Last week, I gave you my intro to this mini-series on PPD, as well as a little bit of my struggle with it. Today, I want to concentrate on several practical, physical ways of dealing with PPD. Next week, we’ll deal with some more spiritual strategies.
Eat! Feed yourself well. Do not feed the kids PB&J, and skip lunch yourself, only to fill up with a Snicker’s later. Especially as a nursing mom, our bodies need all the proper nutrients to function correctly, and when you start skipping meals, or favoring junk food, your body, your brain, and your emotions are affected by that. Now, I know there are a lot of nutritional theories out there about the best way to eat nutritiously, but I’m not getting near that can of worms. If you have a specific food philosophy, do that. If you don’t, concentrate on eating real food instead of junk food. PB&J on whole wheat bread with a banana on the side is a healthy lunch (and yummy, especially if you put the banana on the sandwich and drizzle with honey!). If you are nursing, snack when you give your kids snacks. You need it.
Drink! Water, preferably. Your brain does some really funky things when dehydrated. Don’t give it the chance. If you’re nursing, make sure you’re drinking even more. If you get tired of water, try herbal tea.
Get some exercise! As a mom with almost 6, I get it—this is really hard to pull off. I’ve been seen walking down our neighborhood street with 2 kids in a double jogging stroller, 2 more on bikes, and 1 in a baby carrier (this was before getting pregnant). I’m sure it looked like a complete circus. It kind of felt like one. But in the end, we had filled an hour of our morning productively, and I had gotten all my muscles moving. If you can’t do that, find some fun work-out video. Your kids can do it with you. I promise, your husband will only laugh the first couple of times. Then he’ll get used to it. I was very happy to find a treadmill on craigslist last year, and I try to head to the basement at night in the winter, after the kids are in bed. I’ll watch something on my ipod, or listen to a sermon, and try to put a half hour in. It really does make a difference.
Get outside! Tell yourself you need your vitamin D dose for the day and head outside. Even if all you can do is get your kids to a park while you sit on the side and nurse the baby, do it. Again, it fills time in a productive and fun way for them, and allows you to see the sun a little bit. I’ll admit—this is much harder to do in the winter. But if you’re feeling blue, make yourself get out. Put it on a list, tell your husband to make you do it, whatever. Just make sure it happens, every day if you can.
Get out of the house! If getting outside is not an option for you (as it sometimes is not for me in New Jersey in the winter), try to make a plan to get out of the house. Find a nearby mall and take your kids to the play-place. Take the kids to McDonald’s and get them ice cream cones. Call a friend and make a playdate. As I have more children of varied ages with different homeschooling needs, this happens less and less for me. But I have learned that if I am desperate, it is well worth a messed-up school day to go spend the morning with a friend. One of my dear friends from our grad-school days lives about two hours from me, and when I am particularly blue, my husband will encourage me to go spend the day with her. It always helps.
Make a plan! I have been very helped in the past by structuring my days. Setting up a schedule means that I spend less time wallowing in how miserable I feel, or how little I am getting done. Start with breakfast, then clean up and throw dinner in the crockpot. Nurse the baby while reading to the toddler. Plan an art activity, then plan an hour of outside time. By then, it’s lunchtime and naps after that. After naps, have a snack, nurse the baby, and spend 20 minutes cleaning something. Make your kids help. Then it’s 5 o’clock, and at our house, that means the kids watch an hour of TV (or maybe listen to books on tape if you’re a better mother than I?) while I get dinner on the table. Then Dad’s home!
Take each day 1 day at a time. Don’t panic thinking about the next 3 months with a newborn. Take it one day at a time. Try to enjoy the downtime in the evenings with your husband and recharge to face the next day. Not the next 3 months, just the next day. As you nurse the baby first thing in the morning, pray that God will give you grace for this day.
Next week, I’ll focus on a few spiritual strategies that have been crucial for me.