Parenting is hard normally but if you are depressed as well then it is much harder than it should be.
In my Parents Anonymous Group, depression touched many of our lives from time to time. Many of our members dealt with very difficult, stressful situations that occasionally felt hopeless. In our group we shared our experiences and various solutions in hopes that our situations would improve and most did in time. The suggestions in this three-part series are some that our group discussed and are offered up to each other as possible solutions. This is not meant to treat depression but instead gives options to lessen sadness to feel better.
Maintaining your daily schedule hinges on the hour at which you rise. If you allow depression to anchor you to your bed longer than normal, it will throw off your entire routine and your body clock. When you get up later you will often play catch-up all day long, causing more stress. When the alarm sounds, make your bed to deter you from climbing back in before your normal bedtime.
Shower and Dress
Take care not to skip a single grooming step. Wash and condition your locks, exfoliate skin, use your back brush and scrub your toes and feet— everything you normally do. When finished, pat dry and then moisturize. If you normally wear cosmetics, apply in natural light. Dress in cheerful colors choosing garments that fit well; skip baggy sweat-suit type outfits. Wearing your watch and marking time throughout the day is comforting to some depression sufferers.
Let In the Light
Open the curtains and raise the blinds— let the light in. Dim or dark surroundings often give way to drowsiness and sleep. A gloomy atmosphere can pull your mood down and encourage depression. If your home is positioned so you get little direct sunlight (or live where the days are short) then it is a must that you get outdoors daily for a good dose of natural Vitamin D, especially in winter. Another option would be to buy a seasonal affective disorder light therapy lamp that is both safe and effective. SAD lamps or light boxes run the gamut of price ranges from about $40 to $500 with different options available. Investigate the requirements and decide if a SAD light is for you. Some insurance companies may pay all or part of the cost with reimbursement criteria met. Make sure you find a reputable dealer who guarantees their product and/or warranty. One such company is Sunbox.com and they are noted for their excellent service.
Rid yourself of shoes that do not fit or hurt your feet. Throw out old clothes you haven’t worn in over a year. Don’t wait for styles to return, dust them off and give them away, have a garage sale or donate the items. Many homeless and domestic violence shelters appreciate cast-offs and often use the funds from proceeds to provide services for their organization. If you are not wearing items, then space is wasted that might be better used in another way. You will feel better freeing up the space and at the same time are helping others.
Walk to Energize
Walking is one of the most popular, easiest and safest ways to exercise on the planet. Except for a pair of sneakers, it doesn’t cost a penny and can be done anywhere, day or night, providing it is a safe area that is well lighted. You can combine it with socializing, errands or work. You can sign up at a local gym for a fee. You will be able to socialize and get healthy at the same time. Walking and depression do not mix.
Petition for forgiveness and leniency, plea for health and well-being for yourself and others. One belief is that you are blessed most while praying for others. Make a daily prayer list and add names as you come across people in need and your blessings will come. Read your Bible or other spiritual material regardless of denomination. Check out booksellers and shops specializing in religious materials. Broaden your outlook by learning about the many different faiths. For many, daily devotions can feel like having an angel on your shoulder the entire day.
Meditation, Tai Chi & Yoga
Thought, contemplation and reflection are positive spiritual journeys you can travel in five minutes or five hours whether you are religious or agnostic. Yoga, tai chi and meditation may help you feel more alive, energetic, grounded and in control. You can google to see where groups are near you. Look for television programming, DVDs or YouTube and take advantage of the sheer convenience and comfort from your very own living room.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Deep breathing, in through nose and out through mouth, increases the exchange of gasses in the lungs. This technique keeps airways open longer and helps trapped air move. Pursed lip breathing relaxes and helps maintain normal breathing. Count to two while breathing in…one, two, then count to four breathing slowly outward, one, two, three, four, then repeat. Pursed lip breathing also has a calming effect with the focus on counting breaths. This is especially helpful for anyone with lung issues.
Dispatch Paper Piles
Deal with paperwork (reports, letters, bills, receipts, forms, documents) immediately. Sort into piles; recycle, trash, file or keep. Filter trash for any identifying information like phone numbers, addresses, account numbers, etc. and shred immediately. File bills in ‘To Pay’ order within a week of the due date, once paid file it away. Take care of bills that require a phone call or discussion right away. Any papers or envelopes put on a counter top will multiply in the blink of an eye so stop it before it starts. Got a few minutes? Sign up with a Direct Marketing Association to reduce unwanted junk mail in the future.
Get brave, then let go of ‘stuff.’ Clutter can be overwhelming and quite depressing if it is disorganized. After a time all the extra stuff begins to take on a life all its own. You no longer own the stuff, the stuff owns you. Let it go and donate to organizations, agencies or shelters locally can make good use of it. You can join Freecycle and unload your burden while helping others and no money changes hands. You can also have a yard or garage sale and pocket the money. Those knickknacks and souvenir tchotchkes may be cute or valued memorabilia but letting go of those trinkets can be very liberating. If you must keep it then store it away where it will be safe in an out-of-the-way cabinet, foot locker or chest and there will be less dusting! There are furniture options with built-in storage space: couches, ottomans, coffee tables, benches, etc. Just keep telling yourself, “You don’t own me— out you go!”
Change Your Zip Code
Get out of the house, change your scenery and get some fresh air! Going outdoors is refreshing and invigorating. No matter how nice your home is, you still need to get away, even if it is only for a few minutes or a couple of hours. Babies can be taken outside for a stroll and when they return, they often take a very sound, healthy nap, the perfect time for you to nap too. Why stay home and pout when you could get out and about?
Appointments on our calendar are there because they are important. You and your mental health are just as important as your teeth or getting the flu shot so put fun on your calendar at least one day every week. Don’t wait for spare time because may not happen. If you are afraid of having fun once a week then start with once every two weeks till you get used to it. It may take time to build up a tolerance to fun and you do not want to overdose so start slow and work up to a therapeutic level. Balanced people lead balanced lives.
Tired or not, taking a fifteen minute power-nap in the early afternoon can do wonders to make you feel refreshed, awake and aware. Just nodding-off may not have the same benefit as lying down and covering up. Stuck at your desk? Lay your head on a rolled up jacket for a pillow. An on-purpose nap can revive and energize so you can finish your day. Be careful, though, not to nap more than 15 to 20 minutes, otherwise you will feel more sluggish afterward. Sleeping too long can throw off your normal sleep routine and you may pay with insomnia. A small timer can help for less than $10.
Create a Carefree Atmosphere
Listen to happy children’s songs and create a lighter mood at home or on the highway. You simply cannot listen without singing along or humming and you will be tapping the rhythm on the steering wheel. Singing can cause your lungs to process oxygen at a higher rate, thus making you feel better. Waltzing Matilda, Do Your Ears Hang Low, Carrot Stew, Frere Jacques and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt are only a few. Check them out from your local library for free! Shop online to get the songs you remember and love.
Shuffle and Dole the Chores
Every family member can pitch in to get the cleaning chores completed. Spouses can swap chores so mom and dad both know how to change oil in the car, cook meals, wash dishes, do the laundry or shop for a kid’s birthday gift on Saturday. All children are capable of certain chores as long as they are age appropriate. You would not have a four-year-old mowing the lawn or changing diapers for an infant. You know your child better than anyone and the types of chores they could handle and feel successful doing to contribute to the household. Make a list or calendar and put it on paper; if need be use chore a chart and award stars. Google for a selection of free charts and then put them to use. Just remember that you are a parent, not a maid or butler.
Trim Your To-Do List
You have a list of ‘must-dos’ like doctor appointments, school functions, social functions and planning family events. You also have a list of ‘would-like-to-dos’ like being secretary for the garden club, the bazaar coordinator, or soccer coach. When you are not feeling 100% it is time to pare back and enjoy what you are doing. You will want to do your very best for any endeavor you take on. If the Scouts only get 65% participation (or energy) from you then it is time to pass the torch to someone who can physically and emotionally devote the time and energy. There will always be opportunities in the future when you are ready with your ‘very-best’ in hand to help.
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
*Support for Deaf & Hard of Hearing
Text to: 838255
Remember, anything that interferes with your normal daily schedule could be depression and should be examined further.
Last, 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 contact page.