My depression and parenting responsibilities are constantly competing for my energy. Being depressed is hard work; it is a disease that simply leeches vitality and gives nothing in return. Being a parent is both grueling and thankless, but some moments make the struggles worthwhile.
So what happens when you have to parent while depressed? For me, it can turn into a clusterfuck of thoughts and emotions. My depressive mind keeps telling me that everything I do is futile and that I should just stay in bed. I have to keep reminding myself that I have this little person to take care of and, no matter how I feel, I have to keep going. The daily chore of balancing my parenting obligations with depression can be draining. So, I’ve compiled an arsenal of skills to help me cope on those days when negative thoughts and emotions seem most relentless:
1) Practicing Opposite to Emotion Action (OEA): OEA is the act of doing the opposite of what our emotions are telling us by consciously choosing to do things that are in line with our core values. This is a hard skill to master, but we all practice it every day when we wake up despite being exhausted or when we go to work or school despite not being in the mood. It’s easy to get fed up and go back to sleep or to start to ruminate and worry. But, by practicing OEA, we can mindfully strike back against the negative thoughts by doing what we believe is right.
2) Practicing self-care: There’s something to be said for the idea of putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. Depression is an illness that requires treatment, which often includes self-assessment and care. It’s so easy to get so swept away by parenting duties that we neglect our own well-being. We can take care of ourselves by practicing good sleep hygiene, by eating healthy, by exercising (even a short stroll counts), and by following doctor’s orders regarding any skills you should be practicing or medication you should be taking.
3) Practicing Mindfulness: Parenthood is rough, but watching your kids blossom and thrive is a never-ending source of awe and wonder. Hang on to these feelings by consciously keeping yourself in the moment. The reality of parenting means coping with ups and downs. But being mindful helps you maintain perspective while you guide your child through life’s discoveries and disappointments.
4) Practicing distress tolerance: When life gets most overwhelming, a distress-tolerance system can come to the rescue. This system can include deep breathing, grounding (consciously experiencing the world around you with your senses), finding healthy distractions, or even just walking away for a moment to gather your thoughts and re-center yourself. Having your distress tolerance toolkit on reserve can prevent you from shutting down or lashing out when you are depressed and frustrated.
5) Practicing asking for help: Seeking out healthy social support is critical when you are depressed. On days you are feeling low, asking for help is the strongest thing you can do for yourself, your child, and your family. Social support can come from many places, including family and friends, employing a caregiver, or even just checking out depression and parenting forums. The more you realize you are not alone, the less alone you will feel.
We all want to be good parents. But when depression gets in the way, we can feel torn and exhausted. The strategies above can be useful tools for coping with our most difficult moments when parenting and depression go head-to-head. So hold your head up high, keep doing your best, and know that you will get through this.
If you want to check out a good book about the effect of depression on parenting and the family, try reading “When a Parent is Depressed: How to Protect Your Children from the Effects of Depression in the Family” by William R. Beardslee.
Looking for more way to enhance your productivity and improve your mental health? Available now is The Mood and Productivity Journal. The Mood and Productivity Journal will give you a wonderful means to boost your happiness and productivity every single day.
Editor: Peter Khalil