Mood Management for Moms!

Does it sometimes seem difficult to motivate yourself to do what needs to be done in a day? Do you feel anxious about the future, and have troubles enjoying the present? Do you feel frustrated by your inability to make your life the way you want it to be? If so, these feeling will make parenting much more difficult. The good news is you can learn to overcome these feelings and become a happier, more resilient mom as a result.

Growing up, I didn’t understand why so many things were a big deal to my mom. She was frequently cranky with us and short on patience. Yet now that I am a mother, I have a lot more empathy and understanding. Not only did she have too much on her plate, but I also suspect that my mom battled with depressed thoughts, which fueled her irritability. As I’ve worked to overcome my own issues, I have learned that my mood management is job number 1.

As someone who has twice been diagnosed with clinical depression, I have had my own issues with irritability and crankiness. I’ve been fortunate enough to learn skills to deal with my previous clinical depressions, so that I haven’t had to be on long-term medication. I have become quite optimistic, and I often have no symptoms of depression. I’ve heard though that depression and anxiety are like diabetes, that we can learn to manage these mood issues, but we are never fully cured.

I can see the truth of that when I am stressed or physically depleted. At those times, I have a tendency to have depressed thoughts reemerge, making my mood management a top priority again. One of the tools I’ve used heavily is cognitive behavior therapy, or CBT for short. I use a Depression Checklist devised by David Burns to assess my mood whenever I sense depressed thoughts are present. One of the question on the checklist is, “Do you have to push yourself hard to do things?” When I’m feeling depressed, everything seems like a big deal, and I often score high on this question.

Prior to become aware of this thought-pattern, I thought everything was a big deal! It was hard to motivate myself to do what needed doing, and so I often got irritable with the kids because I was already stressed. I recognize this same trait in my mom and sister, leading me to suspect that depression has robbed them of a lot of joy as well.

Now I know to watch my moods when I have too much going on, or when my iron levels dip. I often train for half marathons, and as the mileage increases, have to watch that my iron levels don’t dip. Low iron causes similar symptoms to depression, and can cause similar thoughts of hopelessness. I also often have a busy lifestyle that can tip me into battling thoughts that lead to depression or anxiety.

I’m writing this article today because I have both had a lot going on and I’m physically tired from my long run this week. Last week I was away for a 5-day business trip. Not only that, but the kids had a non-student Friday, which shortened my work week. I planned to work anyways but with my daughter missing me after my time away, I decided to take most of the day off to be with her. Then for my long run, I ran 12 miles or 16 km as part of training for a half marathon in June. That was enough of a push to leave me wanting to sit on the couch for the rest of the day!

The two events combined to make me feel a bit down this morning. Fortunately, I was well aware of what was fueling the thoughts, and so I wasn’t cranky or irritable with the kids. I know that this feeling will pass as I get back on top of my workload, so that it feels more like the joyous work that it really is than the overwhelming mass of tasks that I envisioned first thing this morning! I’m grateful for knowing this mood will shift, because I used to get depressed about feeling depressed, a cycle that was not good at all!

I’d love to hear your experiences with mood management. I have also used CBT and mindful meditation to help me deal with anxiety issues. Daniel Amen says that something like 70% of people who suffer from depression also suffer from anxiety. As my depression has become less and less of an issue, I’ve become more aware of my anxiety issues. Anxiety too can feed crankiness and other mood issues for me.

Parenting has given me a huge gift because I have become aware of mood issues that affected me my whole life. Before these issues got better though they got worse, so that didn’t always seem like a gift! I love working with other parents to help you learn how to overcome your mood issues so that you can become the person and the parent you want to be. Stable, optimistic moods are a key part of leading a happy life, and no matter how big an issue depression and anxiety is for you, you can learn how to overcome these mood issues.

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