When we first become moms it’s all about the excitement. Who will Baby look like? How will we decorate the nursery? Boy or Girl, are we even going to find out? But at some point the warnings start to come in… You are warned of the terrors of Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety and even Postpartum Psychosis (super rare, but it’s real).
As Baby’s arrival gets closer you may start to feel the rising stress that comes with motherhood, or you may be all excitement until one day you’re not. Parenthood comes with stress, anxiety and new fears you never knew you’d have. Your eyes become open to a new world of danger at every milestone your child achieves. He can crawl! right down the stairs. He can walk! right into traffic. It’s terrifying being a parent. Between fears of ER visits and future counselling your child may need, it gives us a lot to think about that we really ought not to dwell on.
Fear and stress can take a toll on the mind and body. In many cases they are easily managed, in some they are not. When these emotions manifest into a mental illness, please seek professional help. Medication for a time and counselling for even more time is often your best approach at recovering your mental health. No stigma here. Always get the help you need. It’s self-care, it’s responsible parenting, and I know it’s scary, too.
Sometimes these fears and stresses turn into a long running internal narrative of negative thoughts. These aren’t exclusive to parents, I’ve always had them. I remember thinking everyone hated me growing up because people at school didn’t reach out and talk to me. Turns out I had a bad case of shyness mixed with RBF and I was viewed as “unapproachable.” They didn’t hate me, they just thought I wanted to be left alone. Which, if I’m being honest, I did want to be left alone.
You see how our simple negative thoughts can mess us up? As moms we can get a lot of those thoughts going on. We have fears about our child’s well being, we have thoughts about our bodies not being what they used to, we fear we’ll never have a good night sleep again, we think we’re bad moms because we let our kids play on their tablets until the batteries run dead, then turn on a movie and throw some fruit snacks at them while we make dinner they won’t eat.
Your kids are safe. The fact that you care, means you’re taking great care of them.
You’re beautiful. If you don’t agree, maybe you’re just not your type.
You’re a great mom. Ask your kids (unless they are tweens, then wait about 10 years to ask).
Unfortunately these negative thoughts come into our heads a lot easier than they leave. I do have a few helpful exercises as recommended by most counselors and psychology webpages. Again, if you feel your negative thoughts are intrusive and a symptom of a mental illness, please seek professional help. (I’m not a therapist any more than a bartender is).
1. Breathing Exercises.
One easy way to combat the anxiety caused by these thoughts is a simple breathing exercise. Shop around online and find the one that works best for you, but I’m partial to this variation of the 4-7-8 technique. Breath in as you count 1-2-3-4, hold that breath as you count 5-6-7, release the breath on 8. Repeat as necessary.
2. Gratitude Practices.
Keep from dwelling on the negative by choosing to focus on the positive. When you feel like you’re thinking of those things you shouldn’t, list out all the good things around you.
3. Face It.
When you’re negative thought is manifested in a fear, you can choose to face it head on. Let yourself visualize the worst case scenario. Sometimes we find this is a completely irrational fear. Otherwise we can create an action, if that worst case scenario were to occur, how would you cope?
4. Talk It Out.
Speaking your thoughts can take their power away. Sometimes just saying them out loud puts them to death. Sometimes you just need someone else to know what’s going on in your head. Sometimes who you choose to confide in will have the perfect advice to help you through.
5. Flip & Reverse it.
Take out a piece of paper and divide it down the middle. On one side right down all those negative thoughts, everything keeping you from being the best version of you possible. On the other side, right down one positive things for every negative thing you’ve written.
If any of those negative thoughts are directly about you, if they are an “I” statement, shut that down by turning it into an affirmation to recite and write daily. For example if your negative thought is “I’m a bad mom,” make your affirmation something like “I am a great mom, my kids are well taken care of.”
Pray or Meditate.
Take a moment to be intentional and quiet. God doesn’t need us to pray – He already knows your heart – We need to pray to be connected with Him, to allow our minds to work themselves out as we discover His Will for our lives. We need to be still, to take time to listen to Him, and to listen to our own souls as they connect with Him.
If you’re new to meditation, there are many great guided meditations on YouTube. I really like the one Allie Casazza has out, it’s both grounding and affirming.
Again if you struggle with a mental illness, professional help is always available. Apps like Talk Space and Better Help make it super easy to find a qualified counselor who’s specialty matches your needs.