Facing the Holidays When You Have Postpartum Depression
Well folks, we’re officially wading through the holiday season!
And for many, the holidays is a time of increased stress.
There’s the juggling of holiday party schedules, finances and gift giving, attending holiday recitals, and lots more…plus, there’s the expectation to do it all with a smile on your face! If you’re not mindful, you take the risk of running on fumes before December is even over.
But when postpartum depression and anxiety slams into your life, you’re barely running on any fumes. Simply surviving the holidays can feel like an impossible feat.
So, what do you do when you have postpartum depression and anxiety during the holidays?
First, it doesn’t help to beat yourself up! Remember, postpartum depression and anxiety is not your fault. And, you WILL get through this!
This holiday season may not look or feel like the ones from your past, but all hope is not lost for you to find joy this season. Instead, this year it will be especially important to put your self-care needs on the top of your to-do list.
Here are 5 practical tips to encourage you to slow down and offer care to yourself throughout the holiday season. You can use these tips anytime during the year, but I offer these as holiday tips because we tend to overextend ourselves during the holidays.
1. Schedule your therapy and self-care sessions in advance.
Now is an excellent time to book your therapy sessions through the next five weeks (this includes all other self-care appointments, such as haircuts and massages).
Therapy can help you clear out the background noise, i.e. your mental chatter, to identify and claim your needs through the holidays. Your therapist can also support you with carving out much-needed space for yourself, as well as set limits. A therapist can be your biggest self-care advocate through this time.
2. Know your bare-minimum.
The bare-minimum is your smallest possible effort, but still extremely adequate or acceptable. All essential needs are met with your bare-minimum!
A new mama’s bare-minimum day may look like this: feed baby, brush teeth, eat quick but nutritious breakfast, feed baby, change baby, watch TV, feed baby, change baby, take a nap, eat quick but nutritious lunch, etc.
Your bare-minimum IS good enough!
The holidays probably looked completely different before postpartum depression and anxiety – and your bare-minimum was different too! Your bare-minimum is not constant, rather it ebbs and flows according to what is happening in your life.
3. Ask for help.
Do you identify more with being the helper (vs. the helpee)? If so, receiving help might be a new experience for you. Admitting your need for help can be a scary step. And, it can be even scarier if you’re holding onto the belief that needing help is a sign of failure.
But, now is the time to give yourself full permission to receive help, which doesn’t indicate anything other than your ability to care for yourself. Think of receiving help as a form of self-preservation.
Start small. If you have a friendly mom that you trust in your kid’s class or a close friend/family member who has been asking to give you a hand, take them up on the offer. Maybe ask someone to stop by for an hour or two to watch the baby while you take a shower alone and get dressed without rushing.
4. Choose several “off” days.
The pressure may be strong to attend the holiday events you’ve been invited to, but I assure you that limiting your schedule is the best thing for you and the baby.
Choose 1 meaningful holiday event (or maybe 2 if you’re up to it) that is most important to you this year. Let your friends and loved ones know that you’ll follow up with them in the coming months once life settles down. This is a good one to request your partner’s help to communicate this message!
5. Indulge in simple holiday joys.
When clients share their holiday memories with me, I look for the pieces that once brought them joy. Maybe it was listening to favorite Christmas or Hanukkah hymns or gazing at the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree at night. Perhaps lighting the menorah or advent wreath. It’s easy for those tiny delights to get lost in the shuffle of the busy holiday flow. Rediscover those lost pieces, and identify at least 3 beloved holiday joys of yours (the simpler, the better). Find time to enjoy one of them each day throughout the holiday season.
It’s challenging to get through the holidays when you have the weight of postpartum depression and anxiety on your shoulders. It can be especially hard when the holidays have been such a joyful and full time of year for you. And, pulling in the reigns to slow down and offer extra care to yourself this year doesn’t mean that all holidays will be this way.
So, while the holiday season is well underway, know that you can survive (and possibly thrive!) the holidays by practicing regular and consistent self-care, limiting your schedule, and enjoying some small holiday pleasures.
If you haven’t reached out for professional support for your postpartum depression and anxiety symptoms yet, it is strongly recommended that you seek help as soon as possible. Contact me for a private consultation. Or, check out Postpartum Support International, if you’re outside the state of Georgia.