quick Google search will yield much more!)
Another tip I have regarding exercise is to start with a goal that is super plausible in your life. Rather than setting a bunch of lofty goals, just decide to work out for five minutes. This can be as simple as a walk outside, 5 minutes on the treadmill, or a few sets of pushups and sit ups. You’ll feel better! And chances are you’ll want to exercise a bit longer once you see how good it feels.
4. Dietary Changes
Did you know that what you eat can affect your mental health? It’s true! My doctor is passionate about mental health and she loves natural interventions, which I appreciate. She told me that she holds monthly workshops on seratonin (known as the happy chemical) and mental health.
Seratonin is supposed to help regulate mood, improve sleep and digestion, and is what helps us feel happy.
But did you know that seratonin levels can be boosted by eating various foods? Yep!
Here are a few foods known to help boost those happy vibes:
Now, on the other hand, it is believed that a diet higher in processed foods and sugar can contribute to depression. (Check out this article and talk to your doctor about it to learn more.) We know that they are both linked to a number of health issues, so your best bet is to improve your diet anyway.
Related Reading: 25 Meal Prep Snack Ideas (Quick & Easy)
5. Support Groups
Being isolated when you’re depressed is not good. There are actually a lot of groups dedicated to helping depressed stay at home moms, especially postpartum ones. You can check the What To Expect community, Facebook, and even Pinterest and other social media platforms for these groups. (I would also look into your local MOPS groups.) Here are a few lists of support groups that I found with a quick Google search:
6. Baby & Me Activities
There a TON of groups and organizations designed to support new moms and young families. (Again, being isolated can be really harmful.) Sometimes you just have to look for them! So far, I have seen baby and me exercise classes, painting classes, playdate groups, and so much more! There’s Hike It Baby (a hiking group for young families), yoga for moms of newborns and toddlers, and more.
It’s worth going to one of these, even if you know you might only go once. Even if you don’t have a new mom tribe, getting out of the house is healthy.
One of the worst things a new mom can do is abandon her hobbies. Trust me!
However, having a new baby around can make pursuing your hobbies a little harder. So, it might be time to try doing your hobbies in a new way, or maybe trying new ones altogether. Read this post to find some new healthy hobby ideas. Whatever you do, don’t quit doing things you enjoy on a personal level just because you have a new responsibility. Happy mama = happy baby/kids.
This goes with the last one, but it can mean much smaller acts and habits. Don’t forget to take care of yourself!
It can be as simple as painting your nails, or as elaborate as taking a girl’s trip to the beach for the weekend. Maybe you invest in better sleep with Q Sleep spray. Just take care of yourself. If you need some simple, cheap or easy self-care ideas, you’ll want to read this post.
9. New Purpose
What do I mean by this? I mean that maybe it’s time to take a new class, get a new certification, finish your degree, or start that blog.
If you’re a depressed mom, it can be helpful to put your mind to something new. This will give you purpose, something specific to work on each day, and give you a new sense of accomplishment. When I became a SAHM, starting and learning how to blog helped me focus on other things. Later, with my second child, getting my personal training certification helped me feel that sense of purpose, too.
I hope that if you’re one of those depressed stay at home moms out there, this post will give you new hope and something specific to work on. Even though depression is tough, you have the power to take the reins. Hopefully you can kick your SAHM depression to the curb using a few of these suggestions.
Best of luck on your journey to beating depression as a stay at home mom.