Monday, June 22, 2015

18 Tips for Overcoming Pregnancy Blues

Photo credit: Birth Boot Camp
I used to say that I loved being pregnant because it helped me feel balanced. As long as I can remember, I've struggled with my moods during my monthly cycle. During my period, I feel nonchalant about life. I'm neither sad nor particularly happy. I just am. Which is fine. I don't mind that. During my fertile week, which I've been calling my "happy week," and up to ovulation, I love everyone. I am so affectionate with my family and I'm on top of the world. I love that week because I feel so good and happy. Once I ovulate, my mood plummets. For about two weeks, I'll feel incredibly sad and down on myself. I'll feel on the verge of tears and irritable. I'll just feel all around down in the dumps, and I have no idea what to do about it. Those moods become my reality, and I forget that I was ever happy. Seriously. During those two weeks out of every month, I don't remember ever feeling happy, and I don't see how I can ever be happy again. And then, the glorious day comes where my period returns, and I feel sweet relief from those awful moods. It's as if a dam is released and these wonderful chemicals start running through my veins that wash away the sadness. Every month, it is the same. Sometimes I can get anxious during my "happy week" because I know what is coming the next few weeks. I've read a lot of articles over the years about what I can do about this, but my favorite article about PMS comes from Lani at Birth Faith. I always love the way she says things.

Since being pregnant with this baby, I haven't had that wonderful break from my moods that my other two pregnancies have provided. I haven't felt balanced at all. I've worked really hard to try to capture that feeling again and decided that I should share some of the things I've tried in case it might help someone. I'd love to hear from you of things you may have tried that I haven't included on this list.

1. Sunshine

Sunshine is a huge mood booster for me. Winter is a hard time for my moods, and I am super glad I live in Texas for this very reason. I need sunshine and lots of it. As often as I can, I open the curtains in our home to let the light in. If I'm feeling particularly down, and just want to hide under my covers all day, I have to force myself to open the curtains. It may or may not help, but it is one of the first things I try if I'm not feeling so great.

2. Prayer/Meditation

I try really hard most days to start my day off with prayer. I try to get my mind in a good place in order to get through my day. I find that starting my day with some quiet time to pray or meditate helps me more than starting my day without it. It won't necessarily mean that I am going to be all smiles that day, but it just means that the days that I do pray tend to be better than the days that I don't.

3. Get out of the house

Photo credit: Birth Boot Camp
When I was feeling pretty blue after my last baby, some of the advice I received was to force myself to get out of the house. I went to the library, play dates, and hung out with friends on days when it was really hard to drag myself out of the bed. I forced myself to go. A part of me really craved being with people and doing things, but it was just so hard when another part of me just wanted to waste away under the blankets all day. I've been using that same advice during this pregnancy. Usually my solution for getting out of the house is going to a local park every day, where I can also get some sunshine, fresh air, and exercise. Which leads me to...

4. Walking/Exercise

My kids and I have been walking at the park nearly every day during this pregnancy. As long as it is not raining or we don't have some errand to run, we go to the park. We had a few days in the past few weeks where there was so much rain the park flooded. We had to take a few days off during that time, but as soon as the trails were passable, we went back! I might start my day off feeling grumpy, sad, or even ragey, but once I've had a walk, I mellow out a bit.

5. Journaling

I admit that I don't do this nearly as much as I probably should, but this is something I used to do all the time when I was younger. You know what I really wish sometimes? I wish I had a journal that talked back. You know, like in Harry Potter? Only I wouldn't want it turn out the same way. Just a nice, sweet journal that talked back and offered good advice. Even though I don't do this very much anymore, it always provides a little bit of relief when I do.

6. Fish oil

Photo credit: morgueFile
I think I finally griped to my midwife enough about my moods that she recommended that I increase my fish oil intake. I'll be honest, here. I've never felt any difference when taking fish oil. Maybe I just don't notice it. It really isn't like getting hit with a bolt of lightening or something, but I'm willing to try it. This is one of my most recent experiments.

7. Magnesium

I've recently had a love affair with magnesium. I don't usually feel any difference when I take supplements of any kind, but with this, I did. I love this stuff! I bought some magnesium oil from Whole Foods a few weeks ago, and even my husband has noticed a difference when using it. I think it has helped him more than it has helped me! I've also taken some magnesium in the form of Natural Calm, and it seemed to help. However, I've stopped taking it because it upset my stomach. I'm a wimp about having an upset stomach. My midwife suggested that I take it with my biggest meal of the day, which for me is dinner. I should do it. I need to just do it. Again, I love what Lani at Birth Faith has said about magnesium. Can you tell she's one of my favorite birth bloggers? I've been following her since Lily was born, and her blog is where I heard about magnesium for the first time. Too bad it has taken me over five years to give it a try.

8. Nutrition

My midwife is a stickler for nutrition, so I have been working as hard as I can to keep my blood sugar as steady as I can. Have I been perfect? Absolutely not. I'm still a work in progress. At our most recent appointment, she strongly suggested that I cut the grains and carbs as much as possible. So for the next six weeks or so, I'm going to be eating as many salads as I can handle. No more sweets. I've already been soda-free for the past year and a half, so that's not a problem for me. I did drink some soda during my last two pregnancies, but I followed a trick my childbirth educator suggested: before you have your soda, drink twice as much water first. Once you do that, go ahead and have your soda. I also started craving chocolate during my last pregnancy and would eat Dove dark chocolates sometimes. My midwife joked that dark chocolate was a vegetable, so I totally justified it. I also went on a spinach craze and made spinach brownies and spinach muffins the last month of pregnancy or so. Probably not the best idea. This time, I've allowed some sweets like ice cream and brownies, but I've justified it by saying I haven't had any soda. No more sweets. I need to do better. I CAN do better. Keeping my sugar levels as steady as I can will hopefully help my moods.

Photo credit: morgueFile
9. Support Group

There is a local support group that I've been meaning to attend. I was going to go last week, but I talked myself out of it. This is what I do sometimes when it comes to social things. I get anxious about being in social settings when I'm not feeling my best.

10. Social Media Diet

There is a lot going on in the news. There's just too much for me to handle most days. Too much sadness and grief. Too much of people just being awful human beings to each other. I've had to try to avoid things that upset me. It has helped tremendously to unfollow perpetually negative people for awhile as well as use that hide button when I see a disturbing headline. I do like social media for the social aspect of it. I like being able to keep in touch with my friends. I just can't handle all the rest right now.

11. Avoid Isolation

I find that when I am not feeling my best, the pull to isolate myself is very strong. All I want to do is hide under my blankets. It is so hard to force myself out of bed, but my kids help with this. I have two little rays of sunshine that won't allow me to hide in my bed no matter how much I want to. And I keep my play dates, no matter how hard it is for me to drag myself out of the door. This is one reason I am perpetually late to social outings. It is not because I am trying to be a jerk to people. I am trying to build myself up to get out of the door. I am trying to fight the overwhelming urge to isolate myself from people when I am feeling like I would be doing people a bigger favor by not being around them. But I always keep my play dates, and I am always glad that I did.

12. Massage

Photo credit: Birth Boot Camp
I recently had the wonderful opportunity to have a massage from the amazing Rowan TwoSisters of Urban Curandera. She is amazing. Not only did she give a fantastic massage, but she listened to me talk about some of the things that were buried in my heart. I felt so incredibly cared about after visiting her, and I haven't felt quite like that in awhile.

My husband and I also exchange massages, and those are always nice. Anything that can get that beautiful love hormone oxytocin flowing is really good for helping my mood.

13. Sex/Orgasm

Speaking of things that get that wonderful love hormone oxytocin flowing.... There's so much I could say about this that it'll need its own post.

14. Serving others

Getting out of my own head by serving others usually helps me to overcome feelings of blues. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite apply to my family. Isn't that awful? I wish doing laundry and cooking dinner and tidying up our house provided the same level of satisfaction as say, serving families as a doula. I don't work as a doula for the "feel goods" or to help me improve my moods, but it is a welcome side effect. I do know that service is a really good way to get out of my own head, though.

15. Communication

I've been pretty open with my husband and midwife about my mood struggles with this pregnancy. It doesn't always help me feel better, but I know it is something I need to do. I'm especially good about telling my husband what I will need after this baby is born to avoid going through "the darkness" again like I did after my last birth. I'm not really sure what happened after my second baby was born, but several months after, it feels like the sun went down. That's the only way I know how to describe it. I'm trying to avoid that again.

16. Music

Yes, that is me "playing flute" with a Slim Jim
I am a professional musician, but I always forget about how much music can change someone's mood. After listening to young flutists learn to play their instrument hours on end several afternoons a week, I crave silence. However, I need to remember that certain types of music really uplift me and help me to feel better.

17. Attend the temple

I can't describe exactly how much the temple means to me, but it is one of my favorite places on Earth. I always feel so loved and happy after spending time there. I wish I could go every day! Do you have a place that makes you feel loved and happy? A sacred place? This could also include a place in nature. Somewhere that gives you a chance to leave the world behind and helps your spirit recharge.

18. Let go

My midwife introduced me to the following video by Ajahn Brahm about how to let go. I've always heard that I need to let go of things that are out of my control, but no one ever describes HOW to do it. This video takes some time to watch, but I was so glad I took the time to watch it.

Of course, I must mention that if you have been experiencing moods that have you concerned, there is always the option of pharmacological help. Communication with your care provider will be the most important step to finding a solution that works best for you.