Approximately 1 in 7 women may experience postpartum depression in the year after giving birth. Postpartum depression can come with a range of different symptoms, and one of those can be anger. This anger can be directed towards yourself, your partner, other people or even towards your baby. It is commonly referred to as postpartum rage.
It is not uncommon to become withdrawn in this situation, both to protect those around you from your unexplained anger and also due to a feeling that nobody understands you.
Although it is a difficult thing to experience, the good news is that there are several strategies that can help you to deal with postpartum depression and the anger it sometimes leads to.
Using ACT To Manage Anger And Other Negative Emotions
ACT is acceptance commitment therapy and is a great psychological strategy for managing a variety of emotions and situations. Once you get the hang of it, you will learn not to fight against your emotions and negative feelings and not to be reactive to them. You will simply allow them the space to come and go on their own and not let them take over you. The decision you make on how you respond to them will be driven by your values rather than the emotion that you are feeling at the time. It takes a little practice to be able to do this, but it is one of my preferred methods for dealing with depression and anxiety and all of the emotions that brings up for me.
I only have one resource that I recommend for learning more about ACT. It is a book by Dr. Russ Harris called The Happiness Trap. He is one of the worlds leading experts when it comes to ACT and has written several books on the subject, including The Reality Slap and ACT With Love. These are great books not just for managing your postpartum anger, but also for strengthening your relationships with your partner and other people and also with yourself.
CBT To Manage Postpartum Rage
Another great psychology based strategy is CBT, or cognitive behavior therapy. Just like with ACT, it will take a little practice to become effective at using CBT. It is definitely worth the effort though. I was able to get on top of my depression after 10 years by using CBT. It is often the preferred method of many medical experts for managing a variety of different mental conditions.
My preferred resource for learning about CBT is a course called Destroy Depression. It has an excellent and detailed section about CBT and is presented in an easy to follow and easy to understand format. This is the course I used to turn my depression around and it is where I learned about CBT.
Get Some Alone Time
Often it is important to remove yourself from the situations that are contributing towards your anger. This is effective both in the heat of the moment and also at other times as a way to recharge your batteries with some peace and quiet. Being a new parent can be an extremely stressful time, especially if you are also battling postpartum depression.
You should communicate to your partner that you need this alone time, and they can then help you to facilitate it. You can use this time for anything you like as long as it helps your state of mind. It might be an hour spent relaxing in front of the TV or it might be some time spent in your bedroom resting. I recommend using the time to take a walk for a few different reasons. One of those reasons is that you are further removed from the potentially triggering situations if you can actually leave the house and get away for a little bit. Another reason is that exercise offers many great benefits for mental health. Also, going for a walk is great for uninterrupted thinking time. Often your thoughts are more positive and constructive in this setting, as the exercise helps to get the positive brain chemicals flowing. Whatever you choose to do, I strongly recommend finding a way to get some alone time.
Medication To Treat Postpartum Depression
Although it is not always the preferred option, sometimes being on an antidepressant is enough to rebalance those brain chemicals and help us to move past our postpartum depression.
There are drawbacks to relying on medication however. With most antidepressants, it will take a month or two to really feel their effects. You may also experience side effects from the medication, which can make it harder to manage your postpartum depression in the short term. Usually, the side effects wear off over time, but not always. Some of the side effects may include things like increased irritability and tiredness, which isn’t ideal when you may already be feeling these things.
The other factor to consider is that some medications will enter your breast milk if you are breastfeeding. It is important that you have a long conversation with your doctor before going on medication to treat your postpartum depression. It is also important that you are as informed as you can possibly be, and that you ask many questions to determine if this is going to be the right type of treatment for you.
Breathing Through The Anger
It seems simple enough, but don’t underestimate the power of breathing techniques to help you through. There are many options to choose from, but the simpler the better. I have used breathing techniques to help me through anxiety and panic attacks as they are happening, and it can work effectively on anger as well.
When you feel a rush of anger taking over you, just focus on your breathing and keeping it slow and steady. This will help to steady your heartrate, your thinking and your mood and soon the anger will reduce enough for your logical thinking to take over again and deal with the situation in a more positive and helpful way.
One breathing technique I like to use involves doing everything for 4 seconds. It’s easier to remember that way. All you do is take a deep breath in through your nose for a count of 4, then hold it for another 4 seconds, then slowly exhale for 4 seconds, then hold it for 4 seconds. You can repeat this as often as you need to until you feel a little more calm and in control.
The most important point I want to make in regards to anger and postpartum depression is that there are always options available to help you through. Begin by talking to your doctor, or by trying some of the methods I have mentioned above and with a little effort you will be able to get on top of your anger and stop it from dictating how you respond to situations.
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