That thing we call the “mommy blues” is the feeling of sadness moms get because their kids are starting school or leaving the nest. It can also occur when a mom is a full-time mom who becomes more isolated and has less time to get support or take care of herself. (Research shows that at-home moms tend to be more likely to be depressed than working moms because of the isolation factor.)
Feelings of emptiness and sadness when kids go off to school are a form of separation anxiety that, like all anxiety, involves high levels of adrenal stress hormones in the blood suppressing production of serotonin — the “feel good” chemical in the brain. Adrenal hormones also suppress immune function by impacting the white cells and T cells in the blood that help keep us healthy.
Put that all together and what we have is a mommy-blues domino effect — moms begin to feel sad, experience anxiety, have less support and self-care to handle it and can end up getting sick, too (especially since little kids can be petri dishes).
There are several signs and symptoms of the mommy blues:
- Feeling sad and down
- Feelings of anxiety and nervousness
- Low energy
- Irritability — snapping at people, losing your temper easily
- Clinging to your child or children, which can inhibit their growth
The mommy blues are normal; moms aren’t crazy for feeling the loss of connection with their child or the lack of time or support for themselves. The good news is that there’s hope and help for moms suffering from the blues. Try some of these tips:
For at-home moms with young children, try joining a moms’ support group like Mommy and Me, Mom's Day Out, Mocha Moms (for moms of color) or MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers), usually at local faith-based organizations.
- Talk about your feelings. Ask your partner or a friend to let you vent for five minutes a day.
- Follow the anti-depression diet: Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, drink water and avoid refined sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Go to bed early (serotonin is produced in the last two hours of an eight-hour sleep cycle).
- Another big depression fighter is practicing the attitude of gratitude. Write a little gratitude list every night, three things you’re grateful for.
- Start your own neighborhood or at-school moms’ group. I was part of one at my kid’s school. It’s great for us moms, and the kids couldn’t pull “you’re the meanest mom” on any of us!