Although being a parent can be boundlessly rewarding, it comes with many new responsibilities and struggles. Aside from drastic body changes, mothers deal with many new mental concerns regarding the child’s safety and well-being. With the added-on pressure of a worldwide pandemic disrupting any semblance of normal life and causing fears about transmission, anxiety and fear can be all-too-common experiences.
While it’s easy to focus all of our energy on our children, it is equally important to make sure that parents are taking care of their emotional well-being and mental health in a period of drastic change and potential stress. As seen in research, certain journaling exercises can help ease parenting anxiety and stress during this transition period.
What is parenting anxiety and do I have it?
Parenting anxiety often involves excessive worrying about things that may go wrong, often by trying to prevent anything negative from happening to your child. This can come in the form of avoidance behavior, such as removing your child from normal situations in fear of harm. You may overthink situations that are unlikely to happen, constantly thinking up worst-case scenarios. Every little thing may seem like a big issue, from whether your baby is eating enough or getting enough sleep. If you find yourself experiencing any of these, you may have parenting anxiety.
In addition to anxiety, parents also deal with other large changes in their lives including the metamorphosis of mothers’ bodies and relationship adjustments to prioritize kids. With all these seismic shifts in personal lives, it is critical that parents provide care to themselves as well as their kids. If you find yourself experiencing parenting anxiety to the point that it’s beginning to consume your life and affect your relationship with yourself or others, EmoteWell’s science-backed journaling exercises can help ease some of your stress.
Below are 3 ways that journaling can help ease the emotional toll of being a parent:
- Journaling can Ease Anxiety About What Could Go Wrong
As a parent, it’s not uncommon to worry over children, but those with parenting anxiety tend to overreact to minor injuries and can blow things out of proportion in their heads. Maybe you’re spending every waking minute researching the best bottles or pacifiers for your child. Maybe you’re unwilling to fall asleep in fear of all the negative possibilities that may happen as you lay unconscious. If you find yourself overanalyzing every scrape and scratch on your child or constantly consumed with fear or anxiety, you may find relief in journaling.
A journaling exercise called “self-distancing from negativity” can help stop negative thoughts from escalating and lower your stress by helping you view your own thoughts and feelings from a distance. This exercise encourages you to use third-person pronouns to address yourself to prevent yourself from spiraling into negativity. When you find yourself overreacting or irrationally worried about your child over something minor, this journaling exercise can help calm you down and ease your irrational, anxious thoughts.
- Journaling Can Help You Manage Your Body Weight
Taking care of a child is already a time-consuming and difficult task, so juggling time for self-care while tending to a newborn baby can seem next to impossible. For many new mothers, the struggle with body image can be tied to the overwhelming demands of parenthood, leaving you to feel as if you’ve lost a part of yourself. From an unpredictable sleep schedule to a loss of appetite, your body may not be functioning as it once was both mentally and physically, which can lead to feelings of insecurity and awkwardness. It’s important to first recognize that your body has been through a lot and deserves your empathy. It can be helpful to change the narrative around your body, such as viewing your stretch marks as evidence of how you brought a baby to life. Indeed, it is also important to take care of yourself, whether it be through self-care or diet. Mindful eating is one approach that can be a beneficial tool for healthy weight management. This means following eating behavior and physical activity as guided by your body’s needs and cues, helping you feel better inside and out.
One journaling exercise in particular called “self-affirmation” can empower you to make healthier diet choices so that you can feel your best. In research, it was shown that this exercise could help people make healthier eating choices and help with weight control. This exercise can also help encourage you to make healthier choices in every facet of your life by reminding you of the many resources in your life, from your inner strength to the social support around you. During this difficult phase, it’s important to remind yourself that self-compassion goes a long way. The more grace and patience you give yourself, the more energy you’ll have to give to your child.
- Journaling Can Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Partner
Conflicts can easily arise from raising a child as you adapt to this new change in your life. Irritability from exhaustion can cause trivial fights and tempers to boil over while arguments can erupt from different parenting styles. With the demands of raising a child, it can be easy to neglect your relationship with your partner as taking care of your child takes priority. But emotional support for and from your partner is crucial during this phase. One journaling exercise called “cherishing your partner” can help strengthen your relationship with your partner so that you can use each other as support systems during this overwhelming period. This exercise encourages you to write down qualities you appreciate in your partner, which can bring you closer and shield your relationship from harsh conflicts. This exercise also encourages you to share your feelings and gratitude with your partner, which can ultimately help improve your communication skills so that you can not only be your best self and partner, but also a better parent.
Parenting is difficult, especially under stressful and uncertain times. As you navigate these challenges, it’s important to give yourself grace and patience and to recognize that you are doing your best. To navigate some of the common struggles that may arise from parenting anxiety, EmoteWell offers scientifically-researched journaling exercises to support you and provide the tools you need to ease your parenting anxiety.
Ready to get started? All of the exercises mentioned above can be easily completed within EmoteWell where you can also learn more about the research behind them. Use the code “mothers” for a month of free access.