PsychCentral has a great resource from Annabella Hagen, about “What’s on your plate? Stress Management Strategies” from 2016.
It is no longer available on their website, but they have lots of other great resources. I am summarizing some here as a mom who experienced anxiety, who went through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as a patient, and a LWAB HOPE Peer.
Our jobs, home life and other activities of managing your life with a baby (or child, or teen) can get overwhelming. How can you take stuff off of your plate to make it more manageable?
Pay attention to your body
A first suggestion is to recognize your body signals. Our bodies get to a point where our brain cannot process any more, and we develop psychosomatic symptoms. These can include tummy aches, headaches, and problems with sleep.
Using the metaphor of a full plate, individuals with perfectionism tend to have overcrowded plates. This can include a set of negative beliefs, which can distort the expectations they have of themselves and others. This can sometimes look like a person saying yes to doing something they may not have the capacity to do, in order to not upset someone. This is an all-or-nothing type of thinking.
Don’t Should On Yourself
When you get down time, do you also feel like you “should” be doing something else? My therapist would often say to “Not Should On Yourself”. Becoming aware of your thinking patterns is a way you can work to combat your negative thoughts.
A great way to help yourself is to give something up. This can be difficult to do for multiple reasons, but ultimately it is about finding a balance of tasks that work for you and your family, so you can be there fully for them.
No. It is a complete sentence and answer to a request. You can also say not right now. With my work in mental health, I have started to try to ask people if they have the capacity or time to do something. If I ask that way, I would be ok with getting a no (even if I don’t ask that way). You can choose what you take on. It is impossible to please everyone, and sometimes even if you say yes, and you fail to be able to do the task, it would be worse than if you had said no at the start. You can also say “yes, but…” and put restrictions on your time, or your skills – that is, you can ask for help with parts of the task, and allow you to focus on the component that is best in your skills and abilities.
Self-Care is whatever works for you.
You need to prioritize your time, focusing on what it is that you care about the most. This is related to your values and standards. Finding the right balance for you is a priority part of this mental health journey. Within this time, find a balance between your work, love, and play activities. Make sure you find activities for you, not only your children. I am loving doing online Zumba! It gets me physical activity, online, with colleagues. Often, my daughter will join me in dancing but it is an activity for me, and just a bonus that she loves it too. Other times, my self-care is watching TV and playing games on my phone.
Taking the time to love yourself, to focus on YOUR emotional, physical, and mental well-being is so vital. When your plate is feeling full, take time to play with your children, friends, and family. Only keep on what is really needed, and it will help to allow you to focus on the other things you need to do.
If you are feeling concerned about your mental health, please reach out to someone. It can be a therapist who specializes in maternal mental health https://www.lifewithababy.com/blog/1108780, or various online resources such as MomsOverMatter https://momsovermatter.ca/.