How often do you feel like your to-do list is laughably long, that there's never really enough time to tackle everything you have to do? How familiar are you with the feeling of wanting to hide away in a room, alone, where no one can talk to you or touch you? Does motherhood leave you desperate for some kind of reprieve that never seems to come?
There's no shortage of planners, hacks and products that promise to help you 'do it all' - finally get you organized enough, doing more, stressing less. But the truth of it is #momlife is hard. It's not you. It's not anything you're doing or not doing, it's just fucking hard.
You probably won't ever have enough hours in the day, or energy for everyone's emotional needs, or always get the kinds of regular breaks you need to recharge. And when it comes to that kind of stuff, sometimes a bit of acceptance can go a long way. Don't get me wrong, there are lots of strategies you can find that help to make your life easier, and they're worth trying. And I'm not suggesting that you should just 'suck it up'. What I am saying is that when you're at that point where something has to give, a shift in your mindset can go a long way to making your life feel more liveable.
A mindset is a set of beliefs and mental habits that shape how we interact with the world. Think of it like a pair of glasses that filters your perception of everything around you.
Perception is a powerful thing, because it shapes our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. If you look outside and see that it's raining, you'll decide to grab an umbrella before heading out the door. But what happens if you're wearing glasses that make everything look wet? You'll think it's raining when it isn't, and be walking around with a useless umbrella all day.
Your mindset is shaped over time by your experiences in the world, and it usually feels quite natural. It can be quite an effort in self-awareness to tune into your mindset, but it's definitely worthwhile, because some mindsets might not be serving you well. So how you see yourself as a mother, the parenting decisions you make, your habits, desires, judgements, fears, reactions . . . all of this (and more!) is getting filtered through a mindset that you may not even be aware of.
When you encounter the kinds of stressful challenges that are unavoidable in motherhood, making an intentional shift in your mindset can help to minimize stress.
When you're operating with a negative mindset (which happens to most of us in times of stress), it's really easy to get stuck in negative thought patterns that can add onto your existing load of stress. Looping into negative thought patterns will amplify your stress, anxiety, depression, anger . . . or whatever life is throwing at you.
I call these 'negative mind ruts' and professionals call them 'cognitive distortions'. They're traps that make difficult situations infinitely harder to handle. And as well know, life as a mother comes with all sorts of difficult situations. Our brains love shortcuts, and negative mind ruts are just that - the brain's equivalent of a well worn path.
The more often you go down that path, the easier it is to walk, and the more likely you are to use it again. After all, the average person's daily thoughts are 80% negative and 95% repetitive. When we see the world through a negative mindset, we're more likely to use these shortcuts, and when we use these shortcuts, we're more likely to see the world through a negative mindset.
See how that works? It's a loop that takes you from bad to worse very quickly. There's no doubt that you'll encounter stressful, difficult situations in your life, especially as a mom. But when we filter those situations through a negative mindset, we can easily get caught up in the trap of adding unneccessary stress and anxiety on top of challenging situations.
When you encounter the kinds of stressful challenges that are unavoidable in motherhood, making an intentional shift in your mindset can help to minimize stress. There will be challenges that we simply can't solve - hello toddler meltdown - that we just have to move through in the best way we know how.
A shift in your mindset can make it easier for you to face those challenges at your best, and see you survive those moments with more of your own wellbeing intact. There are a few common mindsets that tend add onto the stress load of mothering (#momguilt, deficit thinking, lack of self-worth just to name a few . . .) and we each have our own special combo of self-defeating mental habits.
But some simple practices can really make a difference in shifting you toward a more positive frame of mind (and to be clear, by 'positive' I don't mean 'cheery', but something that takes you where you want to go vs. something that takes you somewhere that doesn't feel good).
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a great example of this in practice, as is Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, and affirmations are a simple DIY technique that can help you replace negative mind ruts with a positive mindset (read more on how affirmations work).
There's no doubt that you'll encounter stressful, difficult situations in your life, especially as a mom. But when we filter those situations through a negative mindset, we can easily get caught up in the trap of adding unneccessary stress and anxiety on top of challenging situations.
And more importantly, they're a powerful lever for minimizing stress and anxiety. Motherhood is really hard. Like, really, really hard. And no amount of scheduling or meal planning or sleep hygiene is going to make it easy.
But how we choose to encounter those challenges matters; we can get caught up in a loop of negative thinking, or we can choose a different perspective that helps us face those challenges at our best.
Start paying attention to the mindset that you bring into your most stressful moments of mothering. See if there are any patterns that you get stuck in, and think about how you can make some small shifts in your mental habits to move toward a more positive mindset.
Coming up next, I'll share three common motherhood mindsets that we all get stuck in, with some great tips on how to make small shifts that will cut down on your daily stress level.
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