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What if... I drop him?” “What if... she rolls off the bed and I’m not there to catch her?” “What if... I turn my back, and he hits his head?” “What if... I make a... mistake?”

The ‘What Ifs’ of motherhood can boil down to instinctual anxiety about our children’s safety, the drive to protect, and awareness that we can’t stave off every hazard. Anxiety is often considered the enemy, something to be avoided. However, in many ways, maternal predisposition to anxiety can be seen as a positive, adaptive process.

Moms are supposed to worry.

Walking into a room, before putting a toddler down to play, what happens? We consider the worst case scenarios: We scan for small choke-able objects, sharp edges, uncovered outlets—any preventable danger. By considering every ‘What If’ and taking action, we proactively prevent a bad outcome.

However, sometimes that same naturally arising concern can go into overdrive and become overwhelming. This is the point where anxiety goes from helpful to harmful.

How much is too much? What takes the garden-variety, day-to-day form of anxiety and pushes it into the more negative and debilitating type? When is anxiety a liability instead of an asset?

Transient, momentary concerned thoughts are normal and adaptive, and often can be used to your advantage (more on this below), but more pervasive, constant fears are problematic because they often become functionally limiting.

A good litmus test is the following: If you can’t relax and enjoy your child, play on the floor, and just laugh and have fun because of overwhelming worries, then your anxiety is taking over.

If any aspect of your life, from the ability to sleep, function at work, engage with your partner, family and friends is impaired as a result of anxiety, then something has to give.

It makes sense based on how strongly we love our kids that we are terrified at the thought of any harm coming to them. Our feelings travel along a spectrum, from blinding love at one end, to white-knuckled, catch-your-breath terror (the outcome of the ‘What If?’) on the other.

In many ways, there is functional benefit to considering the ‘What If’ scenario because it allows us as mothers to be highly protective of our babies. However, when ratcheted up, this same anxiety can lead to irrational and excessive fears that can easily threaten to remove the joy of motherhood. There is nothing fun about imaging awful things happening all the time to the people we cherish most in the world.

Addressing maternal anxiety on overdrive can be tricky, as it needs to be dampened down but is impossible to completely banish. If the goal was to rid a mom of all anxiety then the plan would be doomed to fail from the start.

From working with many women in my practice, I have developed a method that allows women to tackle their overwhelming anxiety without considering it the ultimate enemy. My approach involves taming and redirecting this energy in a way that makes it a beneficial tool for motherhood.

My 5 step strategy for empowerment over excess anxiety is called FINCE. (Remember: You will be FINE with a little dose of CALM).Focus, identify, normalize, compartmentalize and engage

As an example, your 4-year-old wants to scooter at the playground. Your child can swoop around without a second thought on that three-wheeled contraption, but it scares you. Your first thought is of your child being hit by a car on the way to the park while crossing the street (like in those NYC taxi commercials with the boy on a bicycle), and the second thought is of a head injury or a broken bone... saying no will crush your child, but how can you say yes when you are so afraid that something bad will happen?

1. Focus

Stop a moment, close your eyes and take three cleansing breaths. Try to slow your heartbeat—don’t let your thoughts spin out. Stay in the present. You are here, with your child, who is safe and healthy.

2. Identify

Notice the thoughts that cause anxiety: Where is your fear coming from? Your love for your child and potential for danger.

3. Normalize

Remember you are hard-wired to worry: It’s okay to have fear. Our job as moms in part is to anticipate risk and proactively prevent unnecessary dangers.

4. Compartmentalize

Isolate the anxiety so that it does not overpower your ability to function and act rationally as a mom. Rather than letting the anxiety rule your thinking and overpower your judgment, put the fear in a box and realize that it does not have to determine the outcome.

Weigh the identified risks: Are they serious and real? Yes, scooters are slightly dangerous, but your child is low to the ground, can’t go too fast on a three-wheeler, and is good at stopping. Keeping your child from scootering also poses a risk because it would mean depriving him or her of worthwhile experience, social interaction, exercise and fun. You cannot control your child’s world or safety all the time—all you can do is put in as many safeguards as possible.

5. Engage

Harness the energy derived from the anxiety into something positive, allowing you to be a happier, more empowered mother. Establish the rule that your child always holds hands when crossing the street, never scooters alone until getting to the playground and always wears a helmet to maximize safety. Rather than allowing anxiety to hinder the fun, use the energy to maximize safety.

Reach out for help if it gets to be too much.

Strategies such as the five step FINCE model can be very helpful for excessive ‘what-if’ thoughts. However, if you start to feel that your anxiety is out of control, I encourage you to seek support. Don’t keep your feelings inside—there is no shame in anxiety and treatment with therapy and/or medication works. Every woman deserves to enjoy motherhood, including and especially you.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing signs of postpartum depression or anxiety, please reach out to your healthcare provider or postpartum.net to connect with a local volunteer coordinator through Postpartum Support International.

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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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