Is there anyone reading this who hasn’t felt an attack on their nervous system over the past weeks and months? Illness, and war, and guns, and the economy, and reproductive justice, and racism, and news and news and news…I’m one of many humans who is quite sensitive to what I read and watch. So time again, I know I need to remember to come back to the present.
What I also know is that emotions within a family can be contagious. If I’m spiraling downward, my boys know it. And if they’re in a rough spot, I feel it, too. Today, I am so delighted to welcome to the Mindful Return blog Mary Martina, a therapist who focuses her work on supporting new parents. She is also on the board of New Parent Care Packages, an amazing non-profit. (Consider getting a pregnant friend one of their boxes instead of yet another baby onesie!)
Mary is here to stand in solidarity with our working parent overwhelm. And to teach us some simple but powerful strategies for bringing ourselves back to the present moment. Welcome, Mary!
“What happened Mommy?” my son asks with inquisition. He already knows I just mentally checked out and shifted to overwhelm and panic.
I shake my head. “Nothing Bubbie, nothing,” I lie.
“What happened Mommy?” he insists……
I see you.
I see you overworked, rushing from here to there. And I see you frantically cleaning the house. Folding the laundry. Organizing the toys. So that you can all have a few moments of family time together.
I see you.
I see you doing the mental math around naps and feeding schedules, so that you can have a few moments to yourself. So that you can actually see a friend.
I see you.
Creating lists of chores that are forever and always regenerative.
I see you.
Working to be present with what is. All while thinking of the bills, the dinner, the permission slip, the job you are supposed to be working. And then there is that small matter of managing your relationship to keep this ship running.
I see you.
I see you hurrying up to get to your life. Hurrying up to find that place where it all clicks. Constantly seeking the illusion of balance.
And because I see you, I ask: Where are you rushing to?
This is your life. This. The mess. THIS is life.
Your life is not a destination you arrive at when everything is perfectly in place.
Your life is this beautiful chaotic day of parenting.
When we live life as something to be frantically won, our children feel it. They sense our chaotic, rushing nature. And they try to match it. This then creates more of what we are not looking for in our homes: chaos.
Here is the thing. Our brains are very smart. But not smart enough to tell if something we are thinking about is happening in the past, now, or in the future. So when we are overwhelmed by something in the past or in the future, we send the signals to our nervous system that now is a great time to freak out.
Ah yes. Our kids see this. And they think: ok. I see you and match you…
4 Strategies for a Nervous System Re-Set
So what can you do?
Here are four things to try to bring you and your kiddos back into the actual, present moment:
1) Progressive muscle relaxation. This can be done with any body part you can squeeze. Hold for 30 seconds and release. You can do your whole body (from feet to head or head to toes). Or just one area, like your arms.
2) BE where your feet are. Say it to yourself until you are there. Name things around you. And feel your feet in your shoes or on the ground.
3) DANCE. Put on your favorite song. Or wheels on the bus. And move your bodies together.
4) Laugh. It is hard to be overwhelmed and laugh at the same time. PLUS children’s laughing evokes more laughter. And we could all use a bit more joy.
Which of these four will you try first, today? Let us know in comments below!
Mary Martina is a mother, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Therapist, and creator of Be. Counseling, LLC a place where women return home to themselves. Mary is on the board of New Parent Care Packages (NCPC) and brings her knowledge to support families during the 4th trimester. Mary offers individual psychotherapy and group coaching where she walks women through from the disempowerment of birth trauma to owning their power by blending holistic/traditional practices with clinical knowledge to support individuals on their journey back into themselves. You can learn more about her practice on her website and see more of her work on Instagram.
Want more practical tips on working parenthood? Check out my book, Back to Work After Baby: How to Plan and Navigate a Mindful Return from Maternity Leave