Postpartum Dads

I had several people ask me about postpartum mental health for dads this week. I feel like the universe is telling me to spread some knowledge about this issue! So in this post, I’ll give a little overview of postpartum depression and anxiety as it presents in dads, in addition to where to find more resources.

Until I started training to treat postpartum moms, I didn’t realize that dads can also experience depression and anxiety in the postpartum period. Studies show at least 1 in 10 dads (research is done mainly on heterosexual couples) experience a mood or anxiety disorder following the birth of their child. That’s a huge number! It’s time to break the silence.

Why are partners impacted by anxiety and depression postpartum? While pregnancy and birth impact women physiologically, both parents are impacted by the huge changes that come with having a baby. Your relationship to your partner changes, your identity transforms, you’re not sleeping, your whole lifestyle changes. It’s incredibly stressful, and stress can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.

As with postpartum depression for women, postpartum depression in dads also presents itself differently from what we see in the media. It’s important to highlight what else depression and anxiety can look like for postpartum dads, including:

  • Increased anger and irritability
  • A sense of disconnection from mom and baby
  • Social isolation
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches and gastrointestinal issues
  • Sense of being not good enough as a father
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Issues with concentration & memory
  • Thoughts of self harm and/or suicide

These are just a sampling. A guide I often go from is to ask if you’re feeling like yourself. The transition to parenthood is challenging for everyone. However, if you feel so far from the person you used to be, are wondering if you made a mistake, if you’re not sure you’re cut out for fatherhood, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever stop feeling this way, it might be more.

The good news is that you’re not alone, and that help is out there. There’s more information online about signs, symptoms, risk factors, and where to get help. Postpartum depression for moms and dads is treatable, and there’s no need to suffer in silence.

For more information, resources, and where to find help, visit:
www.postpartummen.com
www.postpartum.net/

References: http://postpartummen.com/mens-depression/.

Reformed Perfectionist Series: Introduction

Oh, perfectionism. The monster that keeps us striving for a goal that we can never reach.

I used to be a perfectionist without even knowing it. Looking back, I can see the signs. I was harsh towards myself, thought in extremes, was inflexible in my habits, and felt like I was internally walking on eggshells. Being human – making mistakes, feeling all my emotions, being anything less than my idealized image of who I should be – wasn’t an option.

I started my journey away from perfectionism unintentionally, when I was 15 years old. My first step was to care less about what people thought of me. Often, perfectionists believe others judge them as harshly as they judge themselves. Reframing my focus allowed me to cut myself some slack and free up my energy and enthusiasm. I became way happier.

Cut to today after continuing diligently on my reformation to a non-perfectionist. In my career as a therapist, I get to help others free themselves from the binds of perfectionism. That transformation never gets old – the breaking of the shell, spreading of the wings and taking off. It’s a certain kind of magic and has become a passion of mine.

I decided to create a blog series about how to let go of perfectionist thinking and behaviors. Every post will focus on a different task of dismantling perfectionism, including self-compassion, mistakes, shame & other challenging emotions, aligning with values, gratitude, routines, and more.

Plenty of other writers have described perfectionism, so some helpful links are below. Tune back in the coming weeks and we’ll tackle this beast once and for all!

Perfectionism” from GoodTherapy.org

9 Signs that you Might be a Perfectionist,” by Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD

Move with Radiance Podcast Interview

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by my friend Stephanie Dankelson for her podcast “Move with Radiance.” (Listen to my episode here). In it, Stephanie and I cover all things relationships. Here is some of what we talked about:

  • The importance of knowing yourself as an individual in order to create a healthy relationship with another person.
  • Boundaries – what they are, why they matter, and how to set them.
  • How healthy conflict can help your relationship grow.
  • Communication skills – the good, the not-so-good, and how to upgrade yours.
  • How sex factors into healthy relationships.

Stephanie is an inspired writer, podcaster, coach and friend. Here is a bit about her:

“Stephanie Dankelson is personal trainer and life coach with a passion in helping women work through exercise addiction, disordered eating, and negative body image. Through years of trial and error, deep personal development work, training, and recovery from her own battle with these things, Stephanie has discovered a new way of eating, exercising, and living that isn’t based on fear.

“Through her coaching, writing, and podcast “Move with Radiance,” Stephanie demonstrates how redefining the relationship with yourself can ultimately help you heal and redefine the relationship you have with your body, food, and movement. She helps her clients find reconnection with their bodies, navigate through the negative self talk, the self destructing habits like binging/restricting and the back on track/off track mentality. She also helps them discover movement they no longer feel forced by and how to look at food in a different, more sustainable, fueling way. Because to her, there is a more freeing way to be fit.”

Wow, right? Stephanie is one of those high-vibe, inspiring, authentic women that make me feel like I can do anything. Check out the rest of her podcast episodes and her blog!

Here is the link to the podcast: https://www.stephanie-dankelson.com/the-podcast/episode13

Connect with Stephanie:

Website: www.stephanie-dankelson.com
Instagram: @stephaniedankelson
Facebook: facebook.com/stephaniedankelsonmovement

“Lookin’ Good!”

We are not often taught to look in the mirror and see everything that’s right with the way we look. Our focus goes to what’s wrong and what we would like to change, tapping into our evolutionary bias towards negativity. What does this do to our confidence? To see only what we don’t like rather than all the amazing feats our bodies accomplish every day? It isn’t good.

During my graduate studies at the University of Utah, a professor shared a story about her preschool-age niece. This little girl walked out of her mom’s closet, in the nude except for a pair of adult-size heels and sunglasses, struck a pose in front of the mirror and stated to herself and all present, “Lookin’ good!”

Our assignment that week was to look into the mirror and say, “Lookin’ good,” with all the swagger of a confident four-year-old. Hokey? The results were incredible. We experienced an instant boost – recognition of all that was going right, and an elevation in mood and confidence. We quieted the infinite loop of self-criticism with a bit of self-love.

Here’s my suggestion: Strut your stuff to the mirror, and say out loud, “Lookin’ good!” Say it like you believe it with every ounce of your being, regardless of whether or not you really do. Make it a daily practice. Use it as a rebuttal to the inner critic. Experiment with how a little dose of preschool wisdom can impact your life.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Often when we find ourselves feeling down, depressed, anxious or not like ourselves, our first move is to try to get out of it. We try to avoid or ignore the pain, fight it with positive thinking, or dive into it so deeply we that we can’t seem to find a way out. We get stuck – stuck running, stuck despairing, or stuck feeling numb.

In my work with clients, it’s at this point that a childhood camp song, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” comes to mind:

“We’re going on a bear hunt
We’re gonna catch a big one!
I’m not scared,
What a beautiful day!
Uh oh! Mud!
We can’t go under it,
We can’t go over it –
Oh no!
We have to go through it!

What we are taught about pain, uncomfortable emotions, and suffering can impact how we relate to these unavoidable experiences. Were you taught that pain is a sign of weakness or defectiveness? Were you taught that pain has value or is a signal to slow down? Were you never taught a thing about emotions?

Much of my work with clients is about making meaning from suffering. It’s a question of, “This is what I’m dealing with. What now?” By changing our relationship to suffering, we can become unstuck. From there, healing begins to flow.

At some point, we run and run until we become stuck in the metaphorical mud – unable to move on despite the best efforts. We can’t beat ourselves up for being there. Maybe you are in that mud now – it’s never too early or too late to get moving.