Avoiding a Mommy Meltdown

mom crying on the phone

Sometimes being a mom can feel like too much. Especially in those first few sleep-deprived weeks, or if you already have a child.  Having feelings such as frustration, irritability or anger can take you by surprise and it can be difficult to deal with. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having these types of feelings; every mom has them at some point, even if they don't admit it. It becomes especially difficult to keep your cool if you are handling a more difficult child, for one reason or another. This can result in emotional outbursts, sometimes in the most inappropriate locations or situations. Again, this is rather normal and happens to a lot of moms.

Here's some helpful advice to try and prevent mommy meltdowns from happening.

Be honest

This is really important. Start with being honest with yourself about how you are feeling, even if you don't like the truth or wish that you weren't feeling this way. If you can, try to look back at the circumstances that have caused you to feel this way. Perhaps you are overwhelmed at dealing with a new baby or had a traumatic birth experience. Identify if there are any specific triggers which cause you to become upset or angry, that way you can address them directly.

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Talk it out

If you feel that you can, talk out how you are feeling with someone close to you. This could be your partner, a family member or a friend. Be clear with that person what you need out of the conversation - if you just want them to listen, then say so. If you need reassurance or advice, make sure that you are talking with someone that you trust and respect. Remember that it can be difficult for others to empathize with your situation, especially if they don't have children.  Whilst it can be very tempting to ask other moms if they have experienced the same feelings, be aware that every mom is different and that they may not want to admit or talk about such problems. This may also be the case for looking at online forums or social media; there will be plenty of moms in the same boat but also a lot of alternative views on how you should handle it. These may end up being more upsetting than helpful, especially if you are desperate for positive insight.

Ask for help

There is no shame in asking for help, and it certainly doesn't make you any less of a super mom. Whether it's asking someone to babysit to give you a break or run to the store for you, even the smallest weight off your shoulders can make a world of difference. People are usually willing to help when asked, and it's also beneficial for your child to socialize and spend time with other adults. Even if you just manage to get out to your local mommy and me group, there'll be plenty of spare hands available to help. Getting yourself out of the house is a great way to keep your spirits up and decompress, even if you just take your baby for a walk around the block. Cabin fever is very common with new moms because they may not know when is the right time to go out with their baby for the first time, so they bottle up themselves and their feelings. The fresh air is brilliant for both of you, and trips out are never as traumatic as you imagine them to be.

mom stressed from kid screaming

Look after yourself

Self-care and treating yourself may seem like an ambition rather than an intention, but you should make sure you look after yourself properly. Staying hydrated with plenty of liquids is key. Ideally, this would mean water but lots of cups of tea and coffee will do the trick too, minding the sugar you add into them of course. Eat sensibly and ensure that you are getting a good balance of nutrients, particularly if you are breastfeeding. Aim for balanced meals to boost your energy levels throughout the day, whatever that may mean for you.

Also, make sure that you are taking care of your basic needs. You may feel that you don’t have the time or energy to take a shower or bath and get dressed, but this can make you feel much more energized and positive about the day. There's no expectation that you blowdry your hair or have a full face of makeup! Even though you may think that other moms are judging you on your appearance, they're really not.

If you are sleep deprived or suffering from broken sleep, this can have a huge impact on your daytime behavior. If it is practical to do so, have short naps by yourself during the day or at least a good rest. A good philosophy may be “If the baby sleeps, I sleep!” until things start to go back to normal. Look at options for getting more sleep at night too. This could be sharing more of the load with your partner or just going to bed much earlier. Although it doesn't seem like it, sleep issues do eventually get better and you will get your evenings back!

In the heat of the moment

If you feel yourself heading towards a meltdown, there are a few easy tricks you can use to help keep calm. Taking yourself away from your current location or situation can really work wonders, even just for a couple of minutes. If you have your children with you, make sure that they are safe and then go into a different room. Then you can use a distraction technique to help calm yourself down This could be counting to ten or engaging in a quick mindfulness exercise. Some people even swear by sucking on an ice cube. If you can, keep your time-out going for long enough that you feel yourself relaxing and changing perspective. If you're struggling with this, it can be helpful to describe your current situation either in your head or to another person. When you stop and observe what's happening it gives you a reality check and often helps you see that you may be overreacting to the situation

If it's not possible to step away you could try clapping your hands loudly once or twice. This works in two ways; the noise gives you time to stop and assess your situation, plus the clapping action helps to get rid of some bodily tension. You will want to be mindful and concentrate on your breathing. You may find that your breathing gets shallower or even stops when you're feeling stressed. Try to take slower and deeper breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Although it might be the last thing you feel like doing, being silly and laughing can also be a great distraction, plus your kids will love it! Try to let go and find something to make you laugh. This could be pulling silly faces or throwing some shapes in an impromptu dance. Dancing is brilliant for shaking out tension too and can help you forget about why you are losing your cool.

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Reward yourself

Reward charts are brilliant for kids, but they can also work for adults. It doesn't need to be stuck on the fridge: you could think creatively! Give yourself a reward when you feel that you've dealt with a situation well, especially if you're aware of your specific triggers. Then plan for something special when you've reached a certain amount. This gives you motivation but also boosts your confidence because you can see how you are progressing. Don’t make a habit of punishing yourself if you slip up or miss a goal, as that will only set back the progress you’ve made. Accidents happen and nobody’s perfect, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re having a bad day!

More Help

If you do find that you're not coping on a regular basis, or that you can't get yourself out of feeling the way that you do, it could be time to seek professional help. You can start off by talking to your midwife, health advisor or GP about how you are feeling. In some cases, talking it through with someone external to your situation can be useful and help to put things into perspective. They may also be able to offer some helpful advice or tips, especially if your baby is struggling with things like colic or reflux. There's absolutely no problem in being completely honest about how you are feeling; you won't be the first and certainly won't be the last. It may be possible that you are suffering from postpartum depression, which is a lot more common than you may think. The Arizona Behavioral Health Associates studied that 10-20% of mothers experience clinical postpartum depression. It can occur in new moms and those who already have children and affects 1 in 7 women even a year after giving birth. It's different to the hormone surge you feel around three days after giving birth, which comes and goes quickly. Postpartum depression normally occurs after three to four weeks after birth and can last for many weeks or months. There are varied symptoms, which include being tired and unable to concentrate as well as feelings about being unable to cope, guilt or anger towards your partner or baby.

There is a range of treatments available for postpartum depression, and they don’t necessarily require medication. Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy can be very beneficial. You will need to be completely honest with yourself and others to gain the most benefit of these types of treatments, but you can always discuss all the options before you jump in. There are lots of organizations that offer support to moms with postpartum depression, so know that you are not alone. Many women who suffer from PPD feel like they are less of a mother because of it, and they are afraid that others will see that if they admit to feeling characteristic symptoms of it.

It is important to know that it is very normal to experience PPD, and there are endless resources to help you or a loved one overcome it in a healthy way, and there’s absolutely no shaming involved. 

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