As a new parent, you want the holiday season to be filled with joy and cheer. But with seasonal, holiday, or postpartum depression, you might not be feeling anywhere close to merry and bright, let alone jolly. With the stresses of gift-giving, shopping, cooking, and entertaining on top of caring for a newborn, it can be more than overwhelming. So, to make the most of your holiday season, here are our tips for how to help seasonal depression, holiday depression, and engage in postpartum depression self-care.
While this might be the season for taking care of others, especially as a parent, it is critical that you take care of yourself, too. In order to show up as the best parent possible, do your best to make sure you are eating healthy, sleeping well, and getting exercise. The sweets and treats can be tempting, and it is okay to indulge. But prioritizing your health by avoiding overindulgence is key. Especially if you are breastfeeding. Remember to stick to a healthy diet so that you can lift your spirits with improved mood, higher energy levels, and also offer the best nutrition to your baby.
While it might be hard to resist, avoid use of substances such as alcohol, tobacco, and unnecessary medication or drugs. Going overboard on anything is a health risk and can induce more stress and even guilt. Instead, try a relaxing meditation or yoga to relax and recover. Be sure to incorporate a regular exercise routine into your holiday schedule. And take note of how much sleep you are getting. Aim for eight hours and allow yourself naps when you need them. Remember, physical health and mental health go hand in hand, especially when tackling postpartum or holiday depression.
The holidays usually mean a to-do list so high it might topple over. With a little one in the house, it might just be impossible to get everything done on your own, or at all. It is okay to take a step back and let someone else take over. Get some space from the bright twinkling lights and jolly music to recenter somewhere quiet and calming for you. Prioritize a seasonal or postpartum depression self-care routine. Maybe you would benefit from a weekly spa day or yoga class. If you can, take time off of work and avoid a stressful vacation. If you aren’t feeling up to an event or task, remember it is okay to say no or reschedule.
Keep in mind that, although we might want them to be, the holidays don’t have to be perfect. And often they can’t be. So, do your best to not worry too much about making them flawless. Give yourself the space you need and let the events happen as organically as they can. Picture perfect may not be the right fit for you to have as relaxing and enjoyable of a holiday season as possible. Know that it doesn’t usually take much to make the time special for your child. Sometimes just snuggling up to watch a holiday movie is enough to let you and your little one relax and enjoy.
While you’re busy worrying about taking care of everyone else, don’t forget that taking care of your own emotions is essential. If you have negative thoughts or feelings, do your best to not let them fester. If you recognize that something specific is stressing you out, work with your support system to better understand it and find a solution. If it’s all of the food, make a pact to keep your house free of excessive unhealthy items. If it’s loneliness, find ways to get out in the community. Set up time to talk with family and friends when possible and if you are feeling up to it. If it’s finding the perfect gifts, pick one item or theme for everyone and stick with it. Who wouldn’t want socks and slippers or a book and a mug?
And even if it can be a little chilly, do your best to get outside during the warmer hours to enjoy the fresh air, and hopefully, a little sunshine. Especially when it comes to how to help seasonal depression, getting outside can make a much bigger positive impact than you might expect. If you’re feeling sad and stressed and don’t know why, excessive news and social media consumption might be the culprit. Media can put additional stress on you during the holidays when you hear bad news or compare your lives to other seemingly perfect “happy” parents. Be aware that it might improve your mood to ease up on these stimuli and replace it with something more calming, like a good book, some relaxing music, or a favorite movie, until you’re feeling better.
Understanding what you are going through better can be a key to finding the best solution for your seasonal, postpartum, or holiday depression. When you have time, reflect on what you are experiencing and then try to do some research to better understand it. If you believe you are experiencing a temporary, non-severe depression, know how to recognize the signs and symptoms which might include fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, loss of interest, social isolation, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. You might also notice changes in sleep, appetite, and weight gain.
If you find yourself noticing a few or many of these changes, let your support system know how you are feeling. Reach out to a loved one, maybe a spouse, parent, sibling, or friend to get help monitoring your symptoms. Be sure to talk to a medical professional about what you are going through as soon as you can. Getting professional treatment early, especially for postpartum depression, can be instrumental in making improvements that help you get back to enjoying your holiday, and life, as much as possible.
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we want our families to be as happy and healthy as their bodies will allow this holiday season. We know it can get hectic and stressful, even during “the most wonderful time of the year,” so please, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional for how to help with seasonal depression, enjoy the holidays more, and tailored tips for postpartum depression self-care. Our passionate Coastal Kids pediatricians are here to help your family be their best, healthiest selves. To make an appointment visit us at www.coastalkids.com.