Updated: Apr 8, 2021
Five ways to deal with situations that make you anxious when you are stuck at home.
**Disclaimer. I am not a doctor or a mental health professional. If you are experiencing any type of anxiety or depression you should seek advice from a doctor.
When Baby Dragon was born, D2 was just newly potty trained and D1 was transitioning to "cleaning up after" on his own. Between frequently changing newborn diapers, taking D2 back and forth to the potty, cleaning up "accidents" and having to completely strip down and bathe the baby after diaper blowouts, I was a mess. I mean that literally and every other way I can possibly mean that. I did get advice to feed my kids "less healthy" so they don't "go" so much, but obviously that's not helpful. And, their "healthy colons" weren't much solace either.
Most people probably have some level of aversion to having someone else's excrement on them, but I'm particularly sensitive to it on a normal day. (There's definitely a reason I went to law school and not medical school.) But experiencing this while my hormones were all over the place in the postpartum period made me feel as if I was going to be knee deep in poop forever. I could not see the light at the end of a colon shaped tunnel. (I don't want to make light of postpartum anxiety because I have experienced it, and it is no laughing matter. If you feel you are experiencing an abnormal level of anxiety at any season of life please speak to a doctor, as I did.)
What particularly got to me was having to transition from food to poop all the time. It is not something someone who is what I like to call "germ sensitive" really likes to do. I would be cutting fruit and a kid would be on the toilet yelling for me. I would be feeding the baby and a kid would come tell me there was poop ON THE FLOOR. To top it off, I had to deal with poop while a baby screamed because I wasn't holding him, which really did not help my nerves.
Anyway, so what's the point here? Most moms of multiple little ones experience this. Many of you are thinking...just clean up the mess and move on, no biggie. Or, what's a little baby poop gonna hurt?
Well, my point is You might have something that just really stresses you out or feels impossible. Maybe you don't yell out, "Why is someone always pooping!" Or you don't feel your face start to twitch every time you sit down to eat and someone wants you to remove feces from their butt. Maybe it's something else. Maybe it's zoom. Maybe you feel like bursting into tears every time you are in a zoom meeting that you can't hear because there is a kid throwing a tantrum. Meanwhile, there is another one who is supposed to be taking a math test, running around in circles because the tablet is about to die and they can't find their charger. We can't hide from these things that we can't change right? I HAD to clean up fecal matter. You might HAVE to work from home to watch children who aren't in school. How do we deal with it? Well first of all, we do it! You are already doing it day in and day out. Moms do the impossible everyday. We do it because we love our kids and you can't be mad at kids for being kids.
But maybe it is taking its toll. Maybe you are seeing the physical signs of its toll. Maybe you can feel your mental health being affected because your usual escapes are closed. Your usual stress relievers like the spa are not possible and you can't even go meet up with your friends at Starbucks after you drop your kids off at school.
Here are some strategies I have used to improve my mood that can be done any time, anywhere and got me through the poop period.
Prayer: If you are religious, a prayer I have found particularly helpful is the Serenity Prayer. I know it is traditionally said by those experiencing addiction but I have found it helpful in motherhood. The prayer is as follows:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.
Right now there so many situations we cannot change during the pandemic. But we can seek guidance from God in discerning what we can change, and what we have to trudge through. We ask God to give us peace while we are in the trenches.
Posture. We all know our body language can tell others a lot about how we feel. When we feel negatively, we tend to exhibit certain signs outwardly. Well, studies have been done that actually show it works in reverse as well. Changing your body position can change how you feel. Here's some science behind it.
Here is how to change your body language to positively affect your mood. I HIGHLY recommend this TED TALK if you have not seen it.
Pause By now, I think most people are aware of Mindfulness. It is basically the practice of focusing your thoughts on the present. There are various methods of meditation which fall within this category, usually involving slow breathing and other tools to stay in the now because usually, worries focus on the past or future. It is a mind/body therapy, relaxing the whole person. Read more about here: https://wellness.huhs.harvard.edu/Mindfulness
Again, Daniel Tiger has a relevant episode - two actually. They are called Blueberry Paws and Wow at the Library. Check out the cute little song they sing.
Read more about how mindfulness helps kids here.
Dance. Dance as an anxiety reliever or mood booster makes sense, right? It's exercise which we know can be a distraction and releases endorphins. And, we know music can also change the way we feel. Some neuroscientists believe that dance actually can change the brain.
As a mom, this is easy right? Kids love impromptu dance parties, or you can play freeze dance. Read more here. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201805/the-powerful-psychological-benefits-dance
Get Outside. If you believe the people at Harvard Medical School, going outside can make you happier. There is actually a name for it - ecotherapy. There is a "strong connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression." (See article below) If you aren't particularly outdoorsy, it doesn't mean you need to hike in a forest. Nature is all round us. Take a stroll in your neighborhood or local park. Read more here: