How Can I Manage Anxiety and Parenthood?

Pyramid Online Counseling      Mental Health  
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What are the symptoms of parental anxiety?

You have likely felt anxiety at different points throughout your life – when driving for the first time, starting a new job or buying a house. Anxiety during parenthood is its own brand unlike any type of worry you have felt before, especially for first-time parents. Some symptoms you may experience include:

  • Incessant thinking or worrying about yourself as a parent and your child, including whether or not you are a good parent, whether or not you are making the right decisions or whether or not your child is thriving
  • The constant fear that something bad will happen to your child
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of dread or doom
  • Loss of appetite
  • Agoraphobia
  • Rapid heartbeat and/or hyperventilation 
  • Obsessive watching or checking on your baby or child
  • Panic attacks
  • Irritability 

Is it normal to feel anxiety during parenthood?

It is absolutely normal, and maybe even expected to experience parental anxiety. Welcoming a new child into your family is a major lifestyle transition, and the infinite unknowns surrounding parenthood can lead to sleepless nights full of stress, worry and fear. Indeed, parenthood is one of the greatest joys of life, but that doesn’t mean it is always happy or easy.

How can I address my anxiety while I’m busy parenting?

Variety is certainly the spice of life, especially within the context of the anxiety that comes along with parenting at different stages in your child’s life:

  • Baby
    • Learn to read their emotions and different cries so you can better understand what they want. You’ll feel more confident if you can identify a “hungry cry” versus a “discomfort cry” and quickly spring into action.
    • Maintain your independence – whether that means returning to work, meeting with your book club or leaving your baby with grandma while you run errands or go to the gym.
  • Toddler
    • Stay organized and try to save time when possible. Pick out outfits for the week, prepare and freeze meals ahead of time and keep your tot on a schedule so you can plan your productive hours accordingly.
    • Regularly take your child to the pediatrician to check in on recurring issues and ensure your child is meeting all of their benchmarks.
  • Elementary school
    • Establish schedules and routines for extracurriculars, meals and bedtime. Both you and your child will take comfort in the feeling of stability.
    • Hire a tutor to help with homework while you take care of other household duties, especially if your child’s math homework feels above your pay grade.
  • Middle school
    • Trust and respect your child, and you will receive the same in return. 
    • Prepare yourself for shifts in behavior and personality from your teen, and try not to take it personally.
    • Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to let them experience things and learn lessons on their own. Middle school often brings about bullying, first crushes and physical changes – these are things that you may not be able to protect your child from. As scary as it feels in the moment, your anxiety will be eased once you see the coping skills and independence your child has developed.
  • High school
    • Enroll your child in driving school if the thought of them being behind the wheel terrifies you, teaching them yourself will only add unnecessary stress if neither of you is comfortable with it.
    • Talk to your child about safe sex and what healthy relationships look like.
  • College
    • Communicate regularly, especially if your child has moved away for college. You will sleep better at night knowing where your child is, who they are with and that they got home safely. 

Certain anxieties persist throughout parenthood, no matter how young or old your child is, such as whether they are safe, happy and healthy. Keep these tips in mind, whether your baby is 2 months or 20 years old:

  • Accept that your decisions won’t be perfect one hundred percent of the time. It’s okay to make mistakes and it’s okay to have a bad day or night.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other parents that you know. What works for your friend’s family may not work for your family and vice versa, and you can never truly know what other families are like within their own homes.
  • You are going to be stressed, embrace it.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Ask a parental figure in your life how they addressed certain challenges, and compare and contrast to how you might respond. 
  • Take time to truly understand each of your children and adjust your parenting strategy accordingly. If your son likes to be tucked in at night but your daughter wants to set her own bedtime routine, allow them both to explore what they prefer. You’ll feel less stressed knowing you have an established routine that each of your children are comfortable with.
  • Learn to triage. When you’re trying to switch a load of laundry, keep dinner from burning and ensure your child isn’t putting anything in their mouth that doesn’t belong, life can feel overwhelming all at once. Focus on the most important matter or task at hand and go from there.
  • Recognize what you can and cannot control.
  • Know that you are enough. Sometimes you need to take 30 minutes to yourself to take a bath while leaving your kid set up with a pile of toys and their favorite movie. You might feel guilty for missing out on playtime, but in the long run, small incidents like that will in no way impact your child. As long as you deeply love them, care for them and provide for them, you are the best parent for your child.

Can I speak with a counselor or therapist about my parental anxiety?

Pyramid Online Counseling provides holistic virtual therapy that works with your schedule. Investing in yourself is always worth the time commitment, and our licensed therapists are here to help you establish routines, strategies and actions to address your anxiety. Reach out today at 833-525-3077 to find the counselor that fits your needs.

Dealing with Depression Symptoms in Early Parenthood

Pyramid Online Counseling      Mental Health  
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Smiling young african American mother sit on warm floor play with little infant toddler child, happy biracial mom relax have fun read book with small baby girl at home, motherhood, childcare concept

Parenting is hard. Parenting with depression is even harder. With depression, you might not have the energy to even take proper care of yourself, but when you have a child (or two) depending on you to feed, dress and bathe them, ignoring their needs isn’t an option. 

When you muster up the energy to finally get everyone situated, it might be a wholly halfhearted attempt to meet the bare minimum just to get the job done. When the task is completed, feelings of failure, self-doubt and a gnawing sense of “being a bad parent” might plague you, sending you further into depression and even less focused on the kids in front of you. 

The truth of the matter

Allow us to shed some truth on the situation. First, you’re not a bad parent, you’re a parent struggling with depression and trying to manage the difficulties of parenting. That’s a lot for one person to undertake. 

Second, struggling with parenting doesn’t make you a failure. Especially if this is your first baby, there’s going to be millions of trial and error moments simply because you’ve never done this before – did you master riding a bicycle the first time your dad removed the training wheels? Probably not, so don’t expect yourself to master parenting with your first (or even second) child…plus, raising kids is way harder than learning to ride a bike, remember that. 

Third, everyone doubts their abilities to parent. Depression is likely to magnify that sense of doubt to a debilitating point. Remember, just because you think you’re doing an awful job, your child probably doesn’t see it that way at all.

Coping with depression as a parent is both a mental challenge and a physical challenge, in that you physically need to get up and do things to overcome depressive states. By taking small, simple steps each day you might surprise yourself with how often you actually succeed. 

Find your people

It might be your own parent, your best friend or someone from a mom’s group who’s been around the ring a time or two. No matter who it is, it’s someone knowledgeable, reliable and honest who you can call when times get tough. Maybe you feel like responsibilities aren’t evenly distributed between you and your spouse, but you don’t know how to ask for help without becoming emotional and angry. Perhaps you need someone to come over and hold the baby while you get the laundry folded or lawn mowed. It can be anyone you trust who can cheer you on or kindly call you out. 

Even if you don’t reach out frequently, it’s always helpful to know you do have someone you can contact when you don’t know where else to turn. 

Go outside

Kids love being outside. Infants will sit in the stroller and nod off during a walk. Young children can explore with chalk, dandelions, water, even dirt and sand while you rest on the back porch. The point is, find time to get outside every day. Whether it’s tending to a garden, going on a 30-minute walk or bike ride, or relaxing in the sun to soak in some Vitamin D, a little time outdoors can go a long way in reducing symptoms of depression.

Power off your devices

Turn off the news, it can be full of stressful information that you have no control over. You have your own life to worry about, why make yourself sad and anxious about what’s happening somewhere else. By choosing to focus only on what’s in front of you, you’ll feel less overwhelmed.

Take a break from social media. Whether that’s turning off notifications or deleting apps entirely for a period of time, give yourself a break. Social media makes you feel the need to be “on” and available 24/7, not to mention the temptation to compare yourself to all the other parents out there. You already have to be available constantly to your children, so ease the burden and don’t make yourself available to people on the internet, and always remember social media parents are only posting the best parts of their life, so don’t compare yourself to only half of someone else’s reality. 

Seek help

Sometimes, regardless of the steps you take and the advice you read, you still find yourself struggling. This does not mean you’re a failure, it simply means the problem is just not something you’re equipped to handle on your own. Even individuals who struggle with depression without the addition of parenthood need to reach out for help at times, so there’s absolutely no shame if you need to as well. 

This is what counselors are for, to help those who don’t know how or simply don’t have the energy to handle mental disorders like depression. Reaching out to and talking with a counselor or therapist not only can provide you with the tools you need to handle depression, but it can give you a new outlook on life as well.

If you feel burdened by the responsibilities of parenthood and overwhelmed with depression, contact Pyramid Online Counseling today at (833) 525-3077 for convenient, at-home and professional counseling. 

What is Prenatal Depression and How is it Treated?

Pyramid Online Counseling      Mental Health  
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Maternity Portrait in front of window in UK.

What is prenatal depression?

Prenatal depression is defined as depression – a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest – experienced by the mother during pregnancy. Prenatal depression can also lead to heightened worry, anxiety and sadness throughout the pregnancy. When left untreated, prenatal depression can have serious and potentially fatal side effects.

What are the symptoms of prenatal depression?

Prenatal depression symptoms can vary depending on the person, but the most commonly reported symptoms include sleep changes, decreased libio and energy levels, loss of interest on hobbies or other enjoyable activities, poor adherence to natal care and thoughts of suicide. It is noted that some symptoms of depression, like sleep changes, are also common side effects of pregnancy, which can lead to prenatal depression going undetected. Secondary effects of prenatal depression can include the baby not receiving necessary nutrients to thrive if the mother is not able to regularly eat balanced meals, exercise if needed or otherwise maintain her health.

Is depression common among pregnant women?

There are now three known types of depression that one can experience before or after pregnancy, prenatal depression – while the mother is pregnant, postpartum depression – after the baby has been born, and perinatal depression – a combination of the two. It is estimated that worldwide, roughly 10% of pregnant women experience prenatal depression and 13% of new mothers experience postpartum depression; this means that 10% of pregnant women experience prenatal depression. When we imagine 10 women that we work with, or 10 women in our family, the fact that one out of those 10 have the potential for prenatal depression makes the statistic much more sobering. The risk for developing prenatal depression is also exponentially increased for pregnant women experiencing financial or food insecurity, health complications and familial instability. Although prenatal depression is nearly as common as postpartum depression, it is discussed much less in the public discourse on pregnancy.

What effect does prenatal depression have on mothers – and their families?

The time before a baby is born is meant to be a period where families form closer bonds in anticipation of their new addition. It is also a stressful time that brings about great change (and expense). If the expectant mother is experiencing prenatal depression, she may feel less excited and hopeful about her new baby. This can also lead to a disconnect between the parents-to-be, if they are not able to openly or equally share their feelings about their baby. Mothers with prenatal depression often feel intense guilt and shame in addition to their existing symptoms, which can cause the depression to compound.

How can a soon-to-be-mother cope with prenatal depression?

A mental health practitioner, OB/GYN or related medical professional would be the first step in seeking treatment for prenatal depression. There are several therapy modalities and medication options that are considered safe for pregnant women, especially because the benefits they bring outweigh any potential harm to mom or baby. Some mothers have also found success with lifestyle changes that incorporate mindfulness and self-care – including support groups, exercise, meditation, journaling and open communication with loved ones. Confiding in a partner or loved one can also help come to terms with the feelings that come along with prenatal depression, and may help give others insight on how to be there for mom. It is important to find a treatment or coping mechanism that works for the mom, and it is perfectly fine for her to decide that one method isn’t working for her. 

How can we raise awareness about prenatal depression?

Talking about prenatal depression is the best way to raise awareness among mothers, the medical community and our broader society. Pregnancy and motherhood can be an isolating experience, and mothers are often made to feel like they should be happy and grateful at all times because of their cute, perfect little baby. Depression, on its own, is also heavily stigmatized in some parts of the world and treatment is not always widely accessible. Because of this, parents can be afraid or hesitant to discuss feelings of depression during pregnancy or after childbirth. Due to a worldwide prevalence of prenatal depression, it is imperative that we facilitate open and honest conversations about its severity. A soon-to-be mother knowing that her own mom, friend or neighbor has experienced prenatal depression may be enough for them to know that they are not alone.

Pyramid Online Counseling is trained to treat prenatal depression in women of all ages, from all backgrounds. If you or your loved one might be suffering from prenatal depression, reach out to us today at (833) 525-3077 to learn more.

6 Ways You Can Fight Parental Fatigue So You Can Love Your Family More

Pyramid Online Counseling      Mental Health, Treatment & Therapy  
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Young mother holding her baby and smiling

Is there anything more exhausting than raising children? Of course, being a parent is one of the most rewarding experiences a person could ask for, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it comes with difficult times, too.

Being fatigued as a parent is a sure sign of love. The emotional, physical and financial resources you invest in your kids points to how much you really care for them. Your effort likely goes unnoticed, and this can leave you feeling unappreciated and spent.

1. Accept that you are exhausted

“Compassion fatigue” might be a new phrase to you, but it will surely ring true. Compassion fatigue is when we feel worn out and unable to show empathy, because our stores of empathy have run dry. As a parent, always offering compassion to your children and other loved ones can leave you feeling empty.

Accepting that you are worn down is the first step in fostering change. Denying your own needs will only drive you further into a hole of weariness. If you want your energy back, you’ll have to acknowledge that you need a break. Talk about it with your partner and other support people in your life. Find ways to relax and take care of yourself.

2. Improve time management

Taking breaks may feel impossible if you don’t have a good system to manage your schedule. Parents are often overloaded with responsibility – driving kids to appointments, watching soccer games, attending school events and a million and one other things. 

Although everything may feel crucial, it’s likely that you can cut a few things out of your busy life. Prioritize what matters most to your family, and consider minimizing the rest of your priorities. When you make good use of your family’s time, you’ll find more enjoyment and feel less worn out.

3. Learn some strategies to handle behavior

More days than not, it’s probably the thing you love the most that takes the greatest toll – your kids. Your children and their unique personalities can wear you down and make your question your parenting. Learning a few strategies to help manage difficult behaviors can make the hardest moments easier.

There are hundreds of theories and styles that you could consider, but don’t let them bog you down. Start by adding one new parenting tool to your plate.

4. Model healthy habits for your kids

One of the best ways to teach our kids is through modeling healthy habits. Children pick up on everything we do, whether we notice or not. From the way we express our emotions and apologize, to the way we socialize with people different from us, we are teaching our kids how to interact with the world around them.

Taking care of yourself can be a two-for-one in parenting. Not only does it encourage you to support your own health, but your kids will pick up on why it’s important and how to do it for themselves.

Whether this involves taking a walk every morning or having an honest conversation about your emotions at the dinner table, your kids will mimic the habits that you model. Use that time wisely, so you teach life skills and take care of yourself at the same time.

5. Participate in local community

Whether you call up the school social worker or take advantage of the free babysitting at your place of worship, using the resources already available to you can take off some of the load of parental fatigue. Community centers, churches, libraries, schools and local clubs are all great ways to let the village raise your children, as the saying goes.

Your kids will majorly benefit from social time with other children, and you’ll get a break from entertaining them. You may even find parent friends who you enjoy spending time with as much as your kids enjoy the playdate.

Your whole family has a need to feel connected to others, so take care of both at once. Just keep in mind your new time management strategies and don’t over-commit.

6. Online counseling

To best take care of your family, you have to take care of yourself first. Accepting that you are exhausted and need support could very well mean it’s time to start counseling. With your busy parenting schedule, it may seem impossible to add one more thing to your week, but the time you put in will pay off tenfold.

When you engage in counseling, the rest of your life improves as your mental wellbeing follows suit. You’ll find more enjoyment in daily activities and feel a greater sense of purpose.

Pyramid Online Counseling can offer you the support you need, to love your family to the best of your ability. With flexible scheduling and the convenience of online counseling, there’s no reason not to start today. Call 833-525-3077 or reach out online today, to get the help you deserve.

How Do I Know if My Child is Suicidal?

Pyramid Online Counseling      Mental Health  
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Meta Title: Helping Parents Recognize Suicide Signs in Children|Pyramid Online Counseling

Meta Description: Changes in sleep patterns, eating habits, socialization and appearance can serve as possible signs of suicidal tendencies in children.

No parents ever want to find themselves seeking signs of suicide in children. Childhood suicide is one of the most heartwrenching plagues that society faces, and the impact on loved ones is devastating. Fortunately, parents who take the time to familiarize themselves with signs of suicide in children can limit mental health issues, and potentially save lives.

Addressing suicide is no easy task. Thankfully, there are resources and data that can help parents and caregivers recognize signs of suicide in children. If you are concerned that your child might be suicidal, but aren’t sure what the warning signs are, read on to learn how to spot behaviors that might signal a need for intervention.

Note: When talking about the topic of suicide, the language can feel blunt. However, all research points to the effectiveness of interventions that use direct language, even if it feels uncomfortable at first.

Recognizing signs of suicide in children

No two children are the same. Suicidal tendencies in children will look different based on temperament, personality and the child’s situation. A child who is extremely talkative and outgoing will demonstrate warning signs differently than a child who is more naturally soft-spoken.

As a parent or caregiver, you are the expert on your child. Your relationship and proximity to your child are some of the best assets you have when making decisions on behalf of their mental health. Even if your child shows none of the warning signs listed below, do not hesitate to reach out for professional help if you feel a need for further assistance.

Common warning signs of suicide in children include:

  • Changes in sleep
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Changes in friend groups
  • Changes in appearance
    • No longer caring about personal hygiene
  • Sudden and strong mood changes
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness
    • No longer engaged in hobbies or interests
  • Expressing feelings of worthlessness
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Plans to attempt suicide
  • Making person arrangements
    • Writing goodbye letters, bringing the contents of a school locker home or giving away things
  • Acquiring a means to attempt suicide
    • Hoarding pills or obtaining a weapon
  • Recent life changes
    • Loss of a loved one, legal trouble or trouble at school
  • Suicidal statements
    • Statements to listen for
  • “It’s all too much”
  • “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up”
  • “Life isn’t worth living”
  • “I don’t have anything to look forward to”

What to do if you see suicidal signs in children

The first thing to do is to voice your love for your child. Then, state your concerns. Identify specific behaviors that you’ve noticed that have made you worried. Next, ask directly about suicide. This might be hard to say out loud, but it’s important that you ask “Have you thought about suicide?” and “Have you made plans to attempt suicide?”

This conversation could be one of the hardest of your life, but it could also be the most important. Don’t leave the conversation without making an action step. The action step could be setting up a therapy appointment, or calling a school social worker or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

Resources for parents

As a parent, there are some resources you’ll want to have handy. Bookmark the resources you think will be helpful and save the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number as a contact in your phone. Also, consider talking to your child’s pediatrician and school. They will connect you to the best services in your area.

911: Call local law enforcement first for emergency situations. Things that constitute emergencies include, but are not limited to:

  • An individual who has already consumed pills or a potentially lethal substance
  • An individual who currently possesses a weapon
  • An individual who has access to a means to harm himself or someone else
  • An individual whose behavior is erratic and uncontrollable
  • An individual who has expressed suicidal ideation and cannot be located

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: For non-emergency situations, this lifeline is the best place to call. The lifeline provides professional support for those in distress and can connect you with local resources. Call the number or visit the website to find specific resources for diverse and at-risk groups.

The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: This website has tools designed to help parents talk with their children about suicide, identify warning signs of suicide in young children and connect you with local services. 

The National Association of School Psychologists: This article, titled “Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators” outlines suicide warning signs in children, action steps you can take and protective factors that decrease the likelihood of a suicide attempt.

The Sucide Prevention Resource Center: This resource is not specifically catered to youth, but offers tools and training to recognize and cope with suicidal ideation for individuals and families.

Looking for signs of suicide in children is something no parent should ever have to do, and you don’t have to do it alone. Pyramid Online Counseling works with adults and adolescents (ages 14 and up) to support mental wellness and decrease suicidality. Support your child or seek therapy yourself as you cope with this major life event by calling (833) 525-3077, or reaching out online today.