Journal and Blog
Ask any mother you know and she will probably admit having somewhat of a love hate relationship with summer. While the care-free agenda of open schedules, less routine and more time together sounds ideal, it can also be a very overwhelming time. Trying to create a nostalgic experience of summer while maintaining work schedules can stir-up feelings of guilt. Balancing the needs of children in different developmental stages can leave any mother feeling like she is failing in more ways than she is succeeding. And let’s face it, even your children’s behaviors can be a trigger for frustration and low-stress tolerance. The thought of having to manage those behaviors all summer long seems daunting. If you are feeling more hate towards the summer months ahead than love. Try using these three ideas to help yourself feel more engaged and excited for the dog days of summer.
Respond Instead of React
Establish a mindset centered around responding instead of reacting. A powerful shift takes place when we think about responding to something instead of reacting to it. In this case, the emotional load of summer. Instead of reacting to the challenging aspects summertime creates. Think about how you can respond to them. Prepare ahead by thinking about your own unique stress-points. Time, energy, resources, and interest can be taken into consideration to make the shift from reacting to responding.
Have a Summer Theme
Create a plan for your summer based off what you want most from it. By working backwards from your end goal you can intentionally create opportunities to respond not react. Structuring the main events (or lack thereof) based off your end goals for summer decreases susceptibility to comparison and wasted energy spent chasing ‘it all.”
Use Being Scheduled Free to Your Advantage
Give your permission to do (or be) one thing at a time. Use the flexibility your open schedule summer creates in your favor. Maybe planning out your week based off weekly needs instead of daily ones. That way each day you can decide what is most important to do based off the resources you have. Focus on one role at a time creates a way to increase your productivity while feeling accomplished which is an important motivator for all of us.
There is so much about summer that is enjoyable and fun, especially here in Utah. It can be a time of adventure and trying new things. It can be a time to slow down and get respite from the busyness of the school year. By establishing a mindset of responding instead of reacting you can be prepared for whatever comes your way. Creating a plan for your summer opens opportunities to be intentional with your time and energy. Having directions gives you the ability to enjoy more fully what is important to you and not get as caught up in comparing what those around you are doing. Lastly by giving yourself permission to do one thing at a time allows you a chance to feel satisfied with the job you do. Using these three tools allows you to balance the positive and negative aspects of the emotional load summer creates.
No job on earth is all sunshine and rainbows. Motherhood, like any other responsibility or profession, has its pros and cons. If you heard a doctor say, "You know what I love interacting with patients but despise washing my hands 500 times a day." You wouldn't jump to the conclusion she was in the wrong profession regardless of the years of training and hard-work to do something she truly loves. Not loving everything about motherhood doesn't undermine your ability to be a good mother.
It's important to acknowledge that feelings are not good or bad, right or wrong. In fact, we are more likely to be emotionally healthy when we experience a wide range of emotions, too much of one or bottling up others leads to psychological problems. When we understand that motherhood encompasses a wide range of emotions and all those feelings are a part of it, we are less likely to categorize emotions with unhelpful labels. Feeling frustrated and annoyed doesn't make us selfish. Being worried, overwhelmed, and insecure doesn't mean we are not capable. Feeling valued, loved, and confident isn't the only way to feel good about the job we do as mothers.
Thanks to valuable research on shame, we understand it better than ever before. We have a better way of verbalizing our feeling of shame and can identify the role shame plays in our lives. When we talk about not feeling good enough as a mother, or not enjoying motherhood, we are talking about shame. When we assess how we feel and take time to listen to what those emotions are without judgement, we can identify the shame we feel and recognize how to process and move past it in our lives. Being able to collaborate with other moms, or our spouse, really any member of our support system can help create a perspective you are not alone, you are not the only one struggling.
Feeling like you shouldn't be a mom, or your kids would be better off without you as their mom can be a symptom involving perinatal mood disorders or depression. Feeling this way is sensitive and can provoke feelings of hopelessness in all of us. If as you read through the ways to change this perspective and you still feel like that isn't enough for you. Or you can't think of how you would do that in your own life and circumstances, you may want to look into receiving some therapeutic help.
Utilize Your Resources
Once we have recognized our emotion and examined our perceptive we can turn to resources to help us cope with the harder aspects of motherhood.
Take time to do the things that recharge and refuel you as well as your kids. If your mind is drawing a blank, start by thinking about the things you enjoy and tweak them as needed for your kids' ages. Have a long list of things you and your kids enjoy doing. Simple around the house ideas. It can be a good idea to expand that list to simple outing types of things too. The more ideas you have, the easier it is to find the fit you need. I worked with a mom that loved to swing with her kids in their backyard. As her kids grew into adolescence, they would still go and swing with her. It became an easy a way to connect. Many moms have used reading a good chapter book with older children as something to look forward to at the end of the day. For me and my kids a 15minute game of hide-and-go-seek can be a game changer. I have come to realize these kind of breaks are important for me to stay present and work towards being the mom I want to be. Use these activities as breaks, use them to refuel you. Use your energy to heal, recover, and to brace yourself for what's ahead.
Be careful of what you compare yourself to. Our minds are a muscle designed to predict what is coming and does this through connecting patterns. Be careful of the pattern you create. When you start the day with, "ugh I don't want to be doing this today, being a mom isn't for me." You can bet that beautiful muscle in our head will find all the ways to support that thought. From your mom fails, to negative emotions, you experience and classify as wrong or detrimental.
Decide what is really important to you and focus on that. If you like to have evidence to measure your progress, measure yourself on the qualities and tasks that are important to you. Cut out the nonsensical things. Don’t let these activities and characteristic creep in and be the things you beat yourself up about. My best doesn’t have to be your best.
Having a strong support system is a common dominator that strengthens us during emotionally difficult and stressful times. Whatever our reason for not liking motherhood, be it a difficult
child, our own emotional instability, life stress surrounding us, or conflict in your relationship, having a support system to lean on can be a valuable resource. This can help with tasks and responsibilities or lending a listening ear. Find your tribe and hang on tightly to them. If that isn’t available to you, find support in community resources. Crisis nurseries, support groups, find a nanny, join a facebook group, reach out to a church group of your faith.
Keep in Mind
Motherhood is something we hold in high esteem, and rightly so. Sometimes as mothers we can experience shame in varying degrees when our own experience and emotions don’t measure up to the standard motherhood holds in our hearts. When we acknowledge our own feelings good, bad and in between it does not mean we are any less fit for the job. By utilizing the resources our energy, focus and support can be. We can except those tougher times with more strength and courage.
When we are emotionally struggling, it's easy to forget the strengths we have and resources surrounding us. For those with a strong spiritual connection. A perspective of being connected to a higher power and not being alone can be a strength. A religious framework can help us see things from the prescriptive, trials we face are a part of a bigger picture and purpose. Having a community of individuals and friends encouraging and supporting us can be a resource, regardless of what organized religion or spiritual perceptive you hold.
I am looking forward to being a part of an outdoor women's conference in May. The Turn Retreat will be a day of learning, sharing and healing. Set in the beautiful scenery of Mantua Utah. And of course, you won't want to miss the delicious food and the fun activities to make new friends. Registration is now open at www.turnretreat.com
The breakout sessions will cover topics such as:
Healing from spouse addiction
Maternal Mental Health
Healing Through Music
Turning to the Lord in Parenting
Spent some time talking with an OB/GYN practice earlier this week. I wanted to share some useful finding. First I want to explain the term Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMAD). Includes woman whose symptoms begin during pregnancy and after delivery (Perinatal). It's not just depression woman experience. Having symptoms of anxiety is common (Mood disorders and anxiety disorders). So for many women calling it Postpartum Depression just isn't encompassing enough.
Thinking for yourself or someone else about:
Information, research and stats came from:
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders training at the UMMHC and UNI Conference 2017 and
Cox, J.L., Holden,J.M., and Sagovsky, R. 1987 Detection of postnatal depression: Development of the 10-itemEdinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.
So much grief and sorrow have surrounded this week as parents we all grieve with those in Florida, in that complete heartbreak a question is rising," How do we stop this? Enough is enough." Press releases and articles are circulating social media all offer ideas and reform. Dealing with something so emotionally heavy for all of us and being in a position of helplessness and fear is paralyzing.
As you think about your own ways to create safety in a world we all fear. As information surfaces in articles and press releases, think about the levels of change. Some speak of large system changes; gun reform, mental illness. Others focus on school and community safety, reporting and training. While others pinpoint, homes, parents, individuals. Truth is there is the need for change on all levels.
Start where you are. Don't feel like in order for your children to be safe you have to write the legislation, become a principal and police officer, and be a stellar mom knowing every detail of your children's lives. Take little steps in any direction or maybe a couple of bits out of each area of change. If politics, legislation are your thing. Jump in, evoke change, share the information in your own way for us less savvy policy lovers. If you can be active in your community-share your talents, maybe a kid doesn't have a safe, loving home, be their example, give them an interest. Coach a rec team, volunteer at your kid school. Never before have we as individuals been able to be so connected, yet socially isolated at the same time. If government and community seem too big of places to start. Focus on what is within your four walls. How do you teach values, respect, differences? What can you do as a parent to be more involved?
Feeling anxious and overwhelmed thrives when we feel powerless and helpless. Accurate information, appropriate change can help create empowerment. Sometimes just having a compartment in our brains gives us a place to store information until we are ready to process it. Watching the news with my kids this week hasn't been a space I can feel these feeling and have my head spinning with questions and "hows." As I read information I can think, "Ok they are talking about starting at home, what can I take from this article?" Or "Alright this is a policy change on a larger level, I need this information for when it comes time for me to vote."
Loved being a part of The Wild Outsiders Club's first mama's mental health night. What an amazing group of moms doing extraordinary things! These incredible women come together weekly with kids in tow to explore trails and complete hikes all along the Wasatch Front. Their story is one I am drawn to. These young moms are finding a way to do what they love and sharing it with one another and the children they dearly love.
One of the first things I always discuss with clients is the details of their support systems. We all need a team! Sometimes we need an entire army, but we always need a few solid friends in our corner. One of the next things I always ask clients about their interests. What motivates them? When are they happiest? What do they enjoy doing? So often its hard, really hard for clients to identify who is a part of their support system and recognize things they like. I am so grateful Wild Outsiders Club is there. Providing support and friendship with one another and doing what they love all the while being so inclusive to any and everyone.
I still remember reading a post about their fearless, beautiful leader, Ashley Leek. Ashley posted on Instagram about how their club got started. Ashley isn't from Utah, her and her husband headed west four years ago. Being drawn to the recreational Mecca Utah is they knew it would be a good home. Ashley was pregnant, and they were excited to start with such a fresh beginning and had so much they were looking forward too. Fast forward a year after getting settled and the birth of their daughter. Ashley realized she was lonely, isolated and longing for friends. She knew she needed a community of friends. Here is where Ashley becomes one of my heroes. She figured she couldn't be the only out-doories new mom needing friends and hoping to be able to do the things she loves. So she started her own club. I admire her courage, feeling lonely and isolated she took a huge step to pull herself out of a dark hole. Which is never easy to do. She identified her problem, and didn't just wait for a way for it to be solved, she created a solution. Last night I was able to witness first-hand the light and friendship she has brought to so many.
The idea of self-care sounds good, right? It’s accepted as being important and recognized as having great value. Yet, the gap between it being a nice thought and being implemented is wide. For moms, it can be more than just a wide gap between thought and action. That’s because for most of us there is an underlying stigma associated with self-care. It is so strategically placed in our minds that we might not even detect its presents. This underlying stigma might sound something like, “If I just liked being a mom more, I would be fine.”
The perception of self-care is that it is only needed when we are not blissfully happy in our roles as mothers. This thought process is dangerously debilitating. This toxic perception fuels the opposite of self-love and creates a pattern of thoughts that destroy any access to self-care we might have considered. Self-care is not selfish, it is not lavish, it is not only for the unhappy, stressed, and weary.
We fall into a trap of self-neglect, when we think self-care involves grand efforts. Having a weekend trip kid-free or a day at the spa can be rewarding activities to look forward to, but these aren’t events most of us can take advantage of frequently enough to sustain us daily. When we get set on big things, it’s easy to feel like, “I have no time, no money or no energy for self-care.”
Self-care also needs to be self-sustaining. We can set ourselves up for disappointment when we depend on others to provide the soothing effects self-care should provide. The Key is to think simple, think small.
Use this recipe for self-care to create your own self-care tools.
Here is a good example of how a mom named Jen that I worked with, used the self-care recipe to help her. Jen struggled with the post dinner clean up. It seemed to take so much time and she was already worn out from her long day. As a way to help her through this task, she thought of ways she could use her sense to create peace. She would turn on soothing music to listen to as she picked up dinner. She also kept the window covering opened over her sink because she loved the view from her kitchen window. Once the kitchen was picked up she would light a scented candle. Here she used sound, sight and smell as simple ways to self-care during a hectic time of day.
Self-care in its many forms increases our ability to exercise self-compassion. Self-compassion empowers us to sustain emotional health. Our inner peace is strengthened not because of the absence of difficulty but because of the stabilizing effect self-care and self-compassion can have. Just like pulling a ripcord opens a parachute to slow free-falling. Self-care figuratively can be the ripcord to open the parachute of self-compassion and together they slow emotional free-falling.
Download your Own Self-Care Postcard
Feeling overwhelmed is no one’s favorite feeling to experience. Yet it’s a regular occurrence for many of us. Feeling overwhelmed makes us feel like no matter what, we can’t accomplish what we really want to. It can seem as though being overwhelmed is accomplishment’s enemy. However, the problem isn’t being overwhelmed it’s how you react to it. It’s your reaction that creates the distance between yourself and your accomplishments.
When feeling overwhelmed, instinctively you attempt to do everything you can to make it go away. Instead of reacting to it, try listening to it. This can be difficult to do because often times when you are feeling overwhelmed, you are actually experiencing several emotions all clustered together under the disguise of being overwhelmed. Ask yourself, “What is it I am actually feeling?” “Where is this coming from?” By asking yourself these questions you can identify the underlying emotions playing into feeling overwhelmed. Think of how you untangle a knot in a rope. You start by finding the ends. When you acknowledge your primary emotions influencing the feeling of being overwhelmed, it’s like identifying the ends of the rope, making the knot of being overwhelmed less complicated. Now with your identified feelings, you can manage being overwhelmed by offering yourself reassurance counteracting the insecure feeling that being overwhelmed creates.
Being overwhelmed has a way of immobilizing our progress, especially if you recognize it as a sign of failure. Instead of being paralyzed by feeling overwhelmed, use your feelings to help you mold your accomplishment for the better. By thinking about how you can make your feelings of being overwhelmed work for you, ask yourself, “Is this something to work towards? Is this something to work though? Is this something to work out?”
Is this something to work towards?
When trying to accomplish something important to you, it’s common to feel fearful. Being rejected, especially when you are working towards something you really want, creates vulnerability. Becoming overwhelmed when things become difficult is likely to happen. Acknowledging you are afraid of rejection, fearful you will fail, and providing yourself with support will help manage the negativity of these emotions. Allowing yourself to feel overwhelmed with the understanding you are working towards what you really want, prevents being overwhelmed from becoming rehabilitating. An example of this is the familiar motivational story of Rudy Ruettiger in the movie “Rudy”. Regardless of how insecure he felt or how many people told him he couldn’t become a Notre Dame Football player; he knew what he wanted. It was worth it to him regardless of how overwhelmed he felt. By acknowledging your underlying emotions and framing your stress, being overwhelmed now has a purpose in your struggle. When feelings of being overwhelmed rise up, you know it’s a sign your comfort zone is growing. At that point, you can reassure yourself it’s worth it to be work towards what is important to you.
Is This Something to Work Through?
Being overwhelmed plays tricks on our mind. It’s easy to find ourselves caught up in the intense struggle and feel like our stress is here to stay. Once we have identified our primary emotions that often appear as doubts, it becomes easier to recognize our current stress is something we can work through. Having young children can be a very demanding time in parenthood. There are so many different needs to attend to. If you were standing in line at a grocery store behind a young mother who is wrestling small children, it would be easy to assume that she is overwhelmed. Feeling inadequate meeting so many emotional and physical needs is understandable, but acknowledging that you are working through a “tough age” and challenging “concern” helps you realize that being overwhelmed isn’t the end point. It will get easier. Circumstances can improve. If you are feeling inadequate but continue to work yourself through the task at hand, you can rework small successes to see you are accomplishing your end goal in small doses all along the way.
Is This Something to Work Out
Feeling overwhelmed creates discomfort for a reason. It’s a way we emotionally can signal our mind and body that something isn’t right. By recognizing feeling overwhelmed as an alarm, we can evaluate if it’s not something that will help us work towards what we want to accomplish or an important influence in working through the process to our end goal. Chances are, there is something we might need to adjust or rearrange. Ask yourselves, is there something I need to work out? Sometimes you might realize it’s not worth it to feel this overwhelmed, anxious, or confused. Leaving a job might be what you need to do to accomplish what your true focus is. Switching positions within a current job, might be the answer to feeling overwhelmed. Rearranging roles, taking a break from a leadership or voluntary position are all examples of how we can work out situations that cause stress and prevent us from the sense of fulfillment and accomplishment we’re all striving for.
When you identify underlying emotions that play into feeling overwhelmed, you regain emotional power lost in the mayhem that being overwhelmed creates. By asking yourself is this something that I am working towards? Something I am working through? Or something I need to work out? You create ways to turn feelings of being overwhelmed into accomplishment.
In Tim Burton’s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland, Alice says… “From the moment I fell down that rabbit hole, I’ve been told what I must do and who I must be. I’ve been shrunk, stretched, scratched and stuffed into a teapot. I’ve been accused of being Alice and of not being Alice…”
Becoming a mother is a lot like falling down a rabbit hole. You can’t be prepared for what is on the other side. The love you feel for your children. The energy you put into worrying about them. The patience and consistency it takes to teach them. Can shrink, stretch and leave you scratched up over and over again. Some days it feels nothing short of being stuffed in a teapot.
As a clinical therapist I have sat in many sessions with an individual calling herself a mother. Knowing her struggle and heartache and watching week by week as she comes out of it. I know all that shrinking, stretching, and scratching turns Mothers into the most extraordinary beings, humans can become.
I regularly meet with moms struggling with anxiety. They feel crippled by their fears, worries, and overwhelming pressure that sits on their shoulders. In these sessions once we identify what their goals and strengths are, the next thing I often do is help them create a therapeutic toolbox with techniques and resources tailored to their circumstances that help them cope. The coping skills in their therapeutic toolbox becomes how they can apply what we have processed during therapy.
One technique I find helpful for almost everyone is something called grounding. Grounding is technique in cognitive therapy. When used properly, it can calm down intense emotions, giving you an opportunity to separate your emotions and thoughts and evaluate your circumstance in real-time. While focusing on taking deep breaths and inhaling and exhaling, you can focus on each of your senses. What can you see? What can you smell? What can you hear? What can you taste? How do you feel physically? (my back aches, all my weight is on my left hip, etc.) While there are many ways to tailor grounding to an individual, I encourage clients to practice this first in moments of peace when they can spend a lot of time thinking about each of their senses and what they are experiencing. That way, when in a heightened stressful state, using the technique of grounding can take as little as a brief/silent 30-40 seconds. This technique literally grounds yourself in the present. Clearing away the extra emotional noise that anxiety usually brings to a situation.
Let’s look at this common situation as an example. You have finally gotten everyone in the car and buckled up and despite your best effort are now a few minutes late on your way to an appointment. Unchecked, the anxiety of rushing to get in the car might carry over into the way you drive or into your tolerance of repeated questions coming from the backseat. Now, all that unchecked anxiety is turned into raw anger or complete emotional withdrawal both having negative emotional consequences. By taking a few seconds to ground yourself as you drive down the street, it gives you just enough emotional steadiness to put things into perspective and offer yourself some needed self-compassion. Everyone is safe. You are on your way and you did your best. You can now emotionally reset. In therapy you would be able to examine this situation to recognize your triggers and process the underlying emotional layers, leaving you empowered to have options and handle it differently in the future.
All the emotional energy you experience as mothers definitely causes shrinking, stretching and scratching. But, just like Alice in wonderland, through it all she was able to find her muchness. Being able to monitor and regulate your anxiety can help you become as the Mad Hatter might say,” much more muchier”. Alice ends her dialogue about all that has happened to her since she fell down the rabbit hole, with… “but this is my dream and I’ll decide where it goes from here.” Anxiety isn’t your enemy when managed and respected. It can be a tool to motivate, protect, and prepare you. You can use it to create the muchness you are capable of.
Yarrow Therapy was created with mothers in mind. Providing online therapy and therapeutic resources for women. Visit us at yarrowtherapy.com for psychotherapy resources as well as individual and group therapy scheduling.