Most people are aware that postnatal depression and anxiety effect women, but few people are aware that up to 10% of new Dads can experience these struggles as well. In fact, depression affects 1 in 10 Dads between the first trimester and the year after the baby’s birth. Anxiety conditions affect 1 in 6 dads during the pregnancy and 1 in 5 Dads in the postnatal period. There are a number of ways that new Dad’s can care for themselves in order to manage the paradigm shift that a new baby can cause.
The Basic Needs
It’s easy to forget the basics when you’re caring for the basic needs of another. Be careful to eat regular and healthy meals, exercise regularly and to be creative about managing your sleep. When these basic resources are low, it is much more difficult to cope with stress, anxiety and low mood.
Remember that you are still a couple and your relationship will also need to be nurtured. Set aside a block of time each week where you can spend quality time together. At the end of each day, debrief together for 10 or so minutes. Reflect on the challenges and successes of each day.
Take note of your self-talk. How we speak to ourselves can have a big impact on how you feel and cope. Start to notice if you’re falling into the trap of making thinking errors (See this summary of thinking errors for more information). Decide whether the way you are thinking is helpful or unhelpful, and start redirecting your thinking in a more realistic and balanced way.
Engaging the help of a professional can be greatly beneficial in supporting you to care for yourself and your family in the midst of this great time of change. Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia provide a national hotline supporting women, men and new families. If you feel you require face-to-face support, the Psychologists at the Centre for Effective Living are able to assist both men and women with adjusting to parenthood.
Sophie Antognelli (M Psych (Clinical), B Psych (Hons – First Class) is passionate about working alongside individuals and families to live more full lives, overcoming difficulties they may face. Sophie’s interests are in child and adolescent mental health are emotion regulation issues and anxiety. Sophie is interested in working with her adult clients to regain quality of life through early psychosis intervention, the management of symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as the broader clinical issues of perfectionism, adjustment to life stressors and low self-esteem. She developed these interests across her work in both inpatient and outpatient hospital settings. Alongside her clinical work, Sophie is also involved in a number of research projects exploring new approaches to anxiety disorders – with specific interests in investigating potential new avenues for addressing unhelpful thought patterns in health anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding disorder.