Understanding the Relationship Between Stress and Mental Health

Understanding the Relationship Between Stress and Mental Health

Understanding the Relationship Between Stress and Mental Health

Stress is a common experience that everyone encounters from time to time. Stress is a natural part of life, but it can become overwhelming when left unmanaged. While a little bit of stress can be motivating and helpful, too much stress can negatively impact our mental health.

High levels of stress can have a significant impact on mental health, leading to issues like anxiety, depression, and burnout. With the ongoing challenges of modern life, many people struggle to manage their stress levels effectively, leading to a negative impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing. In this article, we’ll explore the relationship between stress and mental health, common signs of stress, and effective strategies for managing stress to promote better mental health.

Signs of Stress: How to Recognize When Stress is Becoming Too Much

Stress is a natural response to the demands of daily life, but when it becomes overwhelming, it can have negative effects on both mental and physical health. Being able to recognize the signs of stress is essential to managing it effectively.

Physical Signs of Stress

Headaches and Migraines: Stress can cause tension in the muscles, leading to headaches and migraines.

Muscle Tension: Stress can cause muscle tension, leading to stiffness, pain, and soreness.

Fatigue: Stress can cause fatigue, leaving you feeling drained and lacking in energy.

Digestive Problems: Stress can cause digestive problems such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and constipation.

Sleep Problems: Stress can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get restful sleep.

Mental and Emotional Signs of Stress

Anxiety: Stress can lead to feelings of anxiety, worry, and nervousness.

Irritability: Stress can cause irritability, making it difficult to control emotions and react calmly to situations.

Depression: Stress can cause feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair.

Lack of Concentration: Stress can make it difficult to focus and concentrate, leading to decreased productivity and difficulty completing tasks.

Changes in Appetite: Stress can cause changes in appetite, leading to overeating or loss of appetite.

How Stress Impacts Mental Health

When we experience chronic stress, it can have a negative impact on our mental health. Prolonged stress can lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, and overwhelm. In addition, stress can exacerbate existing mental health conditions, such as anxiety disorders and mood disorders.

Stress can also have physical effects on the brain. Chronic stress can cause the amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for our emotional responses) to become overactive, leading to heightened anxiety and feelings of stress.

Stress activates the body’s fight or flight response, releasing hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which prepare the body to deal with the perceived threat. While this response can be helpful in some situations, chronic stress can lead to an overactive stress response and have negative effects on mental health.

Here are some of the ways stress can impact mental health:

Anxiety: Stress can lead to feelings of worry, fear, and apprehension. In some cases, chronic stress can lead to the development of anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder.

Depression: Chronic stress can increase the risk of developing depression. It can also exacerbate existing depression symptoms.

Insomnia: Stress can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, leading to insomnia. Chronic insomnia can have negative effects on mental health, including increased risk of anxiety and depression.

Cognitive difficulties: Chronic stress can lead to cognitive difficulties, such as trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, and decreased productivity.

Burnout: Chronic stress can lead to burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that can lead to decreased job performance, decreased job satisfaction, and increased risk of mental health conditions.

Coping with Stress in Motherhood: Unique Challenges

Motherhood is one of the most challenging roles a woman can undertake. It is a demanding job that requires a lot of emotional, physical, and mental stamina. Stress can impact a mother’s mental and physical health, as well as the quality of her relationship with her child. It can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start in managing stress.

The Impact of Stress on Motherhood

Stress can have a significant impact on a mother’s mental and physical health. The following are some ways in which stress can affect mothers:

Mental Health: Stress can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues in mothers. It can also cause them to have difficulty sleeping, eating, and concentrating.

Physical Health: Stress can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, and fatigue. It can also weaken the immune system, making mothers more susceptible to illnesses.

Mother-Child Relationship: Stress can negatively impact the relationship between a mother and her child. It can cause mothers to be less responsive, less warm, and less nurturing towards their children.

Effective Strategies for Managing Stress and Improving Mental Health

Cultivating Self-Care Practices to Combat Stress

In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become a common experience for many people. While it is impossible to avoid stress entirely, cultivating self-care practices can help individuals combat the negative effects of stress on their physical and mental health.

Self-care refers to the practices individuals engage in to promote their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Engaging in self-care practices regularly can help you manage stress, prevent burnout, and promote overall well-being. Here are some reasons why self-care is essential:

Self-Care Practices to Combat Stress

Here are some self-care practices that can help you combat stress and promote overall well-being:

Exercise: Regular exercise can help reduce stress by promoting the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood-boosters.

Meditation: Meditation can help reduce stress by promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety.

Yoga: Yoga combines physical movement and mindfulness, making it an excellent practice for reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Give Yoga with Adriene a try!

Spending time with loved ones: Spending time with friends and family can help reduce stress by providing a support system and promoting feelings of happiness and joy.

Engaging in hobbies: Engaging in hobbies can help reduce stress by providing an outlet for creativity and promoting relaxation.

Getting enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for physical and mental health. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night to promote overall well-being.

Eating a healthy diet: Eating a healthy diet can improve physical and mental health by providing essential nutrients and promoting overall wellness.

Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques

Mindfulness is a practice that has gained popularity in recent years for its ability to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. It involves paying attention to the present moment and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. By doing so, individuals can gain a better understanding of themselves and their emotions, which can help them manage stress more effectively.

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that involves focusing on the present moment and accepting one’s thoughts and feelings without judgment. By doing so, individuals can gain a better understanding of their emotions and develop a greater sense of self-awareness. Mindfulness is a useful tool for managing stress because it can help individuals become more aware of their stress triggers and develop effective coping mechanisms.

Here are some mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques that can help you manage stress effectively:

Mindful Breathing: Mindful breathing involves focusing on your breath and observing the sensations of the air moving in and out of your body. This practice can help you feel more relaxed and centered. Give Insight Timer a try. It’s free and has so many great mindfulness activities to explore.

Body Scan Meditation: Body scan meditation involves focusing on different parts of your body and observing any sensations or discomfort. By doing so, you can become more aware of tension in your body and release it.

Mindful Walking: Mindful walking involves walking slowly and focusing on the sensations of your feet touching the ground. This practice can help you feel more grounded and present. Check out this 10 minute mindful walking meditation.

Loving-Kindness Meditation: Loving-kindness meditation involves sending positive thoughts and feelings to yourself and others. This practice can help you develop feelings of compassion and reduce stress. Here is one by Kristin Neff.

Mindful Eating: Mindful eating involves paying attention to the taste, texture, and sensations of the food you are eating. By doing so, you can develop a greater appreciation for food and reduce stress related to eating.

Seeking Support: The Importance of Connection and Community

Stress is an inevitable part of life, and it can take a toll on our mental and physical health. While self-care practices and mindfulness techniques can be helpful in managing stress, seeking support from others is also crucial for maintaining good mental health. Connection and community can provide a sense of belonging, reduce feelings of isolation, and offer a support system during difficult times.

The Importance of Connection

Humans are social creatures, and our need for connection with others is essential for our well-being. Connection with others can provide a sense of belonging, reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, and improve our mood and overall quality of life. In times of stress, connection with others can offer emotional support, encouragement, and a safe space to share our experiences.

The Importance of Community

Community refers to a group of people who share common interests, values, or goals. Community can provide a sense of purpose and belonging, reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness, and offer support and encouragement during difficult times. Joining a community can be an excellent way to meet new people, engage in activities that bring joy, and develop a support system.

Supportive Relationships

Supportive relationships can help us manage stress and improve our mental health. A supportive relationship involves mutual respect, trust, and empathy. It is a safe space where individuals can share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without judgment. Supportive relationships can provide emotional support, encouragement, and a sense of belonging.

Professional Support

Professional support can be an essential part of managing stress and improving mental health. Professional support can include therapy, counseling, or coaching. A mental health professional can provide a safe space to discuss stressors, develop coping strategies, and improve overall well-being.

You Can Cope Effectively With Stress

Stress can have a significant impact on our mental health. Particularly in motherhood, managing stress effectively is very important because it can impact your mental and physical health, as well as the quality of relationship with your child. Effective strategies for managing stress and improving mental health include self-care, social support, mindfulness, time management, and seeking professional help. By implementing these strategies, you can better manage stress, improve your mental health, and create a healthy and positive relationship with your children.

If you find yourself struggling with stress and are in need of additional support, consider seeking the help of a professional therapist. At Restore Renew Revive Counselling & Couples Therapy, we offer a safe and supportive space for women to work through their challenges and develop effective coping strategies. Contact us today at 902-702-7722 or visit our website at https://restorecounselling.ca to learn more about how we can help you restore balance, renew your energy, and revive your spirit. Take the first step towards a healthier and happier you today.

How to Cope More Effectively With Anxiety

How to Cope More Effectively With Anxiety

Are you tired of feeling weighed down by the relentless burden of anxiety? Does it seem like anxiety is constantly holding you back from enjoying life to the fullest? If you’re struggling with the impact of anxiety on your mental health, relationships, and daily functioning, you’re not alone. Anxiety can be overwhelming and debilitating, affecting millions of people worldwide.  There are practical coping strategies that can help you overcome the challenges of anxiety and learn how to cope more effectively.

Why do we Experience Anxiety

Anxiety is a complex emotional and physiological response to perceived threats or stressors. It involves the activation of the body’s stress response system, which is designed to prepare the body to respond to potential dangers. When we are feeling anxious, our body has shifted from the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system, also known as the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” system, to the sympathetic branch of the nervous system, also known as the “fight, flight, freeze or fawn” system.  The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for preparing the body to respond to perceived threats or stressors by initiating the stress response and is activated during times of stress, danger, or intense physical activity.

There are two pathways to the activation of our stress response one is through our prefrontal cortex (the logic centre of our brain that is located iin the forhead region over our eyes) and the other is activated through the amygdala/thalamus (although the amygdala is actually involved in both paths). The amygdala pathway is often referred to as the “low road” (see video below by Russ Harris) and when the brain detects a sensory message of danger via the thalamus, it automatically sends this information to the amygdala.  The amygdala then shares the message and rapidly activates the other parts of our brain and our body to prepare itself to respond to a threat with a fight, flight or freeze response with the release of cortisol and adrenaline.  If a person notices that they are feeling anxious for no apparent reason, this is a sign that the amygdala pathway has been activated.  

The second pathway involves the prefrontal cortex, which is the thinking part of the brain.  This pathway into the stress response, known as the “high road”  is a response that is activated on a more conscious level through the evauation of information, either our thoughts or in our environment.  This danger can be real, remembered or percieved.  These thoughts from the prefrontal cortex then activate the stress response by sending a message to the amygdala about the danger that needs to be responded to.  

Watch this video below by Russ Harris who explains more about these pathways into the experience of anxiety.


Signs of Anxiety

Anxiety is a common and normal human emotion that we all feel from time to time. However, when anxiety becomes chronic or overwhelming, it can significantly impact our daily lives and relationships. Anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways, and symptoms can vary from person to person. Here are some common signs of anxiety to watch out for:

Physical Symptoms

Rapid heartbeat or palpitations

Sweating or trembling

Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Dizziness or lightheadedness

Fatigue or muscle tension

Insomnia or difficulty sleeping

Emotional Symptoms

Feeling overwhelmed or out of control

Excessive worry or fear

Difficulty concentrating or focusing

Irritability or restlessness

Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations

Negative self-talk or self-doubt


How to Cope More Effectively with Anxiety

Here are some practical strategies that can help you cope more effectively with anxiety:

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being present and fully engaged in the current moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety symptoms.

2. Exercise Regularly

Physical activity can be a powerful tool for managing anxiety. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters, and can help reduce stress and tension in the body.

3. Connect with Supportive People

Talking to trusted friends or family members about your anxiety can help you feel less alone and more understood. Consider joining a support group or seeking therapy to receive professional support and guidance.

4. Practice Self-Care

Self-care activities such as getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in hobbies or activities you enjoy can help reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

5. Challenge Negative Thoughts

Negative self-talk and self-doubt can contribute to feelings of anxiety. Practice challenging these negative thoughts by focusing on evidence that supports positive beliefs about yourself and your abilities.

When to Seek Professional Help to Cope More Effectively With Anxiety

While these coping strategies can be helpful for managing anxiety, they may not be enough for everyone. If your anxiety is interfering with your daily life or you’re finding it difficult to manage on your own, consider seeking professional help. A therapist can provide additional support and guidance in managing anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety is a common experience, but it doesn’t have to control your life. By recognizing the signs of anxiety and taking steps to manage it, you can feel more in control and improve your overall well-being. Consider incorporating some of these coping strategies into your daily routine and don’t hesitate to seek professional support if you need it.

If you’re struggling with anxiety and would like support in developing coping strategies, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Restore Renew Revive Counselling & Couples Therapy. I am here to help. Contact us at 902-702-7722 or visit our website at https://restorecounselling.ca to learn more.

5 Ways to Lighten the Mental Load of Motherhood

5 Ways to Lighten the Mental Load of Motherhood

1. Give Yourself a Break:

Notice the way you talk to yourself when you are struggling to juggle “all the things”. Would you talk this way to a friend? Probably not.

Instead, try reminding yourself how tough it is to keep all these things on your plate. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Place a kind hand on your heart. Self-compassion can help you respond better in a crisis.

If you need some guidance, try listening to these self-compassion meditations as a way to build a self-compassion practice so you’ll have something to draw on next time a difficult moment hits.

2. Give up the Quest to do it Perfectly:

Being a busy mom means that you are not going to be able to keep the standards that you wish in all the different parts of your life. Part of lightening the load of motherhood is refusing to put unrealistic expectation on yourself.

What if the dishwasher isn’t loaded perfectly, kids clothes are jammed in drawers rather than being folded neatly or they don’t take xyz lessons this season?

Once you get used to the discomfort of “good enough”, it is quite freeing. It allows you to delegate; not just to your spouse but to your kids too. Not needing things to be done to such a high standard also helps your to set better boundaries about what you are and are not able to take on.

3. Automate and Delegate:

No doubt you’re busy as heck and feel like you are being pulled in five different directions at any given moment; planning dinner, supervising homework, driving to sports, running the bedtime routine, keeping up with cleaning and anything else that has found its way onto your plate. In the midst of this, it feels like an extra task just to ask for the help you need.

Don’t fall in the trap of just doing it yourself!

Finding ways for things to be repeatable and clearly communicated is super helpful for lightening the mental load of motherhood. Plan to do this ahead of time, not in the moment. Once everyone knows what to do, then completely turn that task over to them and take it off you plate.

I am sure you can find a million different ways to do this, but here are some things I love to help me organize, automate and delegate:

*Detailed cleaning routine from Clean Mama which is great for explaining what to do and when.

*A free app called COZI linked to the cleaning routine above. I set it up on my phone and on my older kids devices so it sends them reminders about when to do chores. I don’t have to ask again!

*Meal planing & shopping list app called Plan to Eat. It stores my recipes, makes meal plans and grocery lists.

*Free meal plans every two weeks from the Better Mom so I don’t have to think

4. Be Real With Your Close Mom Friends: Are you feeling overwhelmed? Struggling with mom rage? Being real with you close friend will help you feel less alone and validate what they are going thru too. You may even be able to find creative ways to work together or support each other.

5. Prioritize Self-Care: Self-care is a long-term strategy focused on preventing burnout. Often moms are so exhausted taking care of themselves seems to be the last thing on the list. Other times, they are just uncomfortable with prioritizing their needs and feel like a “bad mom” or guilty for leaving the “to do list” if they take time for themselves.

Look for small ways, like pouring a nice cup of tea, smelling your favourite lotion or sitting down for a few minutes to listen to music or read a book to tend to your needs. Intentionally set aside even 5-10 minutes every day to recharge and care for yourself.

The mental load of motherhood can be so exhausting and overwhelming. Especially at time of high emotion and transitions like we are in this week, as we prepare for back to school, our “mom brains” can feel especially stressed. Remember to respond to yourself with compassion when you can’t get it all done. Expect less of yourself. Proactively find some ways to delegate and automate the sharing of tasks. Cultivate a good group of mom friends to commiserate with and prioritize caring for yourself.

Sometimes motherhood can feel so overwhelming and stressful that self- help is not enough. Counselling can help you process your feelings and find more effective ways to cope. I specialize in working with moms who are feeling stressed, overwhelmed and anxious to help them learn new ways to thrive in their lives.

Good Communication Is Key To Positive Sex Experiences In Pregnancy & Postpartum

Good Communication Is Key To Positive Sex Experiences In Pregnancy & Postpartum

Good communication is the key to positive sex experiences in pregnancy & postpartum, but talking about the changes and challenges that might come up in your sex life was likely the last thing on your mind when you found out that you would be soon be expecting a baby.

In some ways, this is not surprising. Only a minority of women (29%) who participated in a research study about the connection between a positive sexual self and a more positive experience of pregnancy reported that their prenatal care providers discussed sexuality with them. As important as open communication is with your care provider, being comfortable communicating about your sexual pleasure during pregnancy and postpartum with your partner is also a key ingredient in having a positive sexual connection.

Research finds that comfort with sexual communication is directly linked to satisfaction in the bedroom. Self-disclosure and being open when communicating with one’s partner, is also associated with relationship satisfaction. But even though communicating openly about sexual issues is important, it can also be very hard. It’s not uncommon to feel embarrassed, “dirty” or awkward requesting what you want explicitly in your relationship. but communication is key to positive sex experiences in pregnancy & postpartum.

What to expect (in the bedroom) When Expecting
Generally, unless your doctor or midwife has specific reasons for you to not have sex, it’s absolutely safe — for you, your partner, and your developing baby.

Interestingly, women who have orgasms during pregnancy benefit from the release of calming hormones and increased cardiovascular blood flow. Those benefits get even passed down to baby.

However, during the first trimester, you may feel exhausted, nauseous and emotionally exhausted. Fifty-eight percent of women in a Canadian study reported that their desire dwindled during pregnancy. If your experience is the opposite of this, know that you are not alone; pregnancy affects people’s sex drives in different ways.

During the second trimester, you may physically begin to feel a little better. Because of increased blood flow to your vagina, your sex dive may even increase. But, as you begin to show a little more, your partner can be affected, not only because you look and feel different, but because as the pregnancy progresses, they will see and feel the baby move. This can bring on some fearful feelings for the non-pregnant partner.

If the two of you aren’t used to having vulnerable conversations about difficult topics, it may feel like you are struggling to communicate effectively about how pregnancy and postpartum affects your sex life. Working towards improving communication is key to positive sex experiences in pregnancy & postpartum.

In the last trimester, being intimate can feel more challenging, simply because the baby has gotten so big and finding positions that are comfortable for everyone can be difficult. At times like this, being able to communicate about sex during pregnancy and postpartum is so important. It can help both partners to enjoy sex throughout the pregnancy. Being able to communicate with each other about which position are more comfortable, whether intimate activities like oral sex feel pleasurable or if non-sexual touch is a more natural way to connect.

Sex after Delivery
You’ve spent hours picking out the perfect name, choosing the right crib and car seat and scouring parenting books. And then, the reality suddenly dawns on you…everything about having your first baby isn’t as magical as you hoped it would be.

Sleepless nights, leaky boobs and being touched or snuggled nearly 24/7 can take a toll on a your postpartum sex life. And, as enjoyable as you sex life had been before baby, the thought of being intimate may the furthest thing from your mind. At times like this, communication is key to positive sex experiences in pregnancy & postpartum so both partners can feel heard, understood and supported.

Dr. Natalie Rosen, who is a Halifax based psychologist and conducts research with her team at the Couples and Sexual Health Research Laboratory found 50% of pregnant North American women report being given absolutely no information about changes that may occur to their sexual relationship after childbirth. In response to this, she and her team created a video series to address the most common sexual concerns that new parents have.

Good Communication Is Key to Positive Sex Experiences in Pregnancy & Postpartum.
John and Julie Gottman, who are therapists and relationship experts, found in their research from the Bringing Baby Home program that almost 2/3 of couples report a decline in relationship satisfaction up to three years after having a baby. The 1/3 of couples that reported higher levels of satisfaction had a things in common; they were able to share in the transition together by cultivating a strong sense of friendship, practicing healthy conflict management, and tackled the varying needs of a newborn as a team.

There are seasons, like pregnancy and postpartum, when “capacity and tolerance for sex fluctuates”. In fact, building intimacy and connection during these times is critical, and this does not come just from the sex act itself. Hugging, holding hands, snuggling, kissing all foster intimacy. So does good communication and a commitment to emotional intimacy.

The Gottman’s suggest building what they call “Love Maps” which really comes down to knowing the little things about your partner to create a strong foundation for your friendship and intimacy. In their series “Gottsex” they suggest some of the following conversation starters

*Can you recall some good moments of sex between us?

*What did we do that made you feel closer to me?

*What made you feel relaxed?

*What made you feel ready for touch and sensuality?

*What makes you feel connected to me?

*What makes you more in touch with your body?

They have also created a very useful app where you can explore what they call ‘salsa cards’ to help you turn towards, talk about and explore sexually with your partner.

Open and honest communication with your partner is an essential ingredient to building greater intimacy and sexual satisfaction in pregnancy and postpartum. If are looking to build a deeper emotional connection or want help learning to talk openly about any aspect of your relationship, including your sex life, with your partner, couples counselling can help.

Get a Grip on Your Emotions, Mama!

Get a Grip on Your Emotions, Mama!

A few months ago, in the thick of pandemic isolation, articles about ‘mom rage’ began appearing in my Facebook feed and in my inbox.

Intrigued, I felt drawn to read what I could find about this term that I had never heard of.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve certainly experience feeling angry as a mom, but I had never heard of the experience described in such a raw way.

In case you haven’t heard of it, ’Mom rage’ is the term to describe the intense anger many women experience during pregnancy, postpartum and beyond. It is a fitting description for venting of the daily emotional and logistical pressures moms face, that have a way of building up and building up until we lose it.

Mom rage’ does not sound at all like the kind of patient, fun mom you’ve envisioned being, which makes it especially hard to talk about without feeling guilt or shame. If you’ve struggled with anger as a mom, I want you to know that you are not alone.

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 What contibutes to ‘Mom Rage’?

‘Mom rage’ can be linked to social isolation, lack of support, managing high levels of stress as well as maternal depression and anxiety.

Being a mom, for many, can intensify our experience of anxiety. Am I getting this right? How do I keep my kids safe? Are they getting all that they need?

There are so many decisions to make on a daily basis that we can easily feel overwhelmed and weighed down by the mental load of motherhood.

Grief can also contribute to feelings of anger. Becoming a mom, while it can be a wonderful experience, is also an experience of loss. As moms, we might grieve the loss of our independence, losing control over our own schedule, decreased social connection, lack of sleep, our pre-baby bodies, etc.

During this pandemic, this experience of loss has only been amplified; when you stop and consider all of the changes that we have had to adapt to over the past few months, grief is a normal emotional reaction to have.

‘Mom rage’ can even be the expression of our stress response connected to our kids behaviours or our own past history of trauma. Physiologically, fight, flight or freeze is how our bodies are programmed to respond when faced with an overwhelming emotional experience.

How To Get A Grip On Your Emotions in the Moment?

Part 1 of this blog series, highlighted the importance of recognizing your triggers and addressing them pro-actively to help you cope more effectively with stress and being overwhelmed.

Here are some steps you can take to help you in the moment, to help you get a grip:

1.Stop “Should-ing” All Over Yourself: Albert Ellis, the founder of Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy coined the term “should-ing all over yourself” to describe our tendency to criticize and judge ourselves with shoulds. Guilt and anxiety are amplified the more ‘shoulding’ you do.

When you catch yourself mentally beating yourself up for all of the things you “should” have done, ask yourself “who says this is important or how it has to be done?”.

Often the things that we feel we “should” do come from external pressures and are not even what really matters to us. Perhaps it’s our mom who says it should be a certain way or our friends who are all enrolling their kids in some program or another.

If there are some “shoulds” that really matter to you, don’t feel that you need to carry the burden alone. Enlist help from a spouse, friend, family member, or older child to help share the load.

2. Put Down Your Phone: The madness of social media is that on one hand you use it to try and distract yourself from whatever unpleasant emotions you are feeling (boredom, anxiety, overwhelmed, etc.) while it simultaneously makes you feel worse when you see the highlights of everyone else’s day.

Even if you’re watching the latest Kristina Kuzmic YouTube Video while you’re trying to parent your kids, you’ll likely be interrupted on multiple occasions, and what sort of mindset will you be in then?

Being distracted by your phone makes it even more difficult to regulate your emotions or to help your kids deal with theirs. Try putting your phone out of sight, at least for part of the day, so you can be fully present.

3. Notice What is Happening in Your Body: Become more aware of what it feels like in your body before you become unhinged. Where do you feel the frustration, overwhelm, anger, sadness or helplessness in your body?

Take a deep breath, exhale slowly and focus on what your body is feeling.

You might notice how you shrug your shoulders up towards your neck, or tighten your jaw muscles when you are feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you notice how hot you feel when you feel angry.

Noticing and naming the tension you feel and the emotions that are coming up may not make the difficult situation it go away, but it puts you back in control and allows you to take a minute and think about how you’d like to respond.

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5. Respond To Yourself With Compassion: Kristen Neff, who is a leading author and researcher on self-compassion has found that when caregivers (yes, that is you, mom!) pour themselves out for others without being kind and supportive towards themselves, they eventually burn out.

After a decade of research, Neff has found that held-compassion is associated with good mental health, protects caregivers from compassion fatigue and increases satisfaction in the caregiving role.

She defines self-compassion as having 3 main components; self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Self-kindness refers to the tendency to be caring and understanding with oneself rather than being harshly critical or judgmental. Common humanity involves recognizing that all humans are imperfect, fail and make mistakes. Mindfulness involves being present in the moment with an awareness of ones painful feelings without ignoring them or holding on to tightly to them.

Here is a self-compassion exercise from the book Self-Compassion for Parents by Susan Pollack that you can try:

-Notice your experience (This is really, really hard. I feel so overwhelmed)
-Validate your feeling; like how you would talk to a good friend (ugh! Moments like this completely suck! Parenting is full of these tough moments. Other moms definitely feel this way too! I am not alone experiencing this; this is part of parenting.)
-Add words of kindness (You’ve got this! You can get through this. Let me be kind to myself today.)
-Try putting your hand on your heart and notice the warmth and gentle pressure.

There are going to be days that you blow it! Have some compassion for yourself. Instead of feeling forever horrible and mentally beating yourself up for the rest of the day, see it as an opportunity to reset.

Ask yourself what you need in that moment to get back on track.

Apologize sincerely to your kids.

Begin again.

Motherhood will present you with the ‘opportunity’ again and again to learn to deal more skillfully with your emotions. Many moms have never been taught to handle their feelings effectively. As you learn to experience sadness, anxiety, anger and other emotions in new ways, you can also share this learning with your kids to better equip them.

If you’ve been struggling with stress, anger or anxiety on your own and don’t feel like you’ve been making progress, counselling can be a very helpful part of the puzzle. I invite you to reach out for a free 15 minute consultation to see if we’d be a good fit to work together, to help you learn to navigate your emotions more effectively.

Helpful Resources:

How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids by Carla Naumburg (*has a lot of ‘salty’ language, but is a great book!)

Self-Compassion for Parents by Susan Pollack

How Not to Lose Your Mind (as often) With Your Kids This Summer

How Not to Lose Your Mind (as often) With Your Kids This Summer

Ah, summer!

What is it about warmer weather, less structure to your days and time off work with the kids that seems like it might decrease your stress as a mom?

For weeks,  you couldn’t wait for ‘online learning’ to stop,  after what felt like an eternity of struggling to balance work and school (I bet that you appreciate teachers 1000x more after that!).

Just thinking about summer vacation made your heart feel light, imagining all the fun you’d have.

Lemonade on the deck, days at the beach, picking berries in the Annapolis Valley.

But truth is, after a couple of weeks, you’re over it! You feel just as stressed by the cooking, cleaning and juggling of kids in the summer months as you did over the school year.  

But, no wonder! Summer can still be stressful!

You would think that kids who had been shuttled around all year to various programs and activities and had been stuck mainly indoors doing school work for the last 9 months would love some downtime. But, no.


My kids beg to play video games, watch TV, get on their siblings nerves, pick fights and tattle on each other and plead to go to Chicken Little for ice cream. Daily.

This year, because your kids have already been cooped up at home for the past 4 months, your patience is worn thin. Some days it feels as though your teetering on the edge of sanity, trying not to lose your s*&t!

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Life as a Mom is Tough

It’s only 8 am and already you’ve been up for hours because someone peed the bed in the early hours of the morning and you couldn’t fall back to sleep.

You haven’t had your morning coffee yet because someone else is melting down over their unicorn t-shirt being in the wash. To make matters worse, you’ve run out of milk for your cereal.

You had hoped to get some exercise in this morning, but your plans have been derailed. You are tired and keeping it together when you’ve got a million balls to juggle can feel practically impossible.


Mom stress is real!

The Impact of Mom Stress

You might be familiar with the horrible feeling that floods your body in moments of high stress; like when your kids are melting down and you’re trying to get them out the door.

Maybe you hear your voice change-my kids joke that they know that I am about to lose it when I start using proper grammar and big words as I internally struggle not to come unglued.

And, if you don’t catch yourself, words will come rushing out like toothpaste out of a tube; impossible to put back.

Mom meltdowns leave you feeling terrible about how you’ve handled the situation.

As crappy as the situation was, your behaviour has left you feeling much worse.

Why is it so hard to keep my cool when I’m stressed?

Dear frustrated and stressed mom, I want you to know that this reaction is not because you are a terrible person. Or because you are any more flawed than the rest of us.

Making sense of this reaction by understanding how your brain and body work can help you to stop beating yourself up (you are human, after all) and have hope that you can learn to handle things in new ways.

Here is a brief explanation; Our brains and nervous systems respond with a stress response which is sometimes called fight/flight/freeze when we are experiencing a ‘threat’.

You might be surprised to learn that our brains don’t have a separate pathway to handle the emotional ‘threat’ of mom chaos compared to the physical ‘threat’ of a car speeding towards you.

Either way, when your nervous system becomes aware, consciously or unconsciously, that something bad is going down, or at least might be, your amygdala sends a signal that activates your sympathetic nervous system and your body gets flooded with adrenaline and cortisol.

Physiologically, you are primed to dart out of the way of that speeding car, but the reality is you need to keep your cool while you wipe up a full glass of milk that has been spilled all over the table and is dripping down onto the floor, when you are already 5 minutes late to get out the door.

Now, your body that was already experiencing a stress response because you were running late, has just gotten all jacked up again with a fresh flood of stress hormones after the milk spilled.

All that energy has to go somewhere…..and if you don’t get a hold of yourself so you just might come unhinged.

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How do I Stop Losing It so Often?

One of the best ways to have a chance at getting a grip on yourself in those chaotic scenes, is to start recognizing your triggers and addressing them pro-actively.

What are triggers?

Carla Naumburg, a clinical social worker and author of one of my new favourite books How to Stop Losing Your s*&it with Your Kids defines triggers as “anything that makes it more likely that you’re going to lose your shit with your kids.” These can include stress, insecurities, big feelings, or distractions.

She states that some of the most common triggers are;

-Chronic exhaustion
-Smartphones and social media
-Major life changes

Identifying and figuring out how to deal with your triggers is critical to getting a hold of yourself, so that you don’t flip out on your kids.

I challenge you this week to make a list of your triggers and what you can do to address each one.

I’ll share some of mine…..

A messy house – how can families with kids have a tidy house? It’s never going to happen! Remind myself to take a deep breath, ask for help from the kids and chill out if a cushion is out of place or there’s socks on the floor.

Lack of quiet time – I try to have a nice hot bubble bath or even a long hot shower every day with no kids around and if I’m really lucky even take a book to read in the bath! Finding quiet time even 5 minutes alone a day is key to sanity.

An overbooked life – Just say no! If I have too much going on, I try to reprioritize and let things go.

Mealtimes – meal planning at the start of every week for the week.

Noise – all houses with kids must be noisy, right? If the kids reach the point that they are getting louder than I can manage, go do ‘quiet activities’ with them or go outside with them.

Disorganization- write things down, keep a diary or daily journal so I know when and where I need to be. Leave extra time before and after because kids can drag their feet and take an age to do anything.

Here is a journaling page for you to help you start looking at your mom stress by giving you a place to record some of your triggers and possible solutions.

Come back for part two of this blog series and I’ll give you some practical, in-the-moment things you can do to get a grip when you are about to lose it.

After all, there is no way to avoid the nervous system response to a ‘threat’, but you can learn to handle it differently.

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