Understanding Anxiety and Depression: Self-care, Motherhood, and When to Seek Help

Anxiety and depression are much more common than many people realize. Worldwide, anxiety affects up to one in 13 adults, and depression is the leading cause of disability.



Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of depression and anxiety can have significant overlap, explains Emily Pyles, MS, LPCC, licensed professional clinical counselor at Kettering Physician Network Behavioral Medicine Beavercreek. “Sleeping too much or too little, irritability, and changes in eating habits can all be manifestations of depression or anxiety,” Pyles says. “The biggest difference between the two is the feelings of negativity—with depression, people tend to feel more sadness and disinterest in the activities they would typically enjoy.” However, many people can experience symptoms of both simultaneously and the two often go hand-in-hand.

What can I do?

“Especially as mothers, depression and anxiety is so much more common than many people realize,” says Pyles. “Many women get the message that if you can’t hold it all together, there must be something wrong with you.”

Pyles emphasizes that giving yourself permission to feel those feelings of anxiety is a crucial step. “Surround yourself with people who you can talk with about how you’re really feeling,” she says. “Find that space where you don’t have to put on a front.”

When women are juggling the demands of parenting, adding one more thing to the to-do list can feel overwhelming. “Focus on starting small,” Pyles says. “Use something you are already doing as your self-care time.” Pyles shares that after she had her child, she began using her evening facewashing routine as self-care.  “I knew I was going to wash my face anyway, so I got products I really enjoyed and focused on being engaged in giving myself a break.” Other examples of creative self-care might include listening to an audiobook in the car or carving out five minutes to do a breathing exercise when you wake up.

For some moms, finding alone time is almost impossible. Pyles recommends doing what you can with what you have. “You can incorporate your kids into your self-care. Maybe you garden together, or maybe you have mommy-and-me workout time at home. Do something small to get the ball rolling.”

An essential part of your health care

Sometimes we have an internal barrier to showing emotions in front of others, especially our children. Pyles points out that it’s okay for your kids to see your sadness or frustration. “They don’t have to know all of your running internal dialogue, but it’s okay to take a breath because you’re frustrated,” she says. “You’re modeling to them that emotions are okay. And if you need to seek more help, you’re modeling to them that that’s okay, too.”

To find a therapist or mental health care professional, women can call directly to an office or ask their primary care provider for a referral. They can also directly call their insurance provider to request a list of providers who are covered by their insurance. Pyles points out that more and more locations are offering scheduling accommodations such as evening appointments or virtual therapy options. “In my practice, even if you have to bring your kids to your first appointment, don’t let that be a barrier to coming in.”

Pyles emphasizes that taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking good care of your family. “Just like we want people to seek help if they have a stomach bug or a chronic condition like heart disease, the same mentality should also be true for seeking mental health care.”

Anyone having thoughts of harming themselves or someone else should seek mental health treatment immediately at their local emergency center or call 911. For additional mental health resources, visit ketteringhealth.org/mentalhealth

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