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Feeling Blue

by Drs. Rick and Jan Hanson

Because of the stresses and physical depletion that come with raising a family (amidst all the wonderful parts!), about half of all mothers experience significant feelings of sadness or depressed mood, and one in eight will go through a clinical depression. So if you are feeling blue, take heart, you're in good company!

First, make sure that you aren't clinically depressed, which means experiencing five or more of these symptoms for two weeks or longer: depressed mood; loss of pleasure in things that used to be enjoyable; weight loss; insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much); intense restlessness or sluggishness; fatigue; strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt; hard to concentrate or make decisions; recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.

If you fulfill these criteria or come close, you should contact a therapist or doctor. Counseling is very effective for most depressions, and there are also many research-based alternatives to antidepressants listed in our book, Mother Nurture; antidepressants are a workable option about two-thirds of the time, typically combined with counseling.

Hopefully, you're not clinically depressed, and the suggestions below should help lift your spirits:

  • Make sure you're in good health, since depressed mood is the single most common symptom among all illnesses; check with your doctor or a specialist in women's health.

  • Try to get some kind of exercise three or four times a week; exercise is about as effective as antidepressants for mild depression.

  • Take a good multivitamin/multi-mineral supplement and add to it a B-vitamin complex and some Omega-3 essential fatty acids (the "good fats" in fish oil), both of which have been shown to alleviate depressed mood.

  • Honestly acknowledge to yourself the harder parts of raising a family, and any losses you've experienced as a result of becoming a mother - and perhaps talk about them with your partner or a friend as well. Having compassion for yourself is not self-indulgent, but a good way to feel better and also stay at your best for your family.

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