These past two years, moms have faced unprecedented pressures—virtual schooling, Zoom work calls, health worries, uncertain finances, houses to clean, laundry to wash, groceries to procure, less child care, no break. And while we can be grateful for extra time with our families, and so much more, this is all really hard. But honestly, no matter the family dynamic or work dynamic, these are massive pressure and concerns we’ve never dealt with before. This month is Maternal Health Awareness Month, and while it encompasses all health, focusing on our mental health is crucial—especially during these times. We sat down with a 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 too.
As the pandemic wears on, 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 see many moms struggling with anxiety, overwhelmed, feeling like a failure because of how they are responding to their kids, and unable to “do it all.” There’s a lot of grief and sadness about the loss of their previous lives and the moments 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 to take a few deep 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 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% okay 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, especially the need to be informed for our families vs. the draining feeling of information overload. Any tips?
Many 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 crucial to manage your energy so that when things change, you 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 essential updates rather than a play-by-play. If you need all the information and being informed doesn’t make you upset, I suggest limiting the amount of information you are allowing your children to see. I work with children struggling with many 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 it’s been more challenging than ever to fit that into our days.
My general advice is to know you are worthy of taking care of yourself, and there is nothing selfish about setting boundaries with your family. I have noticed my kids are more capable of entertaining themselves when I spend a few minutes with each of them—it fills up their needs for connection and attention. I also see no harm in throwing on a movie or handing out iPads so you can read a book, binge on a Netflix show, 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 taking a walk, a yoga class, 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?
You are not alone, and you are stronger than you think. You are doing a good job—these past years have been an impossible situation, and it is okay to feel sad, angry, and overwhelmed at times. You might notice that when you allow yourself to feel that afterward, you can 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.