One Synergy eTherapy Psychologist (and mom to 2 boys) shares how to handle the stress!
by, Dr. Victoria Frehe
Synergy eTherapist in Florida
Oh boy! Motherhood is such a bundle of all sorts of mixed and strange feelings! My boys are amazing, but they can drive me nuts, too! In working with many mothers and parents in Florida, I get asked a lot of questions about HOW to do motherhood/parenthood with as much ease and grace as possible. I like to share the HOW with other moms/parents that need a bit of help getting into the mindset that help us run the mommy marathon.
How do I deal with the stress that comes with motherhood?
Take care of yourself first! There is no way you can take care of others, run your house, go to work, get errands done, drop off and pick up kids to and from school and to other activities, constantly keep up with the family calendar, have a social life, and manage your life and the life of your kids if you do not put yourself first.
I truly believe that meeting basic human needs can help us get through the mommy marathon. I often talk to my clients about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, categorized in 3 main domains:
1. Basic Needs– physiological and safety needs (air, water, food shelter, sleep, clothing, sex, and feeling safe);
2. Psychological Needs– belongings and love needs, and esteem needs; and
3. Self-fulfillment Needs– achieving one’s full potential, including creative activities. When it comes to motherhood protecting your sanity and health, those basic and psychological needs play a huge role in the way we tackle and conquer every day.
What is the importance of basic needs? What should I focus on?
In order for our body to function correctly we need vital things such as air to breath, water to drink, food to eat, sleep to rest, and feeling safe. Moms often forget about these basic needs while trying to tend to their children, especially when they have little ones with so many basic needs of their own. I like to emphasize the most basic needs: air, water, food and sleep.
Air– is an easy one, the only thing to do here is to remember to inhale and exhale, slowly and deeply during stressful moments.
Water– daily water intake is good for your overall health. Water prevents dehydration that can cause confusion and mood changes, can relieve constipation, prevent kidney stones and help you cope with the heat. Make sure to have a water bottle with you at all times so it is easier to remember to get your daily water intake.
Food (Healthy)- healthy eating is the fuel of the body and the mind. Our bodies respond to what we eat; a poor diet can negatively impact our overall health (including our psychological health). Unhealthy eating is associated with mood changes, feeling tired/sleepy, concentration difficulties, poor work/school performance and health risks including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity. A healthy diet is simple. Eat food that are as close as possible to the way nature made it; avoid processed and artificial looking foods. Pick colorful foods (fruits and vegetables) that will decorate your plate while bringing many nutritional benefits. Cook at home and take control over your intake of carbohydrates and sugar. Watch portion sizes and snack smart (nuts, veggies, fruits).
Make meal time a family/social affair. Do not eat alone or in front of the tv. These behaviors can create bad habits; associating food with the wrong purpose of why we need to eat. Unhealthy patterns are difficult to break, but once we become aware and change them we become better at maintaining good eating habits.
And most importantly remember to eat at least 3 balanced meals. No matter how busy you are – do not starve yourself, make eating a priority during the day.
Sleep– this is probably my favorite, not just because I enjoy sleeping but because I believe in the power of a good night’s sleep. Every night we go through 5 different sleep stages that help us to restore and repair many physiological functions, consolidate new information, and prepare us for the next day. Short sleep duration is one of the strongest risk factors for obesity as it mediates numerous factors, including hormones and motivation to exercise and eat healthy. Poor sleep is also linked to low academic/work performance, depression and other emotional difficulties.
A good night’s sleep- typically 7-8hrs for adults can result in effective weight management, better cognitive abilities such as storing valuable information in our long term memory, improved learning capacity, better focus and attention, feeling energetic and refresh, and a better mood.
What about psychological needs?
After basic needs have been met, this is where I focus next. Having a healthy body and mind are essential to not only care for others but also to support our children. Psychological needs can be met through feeling connected and supported to our family, friends and/ or community. Staying in touch with your social support system can be challenging for a busy mom. It is very important to continue to feel connected socially, and to have a space to share/laugh/or cry with others about life. And yes super mom, it is more than OK to ask for help- we cannot do it all by ourselves!
With technology we can do a pretty good job staying in touch with others. However, be cautious! When spending too much time on social media you can be at risk of developing FOMO (fear of missing out: “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media”. This addictive pattern of having to check social media constantly can bring about many unsettling emotions- feeling left out, negatively comparing ourselves to others, jealousy, and most importantly wasting our time and keeping us from living in the present. Just like you are ask your kids to get off electronic devices you need to also limit your screen time. Be aware when you are being sucked in by others posts that are impacting the way you feel and behave. Are you afraid of missing out? Do not miss out on your own life! Look around you…..
Another way to meet our psychological needs is exercise. Daily physical activity has multiple benefits to our health and overall well-being. Physical activity can help the body and mind cope with stressors while making your body stronger. During any type of physical activity our bodies concentrate in the movements and put away worries and other problems that often occupy our mind. By giving ourselves a break we are reminded that things are not that bad, that we can identify the way out. Enjoy yourself by adopting any type of activity that you actually enjoy doing. It can be running, walking, crossffit, Zumba, weight lifting, or a combination of multiple activities. The idea is to move more!
What about self-fulfillment needs? I am barely meeting my basic needs so I do not think I have time to explore those kind of needs.
Self-fulfillment needs develop throughout the life span- they fluctuate especially during motherhood when many take on different roles, put careers on hold, or in redefining our purpose in life. During motherhood, we often question ourselves for mistakes we think we have made and feel that we are failing as moms. However, self-fulfillment needs take a different approach in this stage of life- there is a high need for high functioning brains that are ready to plan, problem-solve, overcome and cope with the daily challenges of being a mom. As moms we actually excel in this one as we are constantly using all sorts of resources and specific areas of the brain that allow us to keep going, raising our kids the best we can.
Yes, I admit, there are tons of ups and downs during this time; times where you want to sit and cry, but just remember that at the end of the day when you see your children sleeping sweetly you cannot help to think how worth it is to be a mom!
Please know that if you are struggling beyond what seems typical for you, it is possible that you could be suffering from Postpartum anxiety or depression if you are a new mom/parent either for the first time or to your fourth child (it doesn’t discriminate!), or if you have been doing this mommy marathon for a while and feel “off” or more irritable, sad or down/hopeless, please know that you do not need to suffer. There are many great therapists, doctors, and other medical/mental health professionals that can implement treatments that help.
Dr. Victoria Frehe is a Clinical Psychologist and Health Psychologist in the state of Florida. Dr. Frehe is bilingual and English and Spanish.
To schedule your FREE consultation with her, please click HERE.