positive thinking

Self-Care, Anxiety and Post-Partum

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety most of my life. I’ve taken medications on and off, I’ve been in therapy. After years of therapy and reflection I believe that my issue is mainly anxiety, not depression. While they can go hand-in-hand, anxiety seems to be my biggest problem. I’ve had a lot of therapists over the years, and different types. I’ve gone years without therapy or medication. I know that exercise helps a LOT with the issues I have.

The most recent time I was seeing a counselor, I really liked her a lot. She’d also lost a lot of weight (like 80 pounds I think?) and for the first time I was able to work through some body issue stuff that most people, and most counselors, can’t relate to. She understood. She was great! Then she went out on maternity leave and I had the option to see someone else but decided not to. Of course, she decided not to come back so I couldn’t see her anymore anyways if she came back. It’s been over a year since I’ve seen a therapist and decided it was time to go back.

The search for someone new began.

This part sucks. Big time. Like I said, I’ve had dozens over the years. I moved, insurance changes, therapists leave, etc etc. So I am well-versed in the “find a new therapist, give them the cliffsnotes version and see if we’re a good match” routine. It still sucks. I hate starting over.

This time, I was on a mission. My focus was not going to be body issues or other issues I’ve discussed in therapy in the past. This time I had something very specific to discuss: post-partum depression (PPD).

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Knowing my history with anxiety and depression, being off medications for a year and a half, not knowing what it would be like after the baby arrives, I knew it was good to find someone to talk to NOW and make sure I’m on the right track. I felt like it was better to be prepared. Know the warning signs. Learn some coping skills NOW. Try and avoid what may (or may not) happen.

I know very little about PPD. And I find that in my reading, not a lot of people talk about it. I don’t know why. It seems like it’s a common occurrence.

“Postpartum depression is depression that occurs after having a baby.

The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms for depression, but they also include:

  • Trouble sleeping when your baby sleeps (more than the lack of sleep new moms usually get).
  • Feeling numb or disconnected from your baby.
  • Having scary or negative thoughts about the baby, like thinking someone will take your baby away or hurt your baby.
  • Worrying that you will hurt the baby.
  • Feeling guilty about not being a good mom, or ashamed that you cannot care for your baby.

According to a CDC survey, 8 to 19% of women reported having frequent postpartum depressive symptoms. (CDC)”

I’ve seen stats that are kind of all over the place but the general number seems to be between 11-20% of women suffer from PPD. Reading more into it, I feel like what *I* personally need to be more aware of is Post-Partum Anxiety. Considering that anxiety has been my biggest issue (far over depression), it stands to reason that this could become an issue.

Something that I’ve found disappointing with the blog world is the lack of disclosure and the sugar-coating of things. Blogs I loved to read…I ended up feeling disappointed because they’d have a baby and everything would be portrayed as rainbows and sunshine and everything was PERFECT. Then, sometimes (but not always), they’d share months later that things weren’t the perfect portrayal they presented. They struggled. Baby was tongue-tied and couldn’t breastfeed, everyone was suffering stress and exhaustion, mom suffered from PPD, etc etc.

I just wish there was more of a community, more transparency, more honesty. I feel like women are expected to be perfect, not complain about anything…when the reality might be very different and wouldn’t it be NICE to be surrounded by people that understand? And have been through it? Can relate? Can assist? Why isn’t there more of a community??

Anyways…I saw a new therapist and discussed my concerns with her. I really like the new person I’m seeing. She’s a behaviorist and with just a few sessions I already felt like I understood how to “fix” anxiety better with HER than any other therapists I’ve seen.

My post-partum plan:

Of course this is just a plan, it may or may not happen. But it’s my goal, at the very least.

  1. Take a shower and get dressed every day.
  2. When cleared by my doctor, get back to exercising when I can. I know myself and I know that physical activity helps with my anxiety. Even if it’s just taking the little boy and Bella outside for a walk every single day, I need to do something.
  3. Continue going to therapy and learn coping skills for my anxiety.
  4. Self-care!
  5. Get out of the house, see friends and family, do outings! I know myself and being cooped up in the house will make me a little crazy. 🙂 I get stir-crazy after being home sick with a cold for a few days!
  6. Learn to ask for help, and accept help when it’s offered.

 

I talked to a friend recently who suffers from debilitating anxiety. I understand that my anxiety is not a panic disorder (like hers is) and that I do already have SOME coping skills that help me with my anxiety. I’m doing okay–is my anxiety conquered? Not by a long shot. But I am managing it. Anyways, my friend is in cognitive behavioral therapy and she had a fabulous suggestion that she’s being doing for her anxiety. When the panic and anxiety starts to take hold, she closes her eyes and tries to name 5 sounds she hears in that moment. She said it’s really helpful to get her to focus on something else, calm down, take the rising panic out of the anxiety and try and re-focus her energy and mental thread. I’ve tried it and it works!

I really struggle with vague “just try to refocus your thoughts” kind of advice, which is why some therapists have just not worked for me before. I don’t do abstract. Don’t just tell me to be “mindful” tell me what that MEANS. Tell me what it LOOKS like to be “mindful.” So I tried my friend’s advice and I liked it. Trying to name 5 sounds I hear in the moment of anxiety is a good distraction.

self-care
Self-Care

Self-care is kind of a popular buzzword these days but it really is important. In the past self-care for me looked like this: spending time with friends, working out, treating myself to a pedicure, getting regular massages (thank you insurance!), having downtime to read and watch Netflix, cuddling with my fur-babies.

I’ve started keeping a list of things I want to do. Here are some ideas I found on self-care.

80+ Self-Care Ideas

Seven Types of Self-Care Activities for Coping with Stress

134 Activities to Add to Your Self-Care Plan

You Just Had a Baby

 

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I’m so excited about the baby’s arrival! I want to BE PREPARED the best I can so I can enjoy every second of this amazing journey we are about to go on.

Do you have any advice or can you relate to this? What helped you?

Dedication vs. Willpower

“When the will is ready the feet are light.” 
–  Proverb

When I was trying to lose 100 pounds, or when I had lost the weight and was trying to keep it off, I can’t tell you how many times someone told me “I just don’t have the willpower that you do.” There was something negative about that statement to me. Not just the negative self-talk where the person was saying “I Can’t” without even trying, but also the implication that willpower is something you have to struggle for.

What is the difference between dedication and willpower?

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Recently Michael gave me a compliment about my pregnancy. He said he admired my “dedication.” He said he was impressed with how dedicated I have been at eating well for me and the baby, still working out, not slacking on my gym schedule (but also taking days here and there when I did need rest). My comment was that overall I was really happy with my pregnancy and I felt like I had done things “right” for ME. My diet didn’t change all that much, just ate a little bit more. The one thing I regretted was not cutting out the sugar. I voiced my concern about giving my kid a sweet tooth before he’s even here…but I just didn’t have the willpower to completely cut out sugar from diet.

Again, that word. Willpower. It feels so negative. “I didn’t have the willpower to cut out sugar” = I am weak and dependent and addicted to sugar. That’s what I think when I hear myself saying that. Then I feel deflated and think, why am I so weak? Why CAN’T I cut out sugar from diet entirely?? What’s wrong with me.

“Using willpower is exhausting: I had to put myself in the mindset of “I’m gonna do this.” Which is a hard mindset to get into. But now that it’s a habit, it feels natural. I don’t use any willpower on it, and I have willpower leftover for dealing with other occurrences and forming more habits. I’m less exhausted when I use less willpower and rely on habits I’ve built instead. Who doesn’t want to be less exhausted? (source)”

It really is. The concept of willpower is overwhelming and exhausting and feels unattainable. It feels very “all or nothing” to me. Sure, when I was trying to lose 100 pounds I did have an all or nothing attitude about my diet because I had to. I was trying to overcome my food addictions that had lead me to weigh over 250 pounds. I couldn’t eat trigger foods (pizza, ice cream, candy) at ALL because once I started, I couldn’t stop. BUT once some time had passed and I had focus and dedication and was seeing results…it was a lot easier to make exceptions once in awhile because I COULD control it. I knew that having some pizza would not mean I’d eat the entire thing. I had formed a new habit and I was dedicated to my new lifestyle. THAT made it easy.

Some tips:

Stop making excuses – saying “I don’t have the willpower” is a cop-out. Sorry, but it is. Okay, so maybe you don’t have the willpower to try something different in order to lose weight, but do you have the dedication to yourself to at least try? Dedication sounds so much more positive to me.

If-it-is-important-to-you-you-will-find-a-way.-If-not-you-will-find-excuses.

Make it a habit – Instead of looking at weight loss goals as a willpower thing (or lack of willpower thing) I found it easier to think of losing weight as a good habit I was forming. Exercise is part of my routine now. It’s a habit. It’s scheduled on my calendar like everything else in my life and I don’t even think about it. That makes it easy. “Oh, it’s Tuesday– a gym day.” Just like going to work Monday through Friday, or doing grocery shopping every Sunday…whatever it is, it’s part of my routine and schedule now and it’s so much easier just doing it then NOT doing it.

Check in with your goal – I liked to have a spreadsheet with my weekly weigh ins when I was losing weight. It was a visual thing for me, I could track it and see patterns and it was nice seeing those numbers go down.

Make sure that goal is realistic – setting out to lose 100 pounds in 6 months is just setting yourself up for failure. Trust me. You’ll feel overwhelmed and desperate and honestly, losing that much weight in such a short time isn’t the healthiest thing either. Making smaller goals not only gets you to the finish line in  a healthy way but it also gives you something to celebrate when you reach each landmark. Maybe once you lose 25 you get a pedicure, when you lose 50 you buy yourself some new clothes. Whatever it is that helps you stay focused on the end game will make it easier to make small sacrifices when times are tough and you REALLY really want to eat five donuts. 😉

Five Truths of Weight Loss

Psychology of Weight Loss

“Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
–  Henry Ford

And of course, even doing some of those things above, you’ll stall out. Plateaus happen. We get discouraged. We stop seeing results. Then it’s time to change things up. Maybe running at the same speed and incline on the treadmill week in and week out isn’t getting you the same results. So try intervals. Run outside. Try something else to shake things up.

Why Can’t I Lose Weight?

Break Your Bad Workout Habits

Married to My Workout

Weight Loss Plateaus

How to Stay Motivated

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I feel like taking “willpower” out of the equation alleviates some of the pressure. Instead of feeling like one slip-up means absolute failure, changing your thinking to “I am dedicated to losing this weight and tomorrow is a new day to try again” makes us more likely to be successful in reaching that goal. None of us are perfect. There will be slip-ups. But they don’t have to send us back to the starting line every single time.

So be dedicated to your goal. Dedicated to yourself. Ditch the willpower and focus on being determined instead.

What do you think? Is willpower an easy concept for you? Or does something else help keep you motivated to lose weight?