9 March, 2021
Managing Feelings, Stress and Pressures
Parenthood is a time of huge change. The initial transition to parenthood – and the continuing transitions as your children grow – can catch us all by surprise. We change as people. Our relationships change. Our priorities shift and so can our perspective. Add to this the Covid-19 pandemic which has placed stress and pressure on parents like no other time before. For many, this can lead to big and unexpected feelings.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or you are experiencing big feelings, know you are not alone. Here are some strategies to help you manage them.
Make space for the feelings – this sounds counterintuitive but is enormously helpful. When big feelings show up, acknowledge them and allow them – don’t fight them. By allowing your feelings you’re on the road to working out what you need to get through them.
Try not to judge your feelings or yourself for having them. I call it making friends with your feelings. The idea that some feelings are good and others are bad is very unhelpful, and risks adding a layer of guilt or shame on top of what you’re feeling.
What are your feelings telling you you need? Do you need to problem solve? Do you need something to be different? Do you need support? Do you need to vent?
Turn your mind to what you can influence rather than focusing on what’s out of your control. Use the following questions to help guide your problem-solving:
What can I do right now?
What do I need that might help?
What can I control? The more we try to grab hold of what’s out of our control, the more helpless and vulnerable we feel.
Who are the people who can help me problem solve?
What can I do while I’m getting through this?
Minimise “What If” thinking. It’s easy to get lost in a web of trying to predict the future. Be wary of trying to problem solve something that hasn’t happened yet. This thinking might feel like problem solving, but chances are it’s not productive.
It is also common for parents to experience additional stress and pressure throughout their parenting journey. Some ideas to help you manage stress and pressure include:
Social support & connection – Loneliness is a key contributing factor to low mood so it’s important to find ways to connect with people – both existing friends and new parent friends.
Ask for help and accept help when offered – try and resist the pressure to do it all yourself.
Identify your sources of stress/pressure and see if there are ways of manage it differently.
Give Yourself Grace. When you are feeling stressed, uncertain, and overwhelmed, give yourself grace. Now is the time to take the pressure off pretty much everything. A good place to start is to readjust your goals and expectations to match the reality of now. Resist the temptation to make your usual goals work. Doing less, not more is the key to riding this out.
Find your Calm. Whatever this looks like for you, try and find it where you can. Anything that quietens your mind, turns down the noise, and feels restorative will do. It might be structured, like meditation (Smiling Mind and Calm are wonderful free apps to get you started) or yoga. But cuddling your sleeping baby, walking in a local park, listening to music, quietly washing the dishes, and sitting in the sun are all ways of getting there too.
Talk about how you feel – to partner, friends, parents.
Exercise supports physical and mental health, lifts our mood, helps us manage stress, and can connect us with people. Whatever form your exercise takes, it’s a wonderful investment in you!
Time-box your worries by making an appointment for worry time. Make it daily or weekly, depending on your need. Whenever worries show up outside of that time, simply add them to your worry list. At the appointed time allow yourself uninterrupted freedom to worry for 15 minutes, and then stop. This strategy is helpful because it reinforces the idea that while we certainly can’t stop worries showing up, we can (with practice) decide when we attend to them.
Places to find support
If you don’t like the way you are feeling, please reach out for support.
GP & Psychologist – See your GP for a referral to see a psychologist. Telehealth options are currently available for both GP and psychology appointments.
PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia. National Helpline 1300 726 306
Their website has a wealth of information and resources for expecting and new parents.
24 hour Maternal & Child Health Line 13 22 29
Dr Karola Belton is the Mama You've Got This Psychologist Expert and presents at the Infant Essentials Masterclass.
Mama You've Got This
Dr Karola Belton