How to Manage Depression as a Parent

Being a parent requires the ability to manage multiple situations and people at one time. A parent is a household CEO, essentially overseeing daily operations.

Of course, those operations involve transporting children to school and extracurricular activities, cooking, cleaning, handling finances, balancing schedules, organizing events and familial-based quality control.  Depression affects more than 16 million American adults and (when severe) is the chief cause of disability for people between 15 and 44 years of age.

When major depression takes hold of a parent an entire chain of events can occur affecting the life of every person in the family. Depression during parenting years can also be confusing. There are mild forms of this affliction, which come and go quickly.

Depression is felt through an entire household. It is normal to adopt a “family first” attitude and put depression management on the proverbial backburner. The truth is, a parent suffering from major depression is most likely incapable of putting family first the way he or she used to before becoming depressed.  It is essential to learn how to manage depression as a parent for the good of the entire family.

Distinguishing Depression from Feeling Run Down

Experiencing symptoms of depression as a parent is not to be overlooked or underestimated. This is especially true for new parents, particularly mothers who recently gave birth. Hormonal changes occurring both during and after pregnancy can be, and usually are, drastic.

Post-natal hormonal fluctuations can cause a major crash in mental health called “post-partum depression” in mothers who have grown emotionally and biologically attached to carrying their baby. Post-partum depression must be monitored and treated to prevent it from becoming severe and potentially leading to thoughts of suicide.

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There is a difference between serious depression issues such as those experienced in post-partum phases and the depression-like symptoms parents feel when run down by daily activities. However, this does not mean those moments should be overlooked. It means recognizing them for what they are and handling them accordingly. You can do this by scheduling some time for yourself, getting good rest and accepting that even the strongest parents have some tough days.

The Battle for Me-Time

Wrangling time for yourself to help manage depression is frequently more challenging to achieve than expected. There are several factors that prevent personal time for a parent, including:

  • Logistics.
  • Guilt.
  • Finances.
  • Cleaning/Maintenance.

The responsibilities of a parent are immense.  Schedules are already full. Parents can feel guilty for shutting out everything but themselves and recharging. Money can be tight and impact the ability to get a massage, go see a movie, or join the gym.

Tight finances are already a major contributor to parental depression without trying to fit personal activities into the budget. Houses need to be cleaned and maintained. Whether this means daily or weekly upkeep or a complete household makeover, cleaning and maintaining a home takes time.

Still, one of the best ways to manage depression as a parent is to prevent its onset by finding time to manage their wellness. For example, working parents can turn one or two weekly lunch breaks into meditation, workouts or yoga time. In modern times, access to information online is nearly instant regardless of location or situation, which makes meditation and other relaxation exercises accessible.

Manage Your Money

Disagreements about money cause some of the most prevalent arguments between couples. Managing the family budget can be an essential tool to managing finance-related depression. Parents can sit down individually and as couples to discuss the inclusion of personal money in the household budget.

Support Systems

Parents suffering from depression need to surround themselves with at least one support system. This can be in the form of group meetings and forums, whether in person or online. People who have depression often develop the mindset that they are alone.

This is simply not true and a huge factor in managing depression as a parent is to realize other parents are suffering too. Reach out and go to meetings where discussions are open, and support is readily available.

Seek Professional Help

In the event depression has taken hold and is impacting daily familial life to even the smallest degree, it is time to seek professional help. Managing depression through the help of a trained professional allows parents to continue managing their households without interruption or the crushing feeling of letting children down.

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Managing a household while dealing with clinical depression requires significant understanding from other family members, as well as a strong support structure outside of the family.

Additional Tools

Diet and exercise play huge roles in managing depression as a parent. Reducing intake of sugars and processed foods improves physiological functionality and increases energy levels. Caffeine is perhaps the most common pick-me-up in the world. Consuming it in moderation is essential for active parents, however. Excessive amounts of caffeine actually have the opposite effect expected and can cause serious mental and emotional crashes, not to mention disruptions in quality of sleep.

Exercising and stretching are proven to have key effects in managing depression. Support groups and trainers provide encouragement and camaraderie for parents looking to help mitigate their depression through exercise. If hiring a trainer is not in the budget, suggest group trips to the gym at support groups or look online for workout partners. Clinical depression cannot be cured by exercise alone, but it is a great tool to utilize in the fight to help manage chronic depression.

Finally, spirituality can be a key part of depression treatment. Regardless of religious affiliation, taking time to meditate and focus on positive messages each morning, and reflection on daily events each night, can help keep negativity at bay. Quiet moments alone recharge energy levels and help manage depressive thoughts.

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