Right now, moms are facing unprecedented pressures: home-schooling, Zoom work calls, fears of sickness to ourselves and our families, uncertain finances, houses to clean, laundry to clean, groceries to procure, no child care, no playdates, no traveling, no family support, no break. And while we can be grateful for our health, extra time with our families, and so much more, this is all really hard. For moms who have family members with COVID-19, first responder moms, single moms, special needs moms (the list goes on), it’s even harder. But truly, no matter the family dynamic or work dynamic, these are massive pressure and concerns we’ve never dealt with before. This week is Maternal Mental Health Week, and right now, moms’ mental health is more important than ever. We sat down with therapist and mental health practitioner, Jennifer Bronsnick of The Mindful Family, who works to support and help moms heal from burnout and anxiety, to get some valuable insight on how we can take care of ourselves in a time where we are taking care of so much else.
This is a totally unexpected and unusual situation we’ve all been thrust into and our mental health is definitely a concern. Can you share any examples of what your patients are experiencing? What advice have you given them?
I am seeing a lot of moms struggling with anxiety, overwhelm, feeling like a failure because of how they are responding to their kids, and an inability to “do it all”. There’s a lot of grief and sadness about the loss of their previous lives and about the moments that their children are missing out on. Generally, I feel it’s essential for everyone to take at least five minutes a day to themselves. Even if it’s just to take a few deeps breaths, bring up a positive feeling by remembering a happy memory from the past or something you can look forward to in the future. For me, I have found my non-negotiables to be getting adequate sleep, showering and getting dressed, and taking my supplements. But everyone is different, and it is okay if your coping isn’t the same. Just ask yourself, “Is this helping me at the moment, and in the long run?” I do worry about alcohol and substance abuse right now because they may take the stress away in the moment, however, the long-term effects on physical and emotional health can be horrible.
I think we all need permission to let go of some of the expectations we’re putting on ourselves. We can’t be everyone and everything to everybody. It is 100% ok to drop the ball—take it moment by moment and be sure to repeat the mantra daily that this is temporary.
Moms have to balance so much right now, especially the need to be informed for our families vs. the draining feeling of information overload. Any tips?
A lot of us are addicted to the adrenaline that comes from checking our phones and getting the latest update—we may know it’s not good, but we can’t help ourselves. For me, I cope with it by trying to balance out the bad news with uplifting or inspiring stories. It is so important to manage our energy during this time so that when things do get back to “normal” we can cope with that shift. This is also a very personal choice—if you are sensitive and get upset by the news, ask a loved one to give you important updates rather than a play-by-play of Cuomo’s latest press conference. If you are someone that needs all the information and being informed doesn’t make you upset, then I would just suggest that you just limit the amount of information you are allowing your children to see. I work with children struggling with a lot of fears and anxieties, so for them, it’s not helpful to know all the details.
Walk us through some things moms can do to help their mental health. We hear a lot about self-care, but right now it’s harder than ever to fit that into our days.
Since every single one of us is coping with this situation differently, only you know what you can do right now. But my general advice is knowing you are worthy of taking care of yourself and there is nothing selfish about setting boundaries with your family. I have noticed that when I fill up my kids’ needs for connection and attention by spending a few minutes with each of them, they are more capable of entertaining themselves. I also see no harm in throwing on a movie or handing out iPads so you can go read a book, take an online class, or drink a cup of hot coffee.
Some good questions to ask yourself, are—what would make you feel taken care of right now? What would bring a positive feeling state into your body? It might be having a Zoom cocktail hour or a hot bath. There is no right way to practice self-care, but it’s essential that it feels good to you and fills your cup.
What words of encouragement can you offer NJMOMs who are struggling right now?
You are not alone and you are stronger than you think. You are doing a good job—this is an impossible situation, and it is okay to feel sad, angry, and overwhelmed. You might just notice that when you allow yourself to feel that afterward, you are also able to feel gratitude or appreciation for everything in your life that you do have.
For more information about Jennifer Brosnick and The Mindful Family, click here.