As mindfulness gains traction in popular culture--and more and more people suffer from mental disorders--many people are studying the benefits of mindfulness for depression and anxiety. This is very important research, because anxiety and depression, and related disorders like PTSD and OCD, affect millions of Americans.
The Risks of Parenting With Depression and Anxiety
According to research, depression and anxiety affect parenting negatively. Parents who are suffering from mental and emotional imbalance tend to struggle more with bringing up their children--and with taking care of themselves. It's a double-edged sword. Depression and anxiety make some people more stressed by the demands of parenting, and less capable of coping with those rigors. In turn, they feel less inclined to perform self-care, and then the situation can easily spiral down from there.
Personally, I was raised by a single mother with some serious depression and anxiety, as well as other potential mental health issues. It was not an easy way to grow up. The day depended on whether Mom was feeling good, or if she'd shut herself in the bedroom to cry or lie catatonic. If she couldn't get out of bed, I had to find my own way home from dance practice. Forget about talking over dinner. There were leftovers in the fridge, and I was expected to be as quiet as possible.
This experience and the relative lack of parenting I received growing up left a mark on me. Unfortunately, there's some evidence that anxiety and depression are hereditary. In my twenties, I struggled greatly with both depression and anxiety. I went through a lot of therapy, and I'd like to think that, for the most part, I have these issues in check right now, with the exception of a bout of postpartum depression that really threw me for a loop after my son was born.
My driving force in trying to tackle my issues is that I want to be a better, stronger, more centered, and more present parent. I want to give my son what I didn't have growing up. And so it makes perfect sense that I am always looking for practices and ideas that reinforce me in my fight against depression and anxiety.
Mindfulness for Depression and Anxiety
It came as no surprise to me, then, when I read that researchers have found that mindfulness has strong effects, comparable to talk therapy, on depression and anxiety symptoms. That's powerful stuff! Having been in and out of talk therapy (primarily Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, the modality discussed here) for the last decade, I can honestly say that I have noticed a difference in my depression and anxiety when I have an active mindfulness practice. Sometimes the differences are more profound than when I'm active with a therapist.
Mindfulness tackles a lot of the same things that good therapy does, in my experience. It encourages me to be positive, be present, and let my sadness about the past, and my worries about the future, go. During meditation practice, I sometimes receive insights, ideas, and inspiration, just like I do in a great therapy session.
The two are not the same, obviously, and I encourage anyone who's thinking of getting treatment for anxiety and depression to do so. But they do have some common threads, so this article comparing the two was very interesting to read.
Check out the meditations in this store to foster your own meditation practice, and reap the benefits. You can be the parent you want to be, and the authentic self you deserve. Take some time for yourself by "putting the om in Mom!"