The following strategies can improve levels of wellbeing for parents experiencing postnatal depression (PND) or antenatal depression and anxiety.
Find someone to listen to you
Talking about how you feel and what might be on your mind will help you to manage some of the symptoms of PND. It’s important that you talk to someone who can be really be present with you and listen to you rather than offering advice. A professional counsellor, your child and family health nurse, a doctor, a friend or a family member can provide this support.
Take time out
Having a break is vital to your sense of wellbeing. Taking a regular break to do something you enjoy just for yourself is important. Parenting a baby or toddler is a highly demanding job, sometimes undervalued in our society. Mothers and fathers deserve regular breaks, just like any other worker (especially as parents are on call 24 hours a day!).
Take up offers or ask a partner, family or friends to look after your child or children on a regular basis. Some parents use child care such as a community house, family day care, child care centre or occasional care. Ask your child and family health nurse, call your local council, or check your local phone directory for details.
You can find out more about babysitters and different types of child care.
I used to feel that caring for Tom was my job and felt guilty asking for help. Now I realise how much they enjoy being with him. Life is so much easier when I’m not exhausted.
Make time for exercise and eating well
Your wellbeing is directly related to your physical health. Regular exercise increases the serotonin levels in the brain, which causes you to feel good. A daily walk allows you to get out of the house, in the fresh air, experiencing a change. Arranging to walk regularly with other parents can make exercise enjoyable.
Eating well can be very difficult for busy parents. Have simple things on hand like fresh salad vegetables cut up ready to eat with dips, fruit and yogurt, wholegrain breads and hearty soups. These types of foods release energy more slowly and can be quite sustaining.
You can read more about healthy eating and exercise for new parents and healthy lifestyle choices for new parents.
Although making changes in these areas might not come easily at this time, the effort involved will bring rewards in how you feel. Try to involve others around you to help you take care of yourself.
Make social contact with other parents
Spending time with other parents, who you feel you can relax with, is very beneficial. When it’s ‘all feeling a bit much’, it can make a huge difference to how you feel if you can ring a friend to talk to. You can just get together when you feel the need to get out of the house. Joining a support group or playgroup might also help.
Video How other mums can help
‘It was my sanity’, says one mum of her weekly mothers group.
In this short video on parent support groups, Australian mums discuss the benefits of parents groups. These groups can help you deal with some of the ups and downs that come with being a new parent by helping you connect with other parents and share your feelings and experiences, both good and bad. This can be a great support during the tough times.