The fatigue that comes with depression can make an already difficult job feel nearly impossible. Getting out of bed goes from a small task to a monumental achievement. Self-care and a commitment to your physical health are vital steps to mental wellness. Your fatigue may ebb and flow, but there are things you can do on a daily basis to help your body physically and mentally. You’ll also need a heavy dose of patience as you deal with a very real illness.
Focus on Good Sleep
Sleep deprivation can cause neurological changes that lend themselves to an increase in depression, anxiety, irritability, and aggression. Yet, a newborn or baby’s schedule is unpredictable at best and erratic at worst, and certainly not conducive to seven hours of consecutive sleep. However, there are ways to help.
Share nighttime duties: If you’re the at-home parent, you have just as much need of sleep as the parent who goes to work every day. Ask your partner to do one feeding each night so you can get a few consecutive hours of sleep. Most partners are more than happy to help out and love bonding with the baby over those quiet nighttime feedings.
Aim for consistency: Your little one may be up until midnight one day and fall asleep at 10 pm and sleep until 4 am the next. However, as much as possible, keep a consistent bedtime and wake up time for yourself. The consistency trains your brain when to start your sleep cycle. But, you also have to be flexible. If your baby falls asleep at 8 pm, that might be the best time for you to hit the pillow yourself. Then when he wakes at midnight, you’ve gotten a few hours in before the nighttime crying begins.
Keep it cool and dark: With a baby, you may be getting your zzz’s at odd times. You can help by turning down the room temperature to below 68 degrees and blocking out all light. Light suppresses sleep hormones so this is particularly important if you’re catching a quick nap while your baby sleeps.
Clear the air: You not only need sleep, you need high-quality sleep. Fresh air has been shown to deepen sleep and improve your clarity of thought the next day. If you can’t open the windows at night, an air purifier is a good option that can help everyone sleep better.
Eat a Healthy Diet
You’re probably keeping pretty close track of how many ounces your little one is eating. However, in the effort to make sure your baby thrives, it’s easy to forget about yourself. Depression and the resulting fatigue require optimum nutrition. A balanced diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, and lean meats is a starting point.
Be careful of your sugar intake.
Sugar gives you an initial burst of energy but makes the fatigue hit even harder after it burns through your system. The resulting crash might flatten you for hours or days.
Reach Out to Your Social Network
Depression can be isolating as fatigue gets in the way of motivation. You may not feel like socializing, but interaction and connection with other people are important to your mental health.
Reach out to trusted family and friends and talk to them.
Just knowing you’re not alone can be a boost in and of itself. If people offer to bring you meals or help with the baby, say yes. It’s not a weakness to admit you need help, and who doesn’t love getting to see a baby? When you’re feeling more like yourself, you can help another mom or friend when they’re struggling.
If you haven’t talked to your doctor about your depression and fatigue, please do so. You don’t need to suffer in silence. Depression is a common but treatable postpartum issue. Adequate rest, a healthy diet, and a connection with others will give you a foundation on which you can build your mental health. There will still be ups and downs but you’re laying the groundwork for the life you want to live.
For more information and help, visit www.sleephelp.org