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Finding Balance and Support: 6 Tips for Moms With Depression

Medically reviewed by Paul Ballas, D.O.
Posted on March 31, 2023

Becoming a mom is a significant life change that impacts mental health in different ways. Most people are familiar with postpartum depression (PPD), which affects up to 15 percent of people after they’ve given birth. Although most people with PPD are able to overcome their symptoms, some continue to experience depression for years — even once their children have become adults. Ten percent of women in the United States experience episodes of depression each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The emotional and physical demands of caring for a child can leave moms with little energy or motivation to care for themselves. Here are some tips to help you find balance during different stages of your child’s life.

1. Improve Your Sleep by Developing Bedtime Routines for Your Baby

Studies show that sleep deprivation is a contributing factor to depression in mothers. And unfortunately, this problem isn’t reserved for moms with newborns. During the first few years of life, many kids experience sleep disturbances, whether from teething, illness, bad dreams, growth spurts, or changes in their sleep needs. Unfortunately, moms often feel the effects of sleep trouble in little ones, which can take a significant toll on maternal mental health, especially if you have depression.

There’s no easy fix for sleep disturbances in babies and toddlers, but sticking to a schedule can help bring some much-needed structure. Although flexibility is a must, creating consistency whenever possible offers the best chance of more predictable nights and naps. Simple things, like a bath or nighttime song before bed, may help ease stressful transitions and set your baby up to be a better sleeper.

The Sleep Foundations offers additional guidance in building a bedtime routine for kids.

2. Avoid Isolation When Caring for Your Young Child

Some people living with depression engage in isolation — that is, cutting themselves off from other people. While enjoying some alone time can be beneficial, too much isolation can worsen depression symptoms, which in turn can lead to more isolation.

Limiting your social network through isolation can be harmful for both you and your child. That’s why it’s important to seek opportunities to be social, even if you’re not always in the mood.

Research suggests that parents with depression may struggle to engage with their children at times, so taking them to activities where they’ll interact with others and receive guidance and attention can help relieve a bit of the burden. You can find programs through your local art center, parks and recreation department, museums, child’s school, religious organizations, or YMCAs. Being more social can be as simple as taking your kids to the playground or the library. Over time, you may become familiar with other families and feel less alone.

Additionally, attending after-school or community programs geared toward young children can help you meet others who may relate and share similar experiences. Even if you don’t develop close connections, seeing familiar faces brings some structure and stability to everyday life and helps your child maintain routines that can feel reassuring.

3. Share the Burden by Assigning Your Middle-Schooler Age-Appropriate Chores

By the time children reach middle school, they should be ready to handle more responsibilities at home. Kids may be interested in earning money and achieving a stronger sense of independence, which can be a win-win situation for parents who could use an extra hand with chores.

Most people with depression experience low energy and can have trouble keeping up with tasks like cooking healthy meals or cleaning. Instead of feeling like you need to carry the full weight of responsibilities yourself, put systems in place for the rest of the household to help out.

Examples of good tasks for middle schoolers include:

  • Cleaning their room
  • Doing the dishes
  • Folding and putting away laundry
  • Making the beds
  • Packing healthy snacks for school
  • Putting away groceries
  • Raking the yard
  • Taking out the trash
  • Vacuuming the house
  • Preparing simple meals

A tracking system (like a chart posted on the refrigerator) can help your preteen stay on track with their duties. Additionally, offering incentives, such as an allowance or the chance to earn points toward a reward, might help keep them motivated.

4. Give Yourself Grace With Adolescents

As children approach high school age, some aspects of parenting get easier while new difficulties arise. Your high schooler may challenge you and become more aware of your symptoms of depression. Mood swings and power struggles can push you further into a depressed state, making social support groups — such as MyDepressionTeam — even more essential.

It’s important to remember that no parent is perfect. Even if you make mistakes or have regrets, you can still build a trusting and loving relationship with your child. If you’re unsure of how to draw proper boundaries or explain circumstances to your teen, seek the help of a mental health professional. Your child’s school may have a social worker or other resources that can help you navigate uncharted waters during this transitional time.

Learn about types of therapy that are available to help ease depression.

5. Find New Healthy Habits as an Empty Nester

Motherhood doesn’t end once your kids reach adulthood. Worries about your adult child’s relationships, finances, health, or other issues can keep you from feeling your best. Additionally, you may have increased caregiving demands if grandchildren or an ailing spouse or relative require your help. But once your child is an adult, it’s important to put some likely overdue focus on your own physical and mental health.

Studies show that people with depression experience higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and respiratory diseases. Exercise is a natural way to boost your mood and help ward off the chronic health hazards of living with depression. If you haven’t already found a form of physical activity you enjoy, now is the perfect time.

Members of MyDepressionTeam have shared how exercise positively impacts their lives. “I go on my power walks in spring and summer. I set goals on my Apple Watch. It helps tremendously, especially when it is sunny out,” shared one member.

“I just got a dog to force me out of my apartment to walk her. It has been great, and things are starting to look a little better,” wrote a second member

It’s not always easy for people with depression to muster up the energy to work out. One member explained, “I have a hard time getting out of my front door, but music helps.”

Listening to upbeat music can help you feel more excited and willing to be active.

6. Explore Your Medication Options

There are many types of treatments for depression. Many people benefit from medications — and it’s important to remember that you may need to try more than one medication to find one that’s right for you.

If you do try a medication and start to experience negative side effects or don’t feel like the medication is helping, talk to a mental health professional about your concerns. Sometimes adjusting your dosage or trying a different medication can improve your symptoms of depression.

In addition, your response to depression treatment may change over time. Just because a certain medication helped in the past doesn’t mean it will always be the best choice for you. Instead of feeling discouraged, document specific side effects and ask your health care provider about your options so you can be an educated and informed partner in your treatment.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyDepressionTeam is the social network for people with depression and their loved ones. On MyDepressionTeam, more than 143,000 members come together to discuss life with depression and share their experiences.

How has mental illness affected your well-being and the lives of your family members? Do you have any self-care tips for new moms or new parents that you’d like to share? Post your story in the comments section or discuss this topic on your Activities page.

    Posted on March 31, 2023
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    Paul Ballas, D.O. is an attending psychiatrist at Friends Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.

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