Is it all just too much?
Everyone experiences stress, but the last 18 months has probably been the most stressful time in decades for almost everyone.
COVID has most likely affected you in some way. Perhaps you lost someone close to you. Maybe you already had depression and then you were forced to stay inside which compounded your symptoms. Has COVID caused you to be out of physical contact with friends, family and your support system? These events can leave you feeling very isolated and stressed out.
Stress not only affects how we feel emotionally but can also affect our physical well-being. Being pregnant during this pandemic can add another layer of stress. Is it all just too much?
If you feel miserable or unhappy and not sure why, you might be experiencing depression. According to Mental Health America, 12 million American women experience depression every year; most fall in the 25 to 44 age range.
People who experience depression can have a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Feeling sad or “empty”
- Feeling disconnected
- Loss of interest in activities
- Feeling hopeless, like nothing good ever happens
- Feeling guilty, worthless, like a failure, or not a good mother
- Loss of energy
- Problems concentrating, remembering things, making decisions
- Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Worried about hurting the baby
- Thoughts of suicide or ‘life not worth living’
Post-Partum and Post-Abortion Depression
For women who give birth, postpartum depression can set in. Some facts on this type of depression include:
- Approximately 2 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression (PPD) and even more may have elevated depressive symptoms, especially those who are low income.
- Depressive symptoms are linked to poor maternal and child health outcomes (Ammerman et al., 2009).
- Women who experience PPD are more likely to develop recurrent mood disorders throughout life, as well as impaired attachment and parenting (Meltzer-Brody & Stuebe, 2014).
- PPD is linked to developmental delays among infants, including social interaction difficulties, attachment insecurity, and cognitive impairments (Grace et al., 2003; Sohr-Preston & Scaramel LA, 2006).
Some women who abort their pregnancies experience depression. One woman wrote on Abortion Changes You, “25 years ago. Yes, it truly was that long ago and yet I still cry from regret of allowing my best friend/boyfriend demand I get an abortion.” Another woman penned, “I thought I was doing the right thing with getting an abortion. I knew we didn’t have the time, money, or patience to raise a child and that I would be ruining my boyfriend’s life and that child’s life as well. I didn’t realize that it would effect me as much as it has. The unbearable guilt and regret of the abortion has destroyed me entirely.”
Stress, guilt, and depression are common experiences women face. However, help is available.
There are many ways to alleviate stress and depression, including counseling and prescriptions. Exercise and meditation/mindfulness are other ways. Mindfulness is the practice of being self-aware in a non-judgmental way. It can help you slow down and pay attention to what is happening inside and around you.
Our moods will not change by themselves; we have to learn appropriate coping mechanisms to deal with stress. There is a relationship between what we do and how we feel. Making positive changes can keep us feeling good. Making healthy choices sets a good example for our children. Checking in with ourselves on a daily basis and practicing mindfulness can help boost positive feelings and reduce stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness can be practiced by focusing on your breathing and noticing your thoughts. One technique used by a staff member is to close her eyes and picture herself next to a babbling brook in the mountains. She imagines whatever stress is going on in her life at the moment, let’s say finances. She pictures that worry and places it on a leaf, letting it be carried downstream. She pictures letting that stress disappear out of her mind.
Here are some tips when practicing mindfulness:
- Put away your phone/devices.
- Focus completely on whatever activity or activities you chose to do.
- Give yourself permission to let go of other thoughts and worries.
- Allow yourself to slow down and just enjoy the moment.
- Be present. Don’t focus on the past or the future, but be present in the right now.
Find out more about mindfulness and techniques from the Mayo Clinic here: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/mindfulness-exercises/art-20046356.
There are additional ways to help you deal with stress and depression.
- Support from others: It is important to develop a support team. Search out friends and family around you who are good people to turn to when feeling down.
- Calming activities: Find activities that bring you peace, such as journaling, taking a hot bath, listening to music, going to your local park, walking or hiking, or reading a book in the shade.
True Care is Here to Help!
Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy can bring stress and depression as a woman grapples with various uncertainties and decisions. If you are facing an unplanned pregnancy, make an appointment with True Care; together we can work on reducing your stress and addressing your concerns, finding ways to send those feelings down the stream.