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5 powerful ways sensitive moms can take care of themselves

I’m just a sensitive mom raising a sensitive son in a loud and chaotic world.

I cry at commercials and beautiful art. I feel deeply moved by music and poetry. Too much noise and commotion makes me anxious. Criticism hurts for days. I notice the small things most people don’t pick up on. Strong smells are an assault to my senses.

I am part of the 15-20% of the population carrying the trait of high sensitivity.

I have written about the challenges and joys of raising and loving a sensitive son, but what about the challenges and joys of being a sensitive mother? Do you carry this trait as well?

Here are some signs according to Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person:

  • During busy days, do you feel the need to withdraw to a darkened or other quiet space to find relief?
  • Are you easily overwhelmed by strong smells, bright lights, loud noises, and coarse fabrics?
  • Do you have a complex inner life?
  • Do you try to avoid violent movies or television shows?

Motherhood is a roller-coaster ride for the senses. Children are, by their wonderful natures, exuberant, spirited, energetic and loud.

My ears have been subjected to both quiet coos and high-pitched screams. My nose has experienced a range of smells, from light and sweet baby shampoo to dirty diapers and chunky vomit. My eyes have witnessed bloody noses that nearly made me pass out but also the sight of a peacefully sleeping baby that I grew inside my own body.

I’ve tasted sweat from forehead kisses and the “banana milk” experiment my 7-year-old made in a dusty teapot. I’ve experienced the gentle caresses of a loving toddler and the painful yank of a fistful of hair.

Many times, I’ve been overstimulated from the barrage of sensory information to the point of being completely frazzled, and I’ve felt the need to escape to find peace and quiet.

This isn’t always easy to do, especially when children are very young and you are the sole caretaker at the moment you find yourself overwhelmed. This overstimulation can cause sensitive moms to get irritable, and because of our sensitive and often perfectionistic natures, we sometimes carry guilt both for feeling the need to escape and for becoming agitated.

I can become easily overwhelmed if:

  • My kids have made a huge mess or there’s a lot of clutter.
  • I’m wearing something uncomfortable or the temperature isn’t right.
  • I have too much on my to-do list.
  • The kids are loud in public or spill a drink at a restaurant and people stare.
  • My son’s emotions are high.
  • I don’t have adequate downtime.

Although high sensitivity can be a challenge, it also brings joys. I believe this trait is a gift, and our strengths of compassion, intuitiveness, and noticing are strengths that the world very much needs. We make the very world that overwhelms us brighter, softer and kinder.

Being intuitive helps me assess my children’s needs more easily and understand them better. I often know what they are feeling before they verbalize it. I feel the joys of motherhood intensely, and my heart nearly bursts with pride and love each day.

Learning to manage my sensitivity has been important in helping me show up at my best for my family. When I practice good self-care, I’m not as easily overwhelmed, and I just feel generally calmer and more patient.

Here are 5 ways sensitive mothers can manage their superpower trait:

1. Say “yes” to a slower, more intentional life.

I just can’t be the mom who plans big parties and has my kid involved in every single sport and extracurricular out there. There have to be blank days on the calendar for cozying around the house. These free days are essential for allowing my nervous system to rest and recharge.

2. Cultivate strong emotional connections.

Just as I discussed how sensitive kids need a positive bond, so do mothers. Those bonds with our partners and kids can sometimes become weakened due to busyness, relationship struggles or just not being intentional with our time together. But all humans have a basic need for positive bonds that allow us to rest in love, be who we are, and feel supported and accepted. Because sensitive mamas are often more emotionally attuned, a lack of connection is felt deeply.

3. Create a sanctuary.

I turned my bedroom into a calm and delightful area with ambient lighting and a soft comforter. Plus I filled it with books. If you can’t transform a room, take over a small area. Fill it with things that are pleasing to your senses. A soft pillow. A lightly fragranced candle. Go there and listen to something calming or inspiring, write in a journal, read a book or just sit quietly.

4. Set boundaries.

Just as it’s important for our sensitive kids to learn to set boundaries, it’s important for us as well, both so we can model what that looks like for our kids and because it helps us avoid certain triggers and overstimulation. This means that I consciously protect my space, including my head space, my spiritual space and my physical space. I’m careful about what and who I let in. Guarding our spaces is critical for sensitive mamas.

5. Cultivate an atmosphere of peace at home.

I really work hard to make home a haven. While it does get loud and messy at times, I’m focused on creating a place of emotional rest, which is not only needed for my sensitive son but for all of us—no one needs a place of emotional rest more than I do!

I’m also constantly working on helping my boys have a positive sibling relationship because a house where there is constant bickering is not a place of peace! Home must be a place where the most sensitive of us can let down our guards and soak up lots of love.

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.

The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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