Making it through ‘the trenches’ of motherhood

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MOTHERHOODBANNER

Does this scenario sound familiar? Your baby won’t sleep and wants to feed all day, the phone rang so you burned dinner, your laundry pile is a mile high and you had a shocking night’s sleep…..and that’s just Monday! Debra Close from Flourishing Mothers gives some guidance about how to make it through those tough times you have  as a mum. 

Many of us would agree that motherhood is the best thing we’ve ever done, but also the hardest. There can be times of intense joy, pride and deep satisfaction, but also times of frustration, resentment or even despair.  Especially in the early days and years of motherhood, we can feel like we’re in the trenches, battling just to survive.

The scientific field of Positive Psychology studies how to thrive, but also gives us strategies to survive tough times.

Here are 4 tips from Positive Psychology to help you cope when you feel like you’re in the trenches.

1. Calm yourself down!

When things are going badly, our emotions can overwhelm us. The first thing we need to do is calm down, to then be able to think more clearly. You could try any of the following:

  • Stop and breathe. Allow yourself to BE for the moment. Allow the moment to pass
  • Pay close attention to the emotion you’re feeling. Just by tuning into and recognising the strength of that emotion, you start diffusing its impact on you
  • Deliberately distract yourself by observing your surroundings, or turning on some loud music (which is always a good one if your baby is screaming!)
  • Try a physical release like running up and down the stairs or on the spot
  • Have a “vent” to your mum or your best friend!

2. Develop a rational explanation when things go wrong

Once we’re calmer and the heat has been taken out of our emotions, we can better rationalise the situation we’re in and gain a better perspective on what’s happening.

For example – your baby won’t feed, you haven’t prepped for dinner and your baby vomits on you just as you are leaving the house…..what do you say to yourself?

  • A – I’m doing something wrong, I’m no good at anything, things are never going to improve OR
  • B –its not my fault, it’s just this time and other things are actually going OK

In A, we blame ourselves, extend the problem to the rest of our lives and see the issue as fixed and permanent. In B, we look at events as temporary setbacks, don’t blame ourselves and don’t let the experience pervade the rest of our lives. We understand that’s just how things rolled that particular day!

In Positive Psychology, we call this developing an “optimistic explanatory style”. We can teach our minds to create more realistic explanations when things go wrong. When you are having a tough day, look at things in isolation. Know that it’s just that circumstance and tell yourself (and believe it!) that tomorrow will be a better day.

3. Plan for a better day tomorrow

Simply hoping that tomorrow will improve might feel overly optimistic. In Positive Psychology, hope is not just an emotion but an active plan!  We take charge, believing that we can plan for a better day.

Here are some strategies that may help:

  • Think of one thing you can do to improve things, take baby steps towards it
  • Set yourself a goal and plot a path to move towards it
  • Brainstorm possible solutions to a problem and pick one to try (then try the others if it didn’t work!)
  • Draw upon times when you have coped in the past with a similar situation to give you momentum to keep trying

4. Look at the big picture

Sometimes, maybe there are just tough days and hard times, and no amount of positive action is going to help.  What to do then? We can:

  • Accept that there will be times we struggle, or feel out of our depth. But this is normal, and part and parcel of motherhood
  • Get perspective by asking ourselves how important this issue/sticky situation/nightmare scenario is. Will it matter tomorrow, or next week, or next year?
  • Be kind to ourselves. Resist beating ourselves up. We know we are doing our best.
  • Look at the big picture. If we really think about it, we know we’re privileged to be a part of our child’s life journey and we know we are doing a hugely important job. Would we really have it any other way?

Try these techniques for days when you need to just “survive” as a mum. Once you feel like you’re coping and things are on an even keel, you can then start to be more proactive to boost your overall psychological wellbeing and start to thrive!

Debra Close is from Flourishing Mothersproviding Positive Psychology Coaching to help you thrive. Email coaching@flourishingmothers.com.au or find them on Facebook.

How have you coped with being a new mum?

More on coping with motherhood…

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