While it sounds like an isolating illness, parental depression actually affects the entire family. Studies show that both older and young children of a depressed parent are more prone to stress themselves and have fewer methods of coping with it. Young children are hit particularly hard: parental depression has been linked to lower self-esteem, lower happiness, and the development of "difficult" personalities in children.
Depression is also difficult on a marriage and contributes to tensions between parents. Therefore, keeping parental depression under control will benefit your entire family. If you or someone you love is experiencing depression, here are 5 tips for coping:
1. Seek Counseling
There is no shame in seeing a professional when you need someone to talk to. A counselor can help you gain perspective on your situation and assist you in coping day-to-day with your environment. Counselors offer non-judgmental support, and everything you say in your counseling session is strictly confidential. Counselors cannot prescribe medication, but may be able to refer you to a medical doctor who can prescribe antidepressants if that would help in your case.
2. Create a Social Network
Studies show that depression is a major issue for parents who do not have an adequate social network. Work hard to create your own social network--also known as a "momtourage"--that will act as your safety net. Community groups, mom's clubs and church (and other religious) organizations are great places to begin. Rebuild or strengthen ties with your own family and friends. Reach out to others by volunteering. Creating a strong social support system will provide you with an all-important "reality check" whenever you need it.
Exercise has often been touted for its ability to lift depression. The rush of endorphins you get from a good workout actually give you a biochemical boost. It's a great stress reliever, and one that has the added benefit of really making you feel better about yourself.
4. Write in a Journal
If you don't feel like talking over your problems with others, you might find it more helpful to journal about them. Set aside 10 minutes a day to write about what's bothering you. Or, on the flip side, start a gratitude journal and find 5 things every day that you are grateful for. Both types of journals will help change your attitude and work through depression.
No matter your personal religious beliefs, you may find it helpful to pray or practice meditation daily. The act puts you in connection with your soul, as it connects you to something greater than yourself. These activities have also been shown to lower blood pressure and your body's "fight-or-flight" response to stress.
Being a parent is probably the hardest job there is, and the stress that comes with the territory can all to easily lead to depression. But, you can avoid parental depression by talking or writing it out, exercising, building a social network, and engaging in prayer or meditation. These activities will help you stay in the right frame of mind to be a loving and engaging parent to your child.______________________________
Sarah Baker is a documentary filmmaker and writer currently living in New Bern, NC. Her first book, Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell, will be published December 2009. Read more about her.