Hello there! My name is Shelby. I am one of the newest counselors to join the team at The Works Counseling Center and I am also a new mom. I gave birth to my wonderful daughter in March of this year, and the experience so far has rocked my world. Are you a new mom? A parent? A caregiver? Maybe you can relate…
Between figuring out who your little bundle of love is, and learning who you are in this role, you may be feeling a spectrum of emotions ranging from: in love, overjoyed, depressed, anxious, angry, afraid, etc.
Oh, and you’re also figuring out how to sleep.
I see you, and I hear you. How are you? Are you sleeping? Eating? When was the last time you checked in on yourself? Some of us are really good at this – we have our established rituals and hobbies to help us cultivate balance and restore our reserves. Others, however, find that when we are stressed, any semblance of self-care goes out of the window.
Some of us are too checked out to even know.
During this season, you are dealing with a lot. You now have a job for which you may have received little to no training, and you are expected to complete this job on what may be the smallest amount of sleep you have ever had. All while possibly managing working, caring for other children and family, and trying to care for yourself.
As a therapist, my job is to provide a safe space where individuals can show up with their vulnerability and work to cultivate goals toward better health and authenticity. A big part of my job is being curious about our coping skills. We all have them: talking to a friend, eating, drinking, going for a walk, taking a breather. What makes people often seek counseling is when their coping skills are no longer working. It can be really important to touch base every now and then to fine tune our skills so we can change them as we change.
Below are some coping strategies that may be beneficial for you in this season of new motherhood.
Sometimes, when we are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with motherhood, it can be a good idea to practice ‘halting.’ No, not stop completely, but to mentally HALT and ask ourselves:
H – Am I hungry?
A – Am I angry?
L – Am I lonely?
T – Am I tired?
Try to check in with yourself using this acronym at least once daily. Don’t limit the meanings to the literal definition either. For example, you may notice yourself feeling spiritually hungry, hungry for social connectedness, or for rest. If you can, acknowledge without judgment what shows up for you when you HALT. If you are able to honor the feeling by taking an action, (ie. noticing you’re feeling lonely and taking the step to call a loved one) go for it. However, sometimes just acknowledging with compassion and holding space for the emotions you are experiencing can be sufficient in helping you manage your feelings.
2. Use All Of Your Senses
If you notice yourself feeling checked out or anxious, a grounding skill may be what you need. Sometimes, engaging all five of our senses allows us to relax, steady our breath, and reconnect with ourselves. The 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Technique encourages you to do just that. If you are able to, try to check in with your breath and find a comfortable space before using this exercise. Repeat, as needed
5 – What are 5 things that I see right now?
4 – What are 4 things that I hear right now?
3 – What are 3 things that I can feel/touch right now?
2 – What are 2 things that I can smell right now?
1 – What is 1 thing that I can taste right now?
Be kind to yourself! But what does that mean? Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself provides evidence-based research for why we should be more compassionate with ourselves.
Compassion helps us feel more motivated, less alone in our experiences, and friendlier to ourselves. One of Neff’s techniques is to ask if you would say to a loving friend what you are saying to yourself. Reflect on that for a minute; would you? Practice talking to yourself the same way you would talk to a friend, and notice the difference. Let yourself feel silly; it’s okay.
Caring for a little one is HARD work. You are not alone, and you are allowed to need a village of support. If you feel yourself constantly feeling angry, sad, anxious, afraid, I encourage you to reach out. Whether it be to a loved one, your doctor, a support group or a therapist, find someone you feel safe with and tell them what is going on.