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Becoming a mother is one of the most monumental changes in a woman’s life. That first week after having a baby can feel like pure bliss and pure hell at the same time. In the midst of all of that, we may miss some of the psychological changes that come with the postpartum period. While caring diligently for your newborn baby, new moms can easily overlook the warning signs of postpartum depression. When those warning signs finally become a reality, we’re often left with a big “what the heck do I do now?” I dealt with exactly that and I created a postpartum depression self care plan for myself.
My Postpartum Depression Story (the quick Version)
I was told that my time with a new baby was going to be a happy time in my life. Until I developed postpartum depression. After having a high risk pregnancy, gestational diabetes, a history of depression, I was at a major risk of postpartum depression and nobody warned me. My postpartum depression symptoms, coupled with a severe lack of sleep, learning how to make peace with the physical changes of my body, raging hormone levels, and little to no social interaction put me at a hugely increased risk for postpartum depression. But once again, nobody warned me.
After about 9-10 months of suffering in silence, I started making small changes to how I took care of myself. I began the challenging task of taking my mental health seriously. At the time I didn’t call my plan a “postpartum depression self care plan,” but that’s basically what it was. I began to set my personal needs up in different tiers, and made self care a part of my daily life. It took a long time of prioritizing my self care, but after some time these lifestyle changes made a difference. I started to feel more like myself again. My entire family noticed how much I was improving. It wasn’t an overnight fix, but creating this postpartum depression self care plan helped put me on a trajectory of recovery.
In this article, I’m going to outline how to make your own postpartum depression self care plan. My hope is that while you’re also actively seeking professional help for postpartum depression, that creating this plan as well can set you up on a path of recovery.
As much as I want you to read this entire article and take it all in, if you’re just here for the nitty gritty stuff, you can download my postpartum depression self care plan template right here totally for free!!
I am not a medical professional, nor do I claim to be one anywhere on The Overcoming Mom. I am simply a mom who has been through hell and back with my own stint of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I’ve done a lot of research from actual medical professionals, and provided that in this article. I have credited where I have received that information within this article. In no way, shape, or form is this article meant to be used as a diagnosis tool. Please do NOT use this as a tool to self-diagnose. If you suspect you have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, please seek medical attention. At the end of this article I will also have resources on how you can get help.
Quick Postpartum Depression Facts
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the following are some symptoms of postpartum depression:
- Feeling sad, worthless, hopeless or guilty.
- Worrying excessively or feeling on edge.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or things you once enjoyed.
- Changes in appetite or not eating.
- Loss of energy and motivation.
- Trouble sleeping or wanting to sleep all the time.
- Crying for no reason or excessively.
- Difficulty thinking or focusing.
- Thoughts of suicide or wishing you were dead.
- Lack of interest in your baby or feeling anxious around your baby.
- Thoughts of hurting your baby or feeling like you don’t want your baby.
Some of the risk factors in potentially developing postpartum depression, according to a study entitled “Risk Factors for Postpartum Depression: An Umbrella Review” , include:
- Perinatal depression and depressive symptoms pre-pregnancy
- A previous history of depression
- Financial strain
- Domestic abuse and marital/partner issues
- Episodes of “baby blues” shortly after baby was born
- Birth trauma and/or pregnancy complications
- Unplanned pregnancy or unwanted pregnancy
- Infant temperament
- Lack of social support
- Sleep deprivation
- Negative breastfeeding experiences
- Having to undergo sudden change of birth plans, such as having a emergency cesarean section or other medical emergencies
Postpartum depression is tested typically using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, which is usually administered by your OBGYN or primary care provider around 6 weeks after birth. The truth is that you can develop postpartum depression anytime within a year of having your child. Treatment for postpartum depression is typically undergoing cognitive behavioral therapy, taking SSRI medication, and promoting self care.
In the United States, unfortunately the healthcare system hasn’t proven to be the most reliable in treating new mothers with postpartum depression. Having only one depression sreening done at one singular point of the postpartum period leaves many moms sinking with no lifelines. Therapy is a fantastic resource in combating postpartum depression, but getting an appointment with a therapist can take months (by the way I linked some quicker talk therapy resources at the bottom of this article). To give you my most candid opinion, the Western medical field does little to nothing in providing help for mothers with postpartum mood disorders. Which leaves us lay people like me on the internet giving advice that are actionable in helping with postpartum depression right now!
Whether you are experiencing postpartum depression at this moment or not, keeping these risk factors in mind can be vital to getting the help you need. I’m sure no mom has a kid and assumes they’re going to get postpartum depression, unless for some reason they’re just intuitive or have prior experience. Having a plan in place can make a huge difference in how you get through it.
So how do you make your own postpartum depression self care plan? I’m going to outline exactly how to make one for yourself, along with examples of my own. I will also have many valuable postpartum depression resources at the bottom of this post.
Start With Listing Out Your “I Have to Do” needs.
When creating a postpartum depression self care plan, you need to change your mindset from self care being a luxury to self care being a necessity. In a way, postpartum depression is your minds way of saying “I am overwhelmed, I need to take care of me right now!” In order to begin that process, start with the absolute necessities.
Consider what it is you do on a regular basis that makes you feel like a normal person. Does that morning cup of coffee set your day up for success? Do you have to take a shower every day to feel functional? Are you the kind of person who needs some alone time every day to feel like yourself? Make a list of these things that you feel set you up for success on a daily basis and write them down.
For example, in my personal life, I find these things to be my daily “needs” for self care:
- A morning cup of coffee by myself.
- A few minutes of “do nothing” time in the evening.
- A daily shower.
- At least an hour or more a week where I get to get out of the house and do something alone.
- Seeing a mental health professional
Some people may argue that those kinds of things aren’t self care tasks, but basic needs. Though there is definitely truth to that, in order to get to the more “luxurious” self care tasks, you need to meet your basic needs. So yes, meeting your basic needs in some way is self care. Even if it’s just the gateway to more restorative, relaxing self care.
Next Lay Out The “Things That Would Make Me Feel More Content” needs.
After laying out those basic, primal self care needs, consider those next level things that feel pretty close to a need, but with a little more to it. This is definitely pretty personality driven, and not everyones next level self care needs will look the same. Consider the things that don’t just make you feel like a functioning adult, but like a more content and at peace version of yourself.
These things go just a little more beyond meeting your basic needs. It’s like meeting your basic needs with just a little more spice to it. For example, my “meeting contentment” needs would be:
- Getting to participate in a special hobby at least once a week.
- Having regular, intentional conversation with a close friend.
- Participating in a simple creative outlet (like writing, painting, gardening, etc.)
- Journaling, prayer, mindfulness, reading the Bible, etc.
- Reading, or doing other things to exercise my mind.
- Regularly exercising my body.
These things do more than just meet your primal, basic needs. These tasks are meant to meet more of the needs of your soul than just your body. Not to sound too out there or anything, but you are more than just a person who birthed a human, you are a personal, spiritual being with a brain that hungers for meaningful information. I firmly believe God made us that way. If you don’t feed that need in yourself, then you’ll fall into the familiar feeling of losing yourself in motherhood that many women fall victim.
So under your basic needs, write down your “what makes you feel content” needs.
Last, list out the “Things That Would Make Me Very Happy” wants.
After we list our basic needs and contentment needs, we need to consider the more luxurious desires. Though I called them “wants” in the heading, don’t let that make you believe they’re not also necessary. A part of surviving this challenging human experience is to give ourselves things that aren’t necessary, but just fun to look forward to. Often as moms we get stuck in that “groundhog day” feeling like our lives are constantly lived in repeat. Giving ourselves these “things that would make me very happy” wants gives us something to look forward to. It feeds that primal need for newness in our lives.
Once again, these things are different for everyone based on your own personality. Mine would be:
- Doing my nails.
- Trying out a new recipe, even if it’s one I would be the only one to like in the house.
- Having regular “Mom Time Off”.
- Social events with friends and preferably no kids.
- Trips, adventures, vacations, etc.
- Other more luxurious things like spa days, shopping trips, etc.
These things are more of those top-tier self care tasks that are meant to feel more luxurious to us. Like I said before, what that is to you is totally unique to yourself and your personality. You may not be a “spa trip with the girls” type of person, so perhaps something else would feel more luxurious to you. Luxury isn’t always expensive! For example, when I take my “mom time off”, sometimes I just go for a walk in the park and listen to a podcast. Or I hang out with a friend. Some things that feel luxurious to you could be free!
When it comes to these luxury tasks, don’t be led to believe that they aren’t as important. In fact, it is a good thing to incorporate at least one of those things into your week. Don’t be led to believe that just because they’re luxuries that they aren’t important.
Decide Ahead Of Time What Your Self Care Bare Minimum Is.
As determined as we may be to take care of ourselves and get to a healthier state of mind, sometimes life gets in the way. There are moments when things are just too busy or life is just too hard to do it all. Instead of should-ing yourself and saying you should do this or that, figure out what the lowest bar is for you to content with.
Consider the self care tasks that are the absolute bare minimum. Most of these will probably be in the first category discussed earlier in this article. I recommend sprinkling one or two of the second category things you listed as well. That way it’s not just all meeting the basic primal needs, but that there is a level of care and contentment to your bare minimum.
Here’s a few things I would consider to be my bare minimum when it comes to self care:
- Take a shower every day (even if it’s just standing in the shower for a few minutes).
- Have at least five minutes of alone time in the morning.
- Leave the house by myself at least once a week, even if it’s just to get some groceries.
- Regularly move my body somehow. Preferably the gym, but even a walk will do on tough weeks.
- Reading regularly.
Those things are like cornerstones in my self care. No matter what happens, come Hell or high water, i WILL make those things happen. When you’re in that postpartum period when everything revolves around your baby, you NEED a cornerstone of self care for just your needs. More than likely your bare minimum isn’t that glamorous looking, and that’s fine. But if you keep those cornerstone care tasks in place, then you keep those things that innately make you feel like yourself in place too. Those are key when it comes to handling postpartum depression or other perinatal mood disorders.
Finding your bare minimum make take some trial and error. You may set a bare minimum at one point and then decide it’s not enough, or even the opposite. The point of the bare minimum is not to have it perfectly set in stone, but to set a standard of sorts of how you’re going to take care of your needs after having your baby.
Set Some Strong Boundaries And Stop Being Apologetic For Taking Care Of Yourself.
Now that you have a postpartum depression self care plan set in place, it’s time to implement it. The problem many moms inevitably run into when trying to take care of themselves is that they need people in their corner to share the load of life with.
If you have a spouse who isn’t supportive enough around the house, I have a few blog posts here that can help you get the support you deserve from your spouse.
- How To Not Resent Your Husband After Having Kids
- How To Get Your Spouse To Help Around The House
- How To Unload The Mental Load And Get The Help You Deserve
When it comes to taking care of yourself, you absolutely MUST make it a priority. That may mean that your spouse, loved ones, family members, or other caretakers in your life may need to assist you in the other tasks life throws at you. Begin to set some boundaries and prioritize your self care needs.
For example, if you can’t seem to regularly get a shower because your husband won’t watch the kids adequately, then it’s time to set some clear expectations about that. If you’re a single parent and getting out of the house alone is impossible, then consider outsourcing to other trusted people to watch your kids. To put it simply, if you don’t have a village, get one!
Now I can go on about making a village, but I have a blog post here with good tips on how to make a village when you don’t have one.
A Word On Mom Guilt
Maybe you do have the resources around you to prioritize self care, but you still feel that nagging mom guilt tugging at you. When you feel guilty about prioritizing your self care needs, I want you to think about this.
Your needs are just as important as your babies needs. Yes, your baby is 100% dependent on you, but how can you care for another when your mental health is hanging by a thread. Sure, you can muscle through, but that’s just going to lead to burnout. In order for you to care for that tiny human whose 100% dependent on you, you need to have something to pour from. Postpartum depression really sucks that out of you. When you do what’s necessary to replenish yourself, you make yourself more capable of meeting your child’s needs. Don’t let guilt keep you from taking care of yourself.
You’re not selfish for needing to care for yourself. In fact, you recognizing the need for self care in your life is incredibly selfless. You see where you’re struggling, and you’re doing what’s needed so you can care for your family and self better. Guilt can’t live in the same place as selflessness. You have nothing to be guilty about.
An Example Of A Postpartum Depression Self Care Plan.
Creating a postpartum depression self care plan for yourself can feel like an overwhelming feat. But it really is so much easier when you see an example. When I was in the throes of postpartum depression myself, this is the plan I followed. I didn’t write it all down until some time later when I realized that I had unintentionally created my own self care plan. This is a much prettier looking version of what I planned in the middle of my postpartum depression battle:
Whether you just write yours down in a notebook or download my postpartum depression self care plan template (which is free by the way), having it all in writing can help you can other caretakers in your life.
More Postpartum Depression Resources
- Rootd – This app is a free anxiety management tool. It has a fabulous little red “panic button” you press when a panic attack happens, and gives you real-time tips on how to make it though safely. There’s also lots of educational resources on managing anxiety throughout the app.
- Betterhelp – Is an online therapy service that makes therapy accessible and affordable for all people. They have a huge database of therapist with many specialties, and offer many ways to participate in therapy.
- Faithful Counseling – Is very similar to Betterhelp, but is a database of online Christian therapists. If you would prefer to receive therapy from a faith-based perspective, then this could be just for you.
- Postpartum Support International – Is a massive database for mothers experiencing postpartum mood disorder. They have a huge database of certified therapists all across the US, as well as online support groups.