Depression can take the wind out of anyone’s sails. And mothers can be particularly prone to it.
It’s been said that the loneliest feeling in the world is being around those you love…and still feeling alone. This is not a statement meant to be overly dramatic. This kind of depression, loneliness, existential dread, call it what you will, is the everyday reality for millions of women in the United States who stay home with their children. “Momming” can be extremely difficult, and can take not only a physical toll but also be exacting both mentally and emotionally.
The worst part of it all is that it instills the desire in many dedicated mothers to run away and abandon those whom they could never live without, and it also instills the acute, unsettling feeling that one of life’s highest callings – motherhood – might slowly be killing them.
Stay-at-home moms suffer more
As it is, one in five women in the U.S. experiences depression at some point in her life.
You might think that career women would by far experience far greater stress and inclination for depression, but the opposite is true.
A 2012 poll shows stay-at-home mothers struggling with negative emotions (i.e., worry, sadness, stress, anger, and depression) by far outnumbering career moms and career women with no children. Perhaps not surprisingly, low-income stay-at-home mothers suffer the most.
Add to that feelings of shame and guilt when mothers experience signs of depression and anxiety. More often than not affected mothers do not treat it like the mental illness or ailment that it is, but rather they fear that others will see it as a sign of failure or weakness. Many mothers indulge themselves in berating thoughts about themselves, otherwise known as negative self-talk. They promptly tell themselves that they are bad or incompetent mothers and that they will never “add up.” They will likely be hard on themselves for not “finding the joy” in motherhood that they assume all other women are enjoying.
Why moms are more prone to depression
Depression is usually linked to a sense of hopelessness, of being overwhelmed, and dark feelings of not having any control over one’s own life. Imagine feeling like you have to be “on,” and energetic, and chipper. All. The. Time. Meanwhile, your reward all too often looks like:
- The never-ending and often excruciating monotony of your day-to-day routine
- Constant feelings of isolation
- Little to no recognition for all your efforts
- Little to no respect
- No income of your own
In short, lots of work and effort day in and day out, with seemingly little to show for it. Add anxiety (a frequent bedfellow of depression) into the mix, often in the form of having to do everything “perfectly,” and it’s no wonder that the sense of being overwhelmed can be so suffocating for so many mothers.
What “Mom Depression” looks like
Depression attacks and undermines your ability to function from one day to the next. For mothers it may look like pronounced weight gain, fatigue/lack of energy, difficulty concentrating and with carrying on conversations with other adults, disrupted sleep, feelings of worthlessness and insignificance, lack of self-care because of putting everyone else’s needs before yours, and an increasingly unhealthy diet. Loneliness and despair can’t help but set in to stay for a while.
Many mothers, before seeking help, and rather than have a noisy emotional outburst, will go through a process of withdrawal and “emotional implosion.”
What to do
If you’re a mother yourself and any of this sounds familiar for you, start by reminding yourself that you’re not the only mom struggling. Here are a few things you can do in the name of self care:
Get Moving: Exercise!
You might not feel you have time for exercise, amid all the housework, cooking, laundry, taking care of the kids, getting errands done, etc. It is, however important that you carve out some time, even if it’s just 20-30 minutes (or even two to four 10-minute blocks spread out throughout the day) to get your blood flowing. Your mind will be more clear, and your body will feel better. Whether you decide to get up a little earlier, or ask for some help from your spouse or partner to watch the kids, the rewards will be worth the efforts.
Get Out: Sunshine and Fresh Air!
The day might slip by way too quickly, but weather permitting, be sure to get yourself out in the fresh air for a little while every day. You can walk with your kids to the park and let them burn off some energy, or even just walk around your back yard. Just stretch your legs, breathe deeply, and enjoy the sunshine.
Eat Better: A Healthier Diet!
Unhealthy junk food saps you of your energy. Consuming unhealthy food on a consistent basis can leave you feeling chronically awful. Be sure to include some things for yourself on your shopping list next time you’re at the store. You don’t have to be completely gung-ho about cooking a super gourmet meal for yourself three times a day, but you can stock up on yogurt, nuts, carrots, hummus, etc. Maybe you could try out a subscription meal delivery service like Blue Apron and make sure you’re nourishing yourself properly.
Find a friend: Venting!
It would behoove you to befriend other mothers in the same boat as you, either in your neighborhood, via social media, or perhaps in your congregation. Friends can be good sounding boards, and can help you find perspective amidst your own worries. It also feels good to be there for someone else and help them find their own perspective. Your own problems will seem less significant. You might even be able to find a new friend at the gym if you can get away now and then.
These tips will certainly help, but they will not solve your problems, especially if you’re going through a more serious case of depression. When all else fails, be sure to consult with a mental health professional.
Are you a mother struggling with negative feelings including feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, or depression? If you or someone close to you need to talk to a professional about depression and/or anxiety associated with being a parent, or about other mental health issues that seem overwhelming, we can help. Consider reaching out to our expert team at Solara Mental Health at 844-600-9747.