Mommy Peptalk: Overcoming Depression and Anxiety

6 Tips for Struggling moms…
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13 comments

  1. Thanks for an interesting talk. I appreciate your not judging the Moms who use medication while also pointing out that there may be other ways to deal with bad, bad feelings so many of us experience.

    I am surprised you did not mention joining a parenting class or some other kind of group where moms can share their problems, find support in the group and also get advice – spiritual and practical – from the other moms and / or a teacher. That I think is relevant for Moms anywhere. So much of our anxious, depressed feelings come from being critical, thinking we are not good Moms, our kids are not good kids…airing those feelings in a forum where motherhood is held in high respect and taught as an art which any of us can learn and grow in, will help us combat all those negative feelings. We can even turn them around into efforts to define what it is we want to be good at and how we can go about that.

    For Jewish Moms, listening or going to shiurim where we can be encouraged to see our mothering role as a holy mission as well as get advice on “tikkun hamiddot” and how it can improve us as Moms is hugely important in combating anxiety and depression.

    • JewishMOM.com

      that’s an excellent and very important suggestion, thanks for adding it…

  2. This peptalk really hit the spot! I recently attended a conference where a researcher specialising in postnatal depression outlined lifestyle changes that can help, and you’ve covered most of them. In addition, she explained that depression is an inflammatory disease so any action you take to reduce inflammation will be helpful (that’s why reducing sugar and increasing exercise help). She also mentioned omega-3 (fish oil) and Vitamin D as being helpful.

    In Australia, where we have lots of sun, it seems that lots of frum women are still Vitamin D deficient. I would say that it is worth getting blood tests of iron, vitamin D, thyroid function etc. It is so easy for moms with deficiencies to assume the exhaustion/overwhelm is due to lack of coping when really there is something that can be ‘fixed’.

    • JewishMOM.com

      thanks SK, that is absolutely fascinating. I had never heard that about depression being an inflammatory disease. If you have any more info on that i would love to hear. Great points about the Vitamin D and omega 3 etc. I also heard that frum women are especially at risk in terms of Vitamin D because we are covered up, so we are not as exposed to the sun which is a major source of vitamin D.

      • The researcher’s name is Kathy Kendall-Tackett and this is from one of her handouts:

        Researchers have recently made some amazing discoveries about postpartum depression. And these findings have practical implications for you. We’ve known for some time that common stresses of new motherhood, such as sleep deprivation, pain, and
        psychological trauma, all increase the risk of depression. What’s new is the realization that inflammation is the factor that ties all the
        other risk factors together. Pregnant and postpartum women are particularly vulnerable to these effects because their inflammation levels normally rise during the last trimester of pregna ncy—a time when they are also at high risk for depression. This may
        also explain why depressed women are at higher risk for preterm birth. Inflammation helps prepare the body for labor by ripening the cervix and causing contractions. If it’s elevated because of depression, it can trigger preterm labor. In contrast, interventions
        that lower inflammation can also lower the risk of preterm birth.

        This new research suggests two important and related goals for preventing and treating postpartum depression: reduce maternal stress and reduce inflammation. These are described below.

        The link to all her handouts is
        http://uppitysciencechick.com/index.html

        The quote above is from her handout on why breastfeeding and omega-3s help prevent depression.

    • JewishMOM.com

      thanks for telling me about uppity science chick, very amazing stuff there: Posted about it here:)
      http://jewishmoms.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/uppity-science-chick-on-postpartum-depression/

  3. Thank you so much for this post. I felt as though you were speaking directly to me. After feeling like a failure as a mom, I sought help in reading inspiring books to help me overcome this obstacle. I have been reading David Fox, M.D’s latest book titled, “Comfort Healing and Joy: Secrets to living a magnificent life” and have found the book to be extremely helpful. I thought it was worth mentioning since it is geared toward virtually everyone, and does not espouse a particular belief system… it just presents numerous paths to peace that we all need.

  4. Thank you for another great talk!
    I was once off of sugar and white flour for about a year (a nursing infant was reacting to it). I found that physically I felt great, but I felt VERY restricted and always desperate for food. Maybe because I didn’t decide to do it for myself…
    I’ve been trying to stay away from sugar but find it hard to get used to the lifestyle changes. I’m used to eating a lot of pasta, etc. Can you give some specific examples of what you eat? Are you children okay with eating like this, or do you give them less healthy foods? Do you bake? Do you have any recipes that you want to share :)?
    I think you once said that “b’etzev teldi bunim” is a woman’s challenge in life, always fighting sadness. I was encouraged by that and have shared with many people. We need to fight it, but it helps to realize that it is part of our nature and there isn’t something wrong that the sadness creeps up, we just need to keep knocking it out!

    • JewishMOM.com

      dear chaya, thanks for your question. I personally haven’t felt restricted by the no sugar and white flour thing. If I want pasta, I have whole wheat, and I do eat sugar substitutes. So on shabbat, for example, my big treat is a box of sugarless cookies and a bag of doritos.

      I eat whole wheat bread, and other grains like rice and bulghur. If I want cereal, I buy sugar free puffed wheats at a natural food store, and sprinkle sugar substitute on the top. I eat eggs and a lot of vegetables.

      My kids don’t do this diet. I have one child who is really sensitive to sugar, so I don’t give that child sugar. But otherwise, my kids eat healthy but not as strictly as me about sugar and white flour. Maybe when my girls are moms, they’ll do this diet too. Since I think moms are under so much stress and up and down the hormonal rollercoaster that they’ll choose to. But maybe it’s just me, and that I’m especially sensitive to these things?

      I bake with sugar substitutes like sucralose and apple concentrate and honey.

      I also think of the “b’etsev teldi banim” a lot. That is something rabbanit yemima talks about often. That women are sad by nature, and our job in the world is to work on being joyful, to overcome our nature.

  5. Just about five years ago, when I was nursing my then four month-old, I decided to add flax seeds to my morning oatmeal because I’d heard that “omega-3s” were good for babies and that flax was a good source. After a few months of steadily increasing the amount of flax, I arrived at work and was so noticeably calmer than usual, that a colleague even commented on it. At that point, I walked over to a computer and googled “omega-3 and anxiety” and discovered a trove of studies demonstrating CLEAR benefits.

    If this sounds like one more anecdote citing help from a supplement, what I left out is that my husband had moved out the week earlier. I had spent that week distraught and overwhelmed. Before I made the connection between flaxseed and my mental health, I even considered the possibility that I’d used up my lifetime allotment for stress. (I know, if only….) In case you’re suspicious that my husband’s moving out was what alleviated my depression, the answer is a resounding NO. Full-time working and single parenting of an infant (however wonderful he is – and he IS!) is an incredibly stressful combination….

    Baruch Hashem, life is smoother these days. Flax is my medication. My now five year-old has a calmer mother. He even reminds me to make sure I finish my “dose” if I’m running late in the morning….

    How much to take? I grind my flaxseed fresh every morning – highly recommended due to waning potency over a week in the refrigerator. Somewhere between one teaspoon and two tablespoons is likely to work, with studies showing a person’s whole-body deficit taking weeks to months to replace before the anti-anxiety/depressive effect kicks in. (I was on for three months before I saw an effect. Also eliminated menstrual cramps….)

    A major caveat: My good friend who noticed my dramatic change in mood figured she should try it too, even though she was well-treated on Prozac. Within a week, she was deeply depressed. Clearly, Prozac worked for her, and the depression quickly lifted when she cut out the flax. So if you’re taking medication, please work with your mental health care provider if you are considering trying this….

    All of Chana’s recommendations are excellent ones. Excellent. As are the additional comments above. But google Omega-3’s and see for yourself!

  6. What Homeopathy did you use to help treat depression and anxiety?
    Also, do you recommend someone in NY/NJ?

    I was doing everything you said but the homeopathy.. exersize, babysitting help, doing things i enjoyed, no white flour/sugar, seeing a therapist….. but it still wasnt helping so I went to a psychiatrist who gave me antidepressants as I’ve been suffering for so long.

    I was pushing myself for a long time and sort of coping… but once I had a big stress…a few months ago, it was enough to put me down enough that I couldn’t get out of it…

    So I’d like to tell people that yes, try these things, but if they dont get to the root of it… try counseling or even psychiatry. You are not crazy if u go to one…. you just need meeication to stabilize your mood that was set off by something.

    no big deal, really!

  7. I cannot get the video to play or find it on youtube either. Did you take it down?

    Thanks!

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  1. Comfort, Healing, and Joy « The JewishMom.com Blog - [...] a comment she left on this week’s peptalk on overcoming depression and anxiety, a viewer named Becky highly recommended…

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