Survival mode series: mental, emotional, and spiritual health

Motherhood

February 26, 2020

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Mamas, whenever we undergo a life changing event—from starting a new job, to having a new baby, to moving into a new home— daily life can shift dramatically and send us into Survival Mode. 

As we begin to find our bearings in the unknown, it becomes clear that some things cannot be done the same way as before—because life is not the same as before. And that is okay! When a big change happens in your life, it’s okay to take your time to adjust, to slow down, to take one day at a time and to let some things slide. 

But sometimes, we can get stuck there in Survival Mode, and after a while it can feel like we’re drowning. And that’s where we here at Everyday Mamas want to help. 

In 2020, we’re running a monthly series on things you can do to combat Survival Mode. We believe that it’s truly possible to not just “survive”—but thrive—as we navigate change in our lives as mothers. Sometimes we just need a little outside inspiration to revitalize us and get us moving forward with fresh perspective.

So if you feel ready to find a new “normal”, this series is for you. 

Here’s a link to all the other articles in the Survival Mode series!

This month’s collection of tips centers around mental, emotional, and spiritual health. If we are struggling in one (or more) of these areas, it can cause stress, fatigue, frustration, and other factors that make us feel stuck in survival mode. And as moms, if this is the root of our problems, it will be hard for us to help anyone in our family who might also be struggling in one of these areas.

We’ve asked several mamas to contribute their best strategies for building mental, emotional, and spiritual health that will help us transition out of survival mode.

Of course, there is no substitute for finding a good therapist (and no shame in going, either) who can help you work through issues with emotional and mental health, especially if your struggles are ongoing. If you’re unsure where to start, here’s a helpful guide for how to find a therapist.

Sharing the mental load

by Dr. Morgan Cutlip

I NEED TO ESCAPE MY LIFE.

I literally said this the other day in a huff as I ran past my mom while gathering water bottles, snacks, shoes, sunscreen, hats, a check to deposit at the bank, plus 3 packages to return to UPS…and crap, I thought, I need to call the insurance company.

My dad stepped out of his office. “Can you talk for a minute about creating a giveaway for this conference?”

“Yeah, sure,” I said as I dropped all the things I’d gathered. My blood pressure rising and my patience dwindling, I made a mental note to add that to the list of things to get done today … maybe when the kids go to bed.

“Oh and don’t forget to pick up Teddy’s meds from the vet.” Check. One more thing.

The day has just begun and I’m already exhausted and feeling stressed.

My friends, this feeling of wanting to escape is the result of a full and seemingly endless mental load.

I am sure you’ve been there too, if you aren’t there right now.

The mental load is the running list of all the “to dos” that you do to manage your life, home, work, relationships, and those who are dependent on you.

Hear me when I say: the reason you feel so drained or stressed may very well have to do with the mental load that you’re carrying.

Naturally, the follow up question is: what can we do to lessen or relieve this mental load? How can we ask or encourage our partners to take on some of it — where do we even start? 

The goal here is not equality, but what ultimately feels fair and manageable. The reality is that nothing is truly equal when it comes to roles in relationships, but if you two can renegotiate your responsibilities in a way that feels fair, that will make a major difference.

Read the full article on How to share the mental workload of motherhood with your partner by Dr. Morgan Cutlip.

Seeking help from above

by Katie Prejean McGrady

photo courtesy of @katieprejean

Not long after my daughter was born, when we were in the midst of newborn sleeplessness and postpartum recovery, I remember standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes that were piled a mile high, and thinking to myself “Gosh, do I need a break.”

All I wanted was a blessed few minutes to myself, where I wasn’t feeding a tiny human or trying to figure out a sleep schedule, and somehow that break had arrived as I finished the dishes and Rose had dozed off on her boppy pillow.

Do I sleep? I thought. I could use a nap. Do I watch an episode of fourth season of The Office? I could use a laugh. Do I call my mom to come watch the baby and sneak out to Target? I could use some retail therapy.

Instead, I dug out my rosary from the bottom of my purse, sat down on the couch, and started to pray. I didn’t really have anything to pray “for” (other than sleep to come quickly) and I didn’t really have anything to “say” (other than “please help!”) but something in me just pushed me to want to grab those beads and say the familiar words of the Hail Mary over and over. Full disclosure: I did doze off, and get that nap…

That’s what prayer does: not just deliver the nap in the midst of chaos, but provide the break we so often need, because it gives us the chance to talk to the Lord.

Whether we have a lot to say, or a lot to hear, prayer gives us the opportunity not to change the mind of God, but to change our own mind…to quiet it down, and listen for the still small voice of the One who longs to be close to us.

Finding the time to pray doesn’t mean you have to siphon off a full hour for a Bible study each week (though that could be very fruitful). It can be as simple as repeating the words “Jesus, I trust in you,” as you fold the laundry or playing praise and worship on the commute to work in the morning.

It can be unceasing prayer, and a continued conversation with God, in the midst of the busy day, the never-ending bedtime routine, or as you stand at the sink, the mountain of dirty dishes finally conquered.

To read more from Katie, visit her on her website, or follow her on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

Relieving anxiety

by Rebecca Simmons

photo courtesy of @mooniesimmons

I wondered for a long time why motherhood felt so difficult for me.

More often than not, I felt as though each day I was entering a boxing ring, me in one corner and my children in the opposite, ready to go a full twelve rounds before my husband got home from work. I always expected that some days would be hard, but I didn’t expect it to be so constant. I wasn’t quite sure if I was suffering from something. Was I depressed? Did I have postpartum depression? Could it be anxiety?

If I ran out of milk several days before grocery day, I couldn’t simply solve the problem by deciding to make a stop at the store later that day. Instead, I would feel my breath getting shorter and my heart beating faster as the symptoms of fear began to set in.

My mind would spiral and the situation would feel unbearable. Then suddenly when my train of thought was interrupted by my five year old asking me to help him with his LEGOs, I would bark! I didn’t have time to think about LEGOs! I have to figure out what to do about the milk!

I was afflicted with anxiety. Motherhood is full of small little bumps in the road, and they were constantly rocketing my whole person into fight or flight mode.

Fight or flight is the useful, but not always necessary, evolutionary ability to pin everything around you as an aggressor in order to protect yourself from danger. So whether my anxiety was caused by a minor kid-induced accident or something that happened every day, like running out of milk, my children were often seen as an enemy.

Without being able to identify what I was going through or how to help myself, my reptilian brain would take over and try to fix things the hard way.

But anxiety doesn’t have to win every time, and over the course of the past year or so, I have learned how to cope with its onset in new and effective ways.

Whether it’s brought on by anxiety, depression or any number of mental afflictions, the fight or flight mentality can feel so crippling. Know that you are not alone, and that it takes strength and patience to rewire your brain.

You can take pride in knowing that you are setting a good example for your children by showing them how to regulate and properly handle the scary, big emotions that we all face some time or another.

Read the whole article: Anxiety in motherhood is real: here’s how I overcome it by Rebecca Simmons

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