How I overcame postnatal depression

How I overcame postnatal depression

There is nothing worse than the feeling of overwhelm.

When I think about the times I've felt completely overwhelmed I get all sweaty and uncomfortable; like I'm reliving the whole thing over again.  Churning stomach, tumbling thoughts, rising panic... eurgh, it's a horrible place to be.

For example, in 2009 I hit rock bottom.  After a successful career in the City I was struggling to get through each day.  I was an expat in China, with a premature baby daughter who struggled to feed or sleep, and I didn’t really care what happened to me.  Overwhelm hit me like a brick.  On the day I was diagnosed with postnatal depression my new start, my journey back to me, began.

And step-by-step, day-by-day, I found myself again.

I started blogging around this time and having a creative outlet was definitely an essential part of my therapy.  But while I became a positive person on the outside – full of energy and busyness on the inside - my glass was still almost permanently half empty.  I strongly believe that negativity can become a habit - it was for me.  Through therapy, time and support, I recovered from postnatal depression.  But negativity was my first reaction to a situation, with negative words often tumbling out of my mouth before my brain had time to engage and stop them.  And whenever I felt overwhelmed in a situation, it would rear its head again.

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When I feel overwhelmed I want to run away, I want to escape, bury my head in the sand, or at least in a good book or an afternoon of trashy TV.  But I know from experience that it really doesn't help; the reasons I feel overwhelmed in the first place are still there lurking in the background ready to bubble back up to the surface again.

One of the questions I've been asked most since I launched TheJoyChaser.com (now MichelleReevesCoaching.com) is how I broke this habit of negativity, and how I continue to stay positive and overcome that horrible feeling of overwhelm on a daily basis.

As a business owner, blogger, ambassador for the MIND mental health charity and a mum of two, it's sometimes tough to find time in the day for me, let alone anything else.  

But I do find the time for me.  Every.  Single.  Day.  And I feel passionately that every woman should try to do the same.  As busy mums, wives, sisters, daughters and colleagues, so much of our daily routines revolve around everyone but ourselves.  I was in that exact same place. Wanting to take time-out (without feeling guilty about it) to discover my more positive, happier and successful self.

As busy mums, wives, sisters, daughters and colleagues so much of our daily routines revolve around everyone but ourselves.

My default negativity took time to build up and become a part of my life.  So if I wanted positivity and joy to be part of my every day, it followed that they needed to become habits too.  To break the habit of negativity I realised I needed to create a new normal.  A new routine that would internally create the space in my day to help me practice my positive habits - my 8 happiness habits everyday - and help to overcome that feeling of overwhelm.  

So I created one.  A routine that gives me time back for me.  One that boosts my positivity and self-esteem every day; helps me reach what I call my 'I'm-a-mama-but-still-me' goals; sets me on the right course, with purpose, every morning and puts me to bed with gratitude.

And it worked.  People started noticing the new, more positive me and I knew that I had to share it with others.  So I urge you, make time in the day for you.  Even just 15 minutes to yourself can make all the difference to your wellbeing.

Michelle's top 5 tips for overcoming overwhelm

1. Identify your overwhelm triggers

What sets off that feeling for you?  Once we know what starts us down that path we can look at how to anticipate those triggers and put plans in place to stop them before they start.


2. Clear the mind clutter

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Stop your mind whirring with to-dos and get a fresh start by writing everything you need to get done in one long list - on paper, sticky notes, in your phone using an app like Evernote, Keep or Google Docs or on your laptop.  When everything's out of your head take some mental time out.  Go for a walk, drink a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy the feeling of being 'empty' for a few moments.  When your mind's been in overdrive you need to take a moment to let those cogs stop whirring!  Then, when you're back and ready to move forward, you can start prioritising your list.

3. Practice self-care

Eat healthily, sleep, take time out to enjoy something for you every day.  Learn to say 'no' if you have a habit of taking on too much and ditch perfectionism if you can!


4. Plan ahead


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Being organised, planning ahead and allowing enough time to get things done can help to keep overwhelm at bay – particularly as doing anything with kids can take twice as long as you think!  Identify your 'time-suckers' – the things that sap you of precious time like the internet and social media and make a mental note to avoid them when you need to get things done.

5. Practice perspective

When we feel overwhelmed even the smallest challenges can feel like huge obstacles.  Taking a step back to see the bigger picture reminds us that this is just one moment in time and that it will pass.  How to do this - look forward a year or two and think how important this issue will be to you then.  Or think back a year or two and think about how much has changed.

Michelle is the founder of MichelleReevesCoaching.com and creator of the Happiness Habits Routine.  An 8-week eCourse to help busy mums create their own simple daily routine using her 8 happiness habits.  She’s a life coach, blogger, MIND charity ambassador for West Essex, entrepreneur and busy mum of two.  She was the winner of this year's Inspire award at the 2016 Brilliance in Blogging Awards and is passionate about helping busy mamas and bloggers to become their most positive, powerful and productive selves.

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