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What All New Parents Need to Know (that People Don’t Tell)

What All New Parents Need to Know (that People Don’t Tell)

People are lying when they tell you being new parents is completely fantastic. It’s not all the time and there are some things you really need to know.

Bank Your Sleep

Bank your sleep. Every second of it. Savour it. Remember what it feels like right now to be able to sleep in peace. People mention you need to wake up for feeds and knowing you need to do this, prepares you for the early stages of it, but it’s far worse than you can ever imagine. It starts off easy, but the cumulative effects of long-term sleep deprivation begins to really take it’s toll on you, your partner, and your relationship not to mention your job if you’re working.

You will reach a point where you no longer remember what it feels like to have a good night’s sleep instead suffering from the insomnia of knowing you will probably have to wake up shortly for another feed.

Advice: Take it in turns to do the night feeds. This shouldn’t be one person’s responsibility regardless if you are working or staying at home. Broken sleep is seriously damaging for health and makes it harder for the person doing it all the time to be productive the following day.

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Less Visitors is Good

The amount of times I’ve been to the hospital you would think my child should be on the “at risk” register for children. Children get ill really easily in the early stages and when they are born you have an influx of family and friends all wanting to hold them, kiss them and take pictures with them like it’s a social media contest to show them off. No.

My daughter ended up catching viral meningitis because of this and we were lucky it wasn’t the bacterial form which is deadly. How this happened we have no idea considering how we’re both clean freaks but we can only assume it was because of the many visitors. The learning point here is that visitors carry with them all manner of illnesses which although not serious for them, it can be deadly for children. When a baby does get ill, they don’t eat, they don’t sleep and all they do is cry constantly until the point of exhaustion for both them and you.

Advice: Refer to the assertiveness steps I outlined here to help you to speak openly to people about this issue and they will understand. Asking them if they have been ill recently or anyone they have been in contact with will make this discussion about visiting easier.

If friends tell you their kids never had any problems, they’re lying.

You’re going to start comparing your child’s development with other people, It’s going to happen. No matter how hard we tried not to do it we couldn’t help compare them against their peers developmentally. You may find your child’s development lags behind or other parents telling you how fantastically brilliant their kids are. Definitely take this with a pinch of salt.

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Every child develops differently and parents have a habit of wanting to boast about their own kids like some trophy. Parents are biased and will paint their own kids in such a positive light you may feel like bad parents.

Advice: Don’t get hung up on how fast or slow they are developing and most importantly, don’t compare against other children. This is unhelpful and everyone develops differently. The fact that you are worrying about this means you are probably good parents because you evidently care.

Sleep training is tough. Nail it early.

Trying to sleep train a child isn’t easy especially if you leave it too late. Children become conditioned to be fed regularly when young and this can make sleep training harder especially when breastfed as they are use to the warmth and comfort of having someone next to them to snuggle with.

Sleep training and feeding are all intricately linked. Try to alternate between breast milk and bottle milk so they become use to both and give the bottle just before bed and during night feeds. They will come to associate the bottle with falling asleep eventually and this will make putting them down easier.

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Advice: Learn the principles of how classical and operant conditioning work as children’s behaviours revolve around this up until they start to develop some self-awareness. You can learn more about how conditioning works on this psychology revision website here. This is really useful especially for sleep training.

Don’t make dinner time a battle.

Mealtimes can become a battle if you’re not careful. Trying to force a child to eat when they don’t want to eat creates it into a big issue and then the child starts to resist the food altogether. Force feeding children when they don’t want something can even develop phobias towards certain foods. As long as they are generally well, they should let you know when they are hungry and developing a strong routine (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) should make this easier. Don’t panic if they skip a meal as they normally make up for it later.

Advice: As long as they are not ill, you shouldn’t worry if they skip a meal every now and then. If they refuse to eat, just hold out until the next meal and you can try compensate a little for it then. Sometimes their mealtimes can be off by an hour or so, which means you just shift things later a little to adapt.

You know your child. Trust your gut.

You will get to know your child quite well and what their normal behavior is. Sometimes they are going to get ill and it may just be a harmless cold or teething. The worst thing you can do is go against your gut if you think there is something more that could be wrong. Sometimes even the doctors get it wrong so if you think there’s something else that is wrong, push to find out and keep going back to the doctor.

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Advice: Learn to spot the signs of serious illnesses like bacterial meningitis, whooping cough, or even less serious but discomforting ones like ear infections. Doctors make mistakes quite often too, they are human afterall.

Featured photo credit: Visit St. Pete/Clearwater via flickr.com

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Saj Devshi

Psychology Teacher

sleep patterns 4 Effective Ways to Fall Asleep Quickly new parents What All New Parents Need to Know (that People Don’t Tell) memory techniques 5 Memory Hacks To Remember Everything how to be more assertive 4 Proven Steps to Being More Assertive

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Published on August 15, 2019

15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

As an overwhelmed working mom, you get a lot of intelligent ideas from magazines, friends and the internet about how to manage work, children, and a household.

Unfortunately, you may still feel exhausted and insufficient at work and home despite the advice to organize, cook efficiently and pamper yourself .

How great would it be to wake up tomorrow knowing that you can begin to feel better without all of those overwhelmed feelings?

The sensation of feeling overwhelmed when you wear a lot of hats: mom, professional, household manager, partner, friend, etc. has its roots in reality. You are absolutely doing a lot of important jobs. But here’s the thing:

If feeling overwhelmed has become your knee-jerk or chronic reaction, this emotion is now literally a part of you that needs your attention so that you can move forward more confidently.

If helping yourself sounds too difficult, never fear. These tips come straight from therapy and neuroscience to hack into your nervous system. You will learn deeper ways to calm down and feel more confident about yourself, your life and your choices.

1. Breathe and Notice What Your Body Feels like Inside and Out

By using body-centered therapy techniques, you can better understand your overwhelmed feelings and offer accurate and practical help.

As you’ll learn, when you feel stressed out, your thinking brain is not your best resource. In fact, simply thinking about and bolstering your efforts to “get rid” of overwhelmed feelings might actually make them worse.

The first step to help when you feel overwhelmed is to simply slow down and breathe. This does not mean that you should suddenly take in huge gulps of air or breathe rapidly. That will send you into panic!

Breathe normally and naturally. Make your breath comfortably slow, extending the exhale. Count 5 to 10 breaths.

2. Get a Little Curious

Ask yourself: How do I know I’m overwhelmed? Close your eyes or soften your gaze if you are able. Imagine shifting your awareness from your outside world and sending it into your body along with your breath.

You might notice the signals right away. For example: My chest is tight, my heart is beating rapidly and there’s a sense of frustrated energy in my legs and arms. Or you might just hear some words like: I’m freaking out, failing or cannot do it!

If it’s possible, get a little curious about this sensation. Consider that while it may be a big feeling, you probably have other parts of you that feel differently.

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3. Offer Some Loving Care to Stressed-Out Parts of You

Richard Schwartz, developer of Internal Family Systems Therapy defines our personalities as made up of sub-parts that interact within us. This explains why a “part” of you can feel one way and yet, you have another part that feels differently.[1]

Gently acknowledging the part of you that feels overwhelmed and offering it some support and compassion (as you would a frightened child) can soothe your body and mind. “I’ve got you,” is a great mantra to breathe in when you’re overwhelmed.

4. Get Smart About Your Wise Nervous System

You may have heard of the “gut” brain or “body” brain. The science of Polyvagal Theory shows that the entire nervous system impacts how you think and feel – not just your thinking mind.

In fact, did you know that your wise nervous system generally picks up information from your environment before your brain can interpret it?[2]

When you feel overwhelmed, just one tiny cue of “danger” felt in your nervous system is often the unconscious trigger that tips you from busy but competent to feeling freaked out and exhausted.

This cue could be as simple as a song on the radio that feels overly-stimulating, a child’s bad mood (even if it has nothing to do with you) or your spouse forgetting an unimportant errand.

5. Remind Yourself That a Feeling Can Just Be a Feeling

When you’re feeling agitated, your physical body is naturally on high alert. Any information or stimulation you receive at these times will feel overwhelming.

This is not your fault, but it is helpful to understand that usually, when you feel like you’re not good enough, it is not objectively true. Your mind may just be creating a reason for the signals of danger coming from your body.

Allow your body to feel without making a negative judgement about yourself or your life. This technique will help you break the cycle of feeling overwhelmed, then creating negative thought about the feeling resulting in overwhelming yourself even more.

6. Learn Your Most Common Unconscious Responses to Stress

Why is this important? When you feel stressed, you probably respond unconsciously in the same ways throughout your life.

For some, too much stress will quickly create a numb, hopeless sensation. For others, the thought that life is just “too much” leads to bouts of panic or anger. Still, others might freeze completely, feeling highly anxious but not able to do much at all.

From a biological perspective, all of these experiences are pretty normal. When you recognize that your body’s reactions are not faulty or foolish, it’s much easier to reassure yourself and move forward confidently.

7. Exercise the Part of Your Nervous System That Provides Wellbeing and Social Connection

Did you know that you can actually tone your ventral vagal nerve, the nerve responsible for feelings of safety and social connection?[3]

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As often as you are able, allow yourself to linger on your favorite memories that invoke feelings of wellbeing, connection to loved ones, times of beauty in nature or your favorite memories of pets or places. Use all of your sense to really feel the experience in your body.

By doing this, you’re activating and toning your ventral vagus nerve as you might tone your muscles. Make a kind of “body bookmark” of these purely content sensations to which you can return when stressed.

This practice may feel silly, like an indulgence or even a fantasy. But it is supported by science and is important for you to create a strong and healthy response to stressors.

8. Give Baby Parts a Break

No part of you is trying to hurt you. But parts of us do feel extreme feelings and carry burdens from our past.

For example, if you are feeling overworked in the present, it may activate parts of your personality that felt similarly earlier in life. Deep anger, fear, resentment or sadness provide a signal to you that something from your past could benefit from your attention.

I know this may sound strange, but the next time you feel very overwhelmed, take a breath and notice if you feel like a child trying to do an adult’s job. If so, spend a moment calmly and compassionately reminding all of your inner child parts that you are indeed grown, capable and doing something appropriate.

9. Address Critical Messages You Give Yourself

What do you hear yourself saying to yourself when you feel overwhelmed? You may notice parts of you that sound critical or even cruel.

Statements like “I’ll never catch up,” “Why do I try,” or “I can’t do anything right,” are very common to hear when you’re under stress. Believe it or not, these inner messages are likely misguided protective parts of your personality.

These parts are normal and try to help you by “whipping you into shape” so you won’t fail, alerting you about scared feelings inside, or avoiding shock or disappointment by anticipating how others might criticize you.

If it’s possible, acknowledge these parts as protective. Maybe express a bit of gratitude. Notice how the critical voices inside you, even though they likely mean well, cause exhaustion and even more stress.

When you acknowledge these messages inside, letting them know they are part of you and you see their positive intention, the critical messages calm.

10. Take Small Moments to Express Gratitude

Everyone is talking about gratitude, I know. But there are good reasons for this trend.

More and more studies about gratitude show valid connections between gratitude and lowered stress and mental health. A 2018 multi-university research study concluded that gratitude not only has direct effects on quality of life, but also has indirect effects through perceived stress and mental health.[4]

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There are many reasons that gratitude impacts our nervous systems in positive ways, but the best way to discover this impact is to simply try it yourself.

Take a minute each day to write down one to three things for which you feel grateful. These can be large or small, important or trivial, but they must be true. Make this a habit and watch your stress-relief grow.

Or you can try some of these 40 Simple Ways To Practice Gratitude.

11. Play with Time

In Gay Hendrick’s 2010 book The Big Leap, he talks about the concept of Einstein time vs. Newtonian time.

Newtonian time is the clock time we all watch all day. Einstein time is more about what you make with your moments, realizing that your perception can slow or speed time up.

For example, if you are spending time with someone you love and doing something you enjoy, time moves very quickly. Conversely, if you are doing a miserable job in uncomfortable weather, each second can feel like an eternity.

The next time you feel stressed for time, take a slow breath and remind yourself that you make time. Time belongs to you. Then, enjoy the pace and do what you need to do. With practice, this little tool will become valuable for overcoming the mental pressure of time.

12. Don’t Be Tricked by Perfection

When you’re in the thick of raising children and working, sometimes nervous energy presents as perfectionism. In an effort to feel in control, you may make arbitrary but unreasonable goals for yourself that feel like they are necessary or true.

Make a quick inventory of every job you are expecting of yourself and your family. Now question it all. What is really important and what is just preferable? What jobs can be left to someone else’s discretion, done well-enough by the children or dropped completely?

Keep any jobs that give you joy and do them joyfully. Let go of jobs that feel like standards or expectations with little or no payoff. Save them for retirement if you like.

13. Give Yourself Credit for Quality Time with Your Kids

Think of the time you spend relaxing with and enjoying your children as a $100,000 per hour job. Very small amounts are still incredibly valuable.

Showing your children that they are important is just as likely to happen in a ten-minute game of catch as in a whole day at the water park. A shared snack time, a book before bed, a half hour away from your phone to allow loving eye contact with your babes adds up to a lifetime of security and wonderful memories.

Imagine your child someday saying, “Mom worked hard, but she always had time to hug me, to hear about my day, and to offer me guidance. I always knew that I mattered to her.”

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14. Meditate for One Minute a Day

Yes, you may do more. But if you can’t afford any more than one minute, go ahead and sit comfortably, breathe and be in your body for this time. It’s such a simple but powerful exercise and the kids can do it too.

While you meditate, notice your loving heart. What does it need from you today — patience, compassion, creativity, caring, play? Remember to show up for yourself and you will show up for your work and your family as well.

15. Guard and Celebrate Sleep

From tinies to teens, there are many unavoidable reasons that kids interrupt your sleep.

Here’s the thing: Unexpected sleeplessness due to childhood growth or illness is normal and not easy to control. If you are feeling overwhelmed, though, sleep is crucial.

There are two things you can do to improve your mindset toward sleep so that you set yourself up for confidence rather than collapse.

One, prioritize and protect your sleep time. If you tend to wait until the kids go to sleep to complete work or finally relax, that’s okay. But don’t let these activities cut into your sleep time.

Given the choice between another load of laundry, Words With Friends, binge watching Game of Thrones or eight hours of sleep, consistently choose sleep.

Two, appreciate and express gratitude for any sleep you get. Sometimes, it’s impossible to get seven or eight hours of sleep. However, allow yourself to enjoy any time when you are laying in a comfy space allowing your body to rest and repair.

When you wake up saying “I didn’t get enough sleep last night,” you put your mind on alert that there is something lacking. This thinking alone can trigger feelings of overwhelm.

Set your nervous system up for success by appreciating any amount of rest.

Final Thoughts

Life as a working mom is not an easy one. Overwhelmed feelings are natural and normal but, they can take over and cause chronic stress and dissatisfaction.

Allow yourself just a few moments a day to reorganize your thoughts and feelings using the steps above. You’ll soon discover your calm and capable self.

Take a lesson from your growing children: small changes create big results now and in the future.

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Featured photo credit: Bruno Nascimento via unsplash.com

Reference

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