Depression is common among parents from time to time but should not define your life.
The Parents Anonymous Group I attended was much like any group in society; almost everyone experiences prolonged sadness sometimes and we were no different. Many of us dealt with complicated or stressful situations heaped on top of the difficult role of parent. When one member was suffering, the other members pitched in to help in whatever way we could. In this three-part series on depression and feeling better, the suggestions of members are incorporated into a few that may help others.
Nix the News
The person who creates a good news only channel will probably be penniless. Why? Good news does not sell as well as bad news. Bad news sells so well that the worse it is, the more times they will show it to you. Days when you are feeling down, look out your window and make sure the world is still there. Yes, there are things we need to know but you can cut back very easily. Reinhold Niebuhr’s untitled prayer can help, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Don’t worry about something you are powerless to do anything about and turn off the news.
Negative thinking has a snowball effect, momentum gets it going and growing. We are often much harder on ourselves than reality permits. Recognize it for what it is; a negative tape that gets rewound periodically. Nobody is perfect, nobody; at least be honest in your self-evaluation. Take note of your good qualities. Ask yourself a few questions, “Why would a person want to be my friend?” “What qualities do I bring into a friendship?” “Are my thoughts accurate?” “What could I improve now?” Become your own best friend and be kinder to yourself. Remember, anything in your focus on will expand with thought and attention.
Worrying drains energy from every inch of our bodies when not controlled. Set aside a specific time weekly or daily to worry, if you must. Limit worrying to perhaps three to five manageable issues, the fewer the better. If worrying weekly, allow two hours; if worrying daily, limit to fifteen minutes. During your set worry time, let your thoughts loose with everything that could possibly go wrong and what you might do if indeed there is a calamity. Refer back to Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer above. Set a timer if needed and stick to your time limit; give worry its due then give it the boot. Need incentive? Worry causes wrinkles!
Aromas can trigger memories or feelings instantly like crayons, fresh mowed grass, a fireplace, upturned earth, a barbecue grill or the air after a gentle rain shower. Aromatherapy methods include room spray, massage, bath oils or soaps and diffuser appliances. Simple spray air fresheners can lighten the mood and help create a more pleasant atmosphere. Diffusers start at about $15 for the low-end models up to about $120 for the top of the line appliances. Massages have stress-relieving benefits, may require an appointment at a spa and can be expensive but are worth the price. You can drop by any health food store and easily find most oils and fragrances: basil, bergamot, chamomile, cinnamon, clary sage, frankincense, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, orange, patchouli, peppermint, pine, sandalwood, spruce, vanilla, ylang-ylan, etc.
Rub Your Feet
Feet literally take a beating every single day. Soak your feet, exfoliate and then rinse to get rid of any sweat and then dry thoroughly. Rub your feet, running fingers between each toe. Place your foot on the other leg so you can use your elbow to ‘massage’ the bottoms. If you have a partner, do it for each other, ankle to toes. Again, aromatherapy oils or lotions enhance the effect. Remember, you are worth feeling this good!
Learn Something New
A positively occupied brain has little time to worry, dread, fear or be anxious. Learn to speak a foreign language, to use a computer program or play a new game. Memorize a poem, the Declaration of Independence or the Star Spangled Banner. Read the dictionary and learn new words; share these with family and incorporate the acquisition into your everyday vocabulary. Added benefit? You’ll not be embarrassed when challenged to sing the Star Spangled Banner!
Take Up a Hobby
Hobbies are enriching and can be quite educational, depending on your interests and almost any hobby can provide you with hours of enjoyment. Collect coins, dolls, trains, salt and pepper shakers, etc. Take up photography, running or hiking, building models, bird watching, knitting or crocheting, scrapbooking, drawing, building birdhouses, soap making, embroidery, fly tying, jigsaw puzzles, stamp collecting, journaling, macramé, matchstick or toothpick models, origami, postcard collecting, quilting, storytelling, astronomy, tombstone rubbing or photographing, carving, woodworking, scherenschnitte, quilling, or beading. Find an affordable hobby that interests you and that you have space for then get started. Three of anything is a collection!
Dig in the Dirt
Get invigorated by simply enjoying the seed catalogs and getting dirt under your fingernails? A vegetable garden’s tangible rewards serve up delicious meals while saving money at the supermarket. No space for a garden? Then think about an indoor herb garden: thyme, basil, green onions, rosemary, parsley, dill or mint. A few fresh sprigs can add the perfect touch to any plate. If you are more into aesthetics, try on a few plants for sheer beauty and improve air quality to boot: Azalea, Aloe vera, Snake plant or Mother-in-law’s tongue, Golden pothos, Spider plant, Bamboo palm, Peace lily, Gerber daisies, Schefflera, Chrysanthemum, English Ivy, Dracaenas, Weeping fig or Ficus, Lipstick plant, Chinese evergreen, Philodendron, Boston fern, African violet, Jade plant, Money tree, etc. Brown thumbs welcome and encouraged!
If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, make the call for help immediately. Don’t stop until help is found.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-TALK (8255) or 1-800-SUICIDE
Text to: 838255
*Support for Deaf & Hard of Hearing
Remember, anything that interferes with your normal daily schedule could be depression and should be examined further. Suicide is a permanent solution to a very temporary problem.
Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her blog here on her contact page.