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When was the last time you felt overwhelmed? Last week, yesterday, earlier today? My guess is, it probably wasn't that long ago. If your triggers are anything like the moms I work with, overwhelm can hit you at any point and in any situation.

Sometimes it's in the middle of the workday when the responsibilities and stresses of the job get to be so much that you think there's no way you'll ever climb out of this hole, let alone your inbox.

Sometimes it's in the evenings when you come home to a messy house, a pile of laundry, and no certain plan for dinner that you feel like you've let your family down and what you should really do is quit your job so you could actually stay on top of all of it.

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Sometimes overwhelm shows up when you're surrounded by two children who are wallowing in their own overwhelm of emotions, crying and whining, that you think life will be this way forever. And you're overwhelmed by the fact that YOU are the adult here!

Or sometimes, overwhelm waits to hit you until the craziness of the day has ended and you have your first quiet moment to yourself. When you finally sit down, exhale a big sigh of relief, and think about doing it all over again tomorrow, the crushing weight of overwhelm sits on you making it hard to breathe.

Can you relate? Whether it shows up at work, at home, with your kids, or when you're by yourself, overwhelm feels heavy. It creates the feeling of being out of control of practically everything you can think of. And like the temper tantrums we often witness in our children, it can be hard to snap out of.

Trust me—we have all been there and some of us probably more frequently than we would like to admit.

But just like we're taught how to approach and calm a toddler who is stuck in emotional overwhelm that looks like a screaming fit, there are things that we can do to help ourselves snap out of it too. Things that can help us stop spiraling in that feeling of being out of control, and ground us in the present moment and the realities of the situation, which are:

  • you will get through it,
  • everything is not lost, and
  • this is only temporary.

You've got this.

So the next time you feel that feeling, you know how it goes, your breath becomes short, your head starts to feel heavy, you can't see past your own nose, and you might just break into tears if anyone asks you if you're okay, try one, or try all of these things to catch your breath and reset.

1. Close your eyes and breathe.

One of the signature symptoms of overwhelm is a loss of control—having more than you can handle, whether that's work, chores, or emotions. One of the quickest ways to prove to yourself that you have more control than you are feeling in this moment is to take control of your breath. My go-to is the Headspace app. If you've not tried it, I highly recommend it. They have a 3-minute overwhelm meditation that I use all the time, even in public. I pop my earbuds in and let Andy's voice calm me down.

But if you don't have that, you can just as easily close your eyes and take 10 deep belly breaths. Count each inhale and exhale as you go and try to think of nothing else except your breathing and counting. Do another 10 and another, until you feel like you can open your eyes without freaking out again.

I find this counting to 10 method particularly helpful when I am in the presence of a toddler meltdown. It allows me to not get emotionally tied up in their drama and to create a sense of calm that I can then demonstrate and try to transfer to my little one. It doesn't always work, but I at least get a short meditation in the midst of chaos.

2. Move your body.

Last week when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed by the amount of work and responsibilities on my plate, I shut my laptop, stood up and walked away. Sometimes the best thing you can do is to stand up, move your body and remove yourself from the situation.

Even if you can't literally walk away, you can roll your shoulders or your neck, do a quick stretch, or if I'm at the office I will walk a few flights of stairs or take a quick lap around the parking lot. Anything to get the blood flowing again and to clear my head, which an elevated heart rate and some movement always do.

3. Drink a full glass of water.

Dehydration can be a trigger for so many out-of-control emotions. On days when I've not been drinking enough water, I am quick to snap at those around me, quick to fall into despair about anything that's not going my way, and quick to feel overwhelmed. So if you can, fill up your glass and drink a lot of water. Drink it purposefully and drink if mindfully. For the next few seconds, your thoughts should only be about that glass of water and how you're going to drink it. Then exhale.

4. Look around and name five things you are grateful for.

Quick, don't overthink it, just look around the room or think about your day so far, and quickly list to yourself 5 things for which you are grateful. It could be as big as the opportunities that your job creates for you, the health insurance that you have for when you are sick, or the health that your family is experiencing right now, to small things like the amazing lipstick you are wearing today or the fact that you have access to clean drinking water (see previous tip).

Giving yourself a quick break to realize all the good that you have in your life is a sure-fire way to snap out of despair. And besides, it's proven that gratitude increases happiness. So if you're in for some drastic changes in your life, you could always turn this into a longer-term practice!

5. Eliminate something from your to-do list

If thinking about all you have to do in life triggered your overwhelm, try challenging your list. There is probably a lot on there that HAS to get done. We all have weeks like that. But what is absolutely necessary and what is not? Can you have cereal for dinner so you can eliminate cooking from your to-do list for today? Can calling to schedule that appointment wait until next week when you're not feeling so crazy? Can you be up-front with your client that you are not going to be able to get them that thing you promised for a few more days?

So often we tell ourselves that we HAVE to do certain things when in reality, the deadline is flexible. Most people understand a busy schedule and I think slowing down for a day or so might actually make you more productive in the end. Whereas powering through often means missed details and tasks completed with little effort.

6. Write down your ta-da list.

Speaking of lists, I want you to do the opposite of crossing something off. I want you to create a list… of EVERYTHING you've done so far today. I bet you got up, brushed your teeth, made breakfast, dropped the kids off at daycare, listened to a podcast, crossed some to-do's off your work list, ran an errand, returned a phone call, filled out some paperwork… you get the idea.

We never give ourselves enough credit for all the things that we do each day. Even if the only things we did were take a shower and feed and keep our kids alive, that's actually pretty incredible. The fact that ON TOP of that, we're working, doing laundry, and taking care of business is pretty dang impressive. So take a second to look at that big long list of things that you DID do today, and just say a little "ta-da!" to yourself. Don't smile, someone might be watching.

7. Schedule some downtime.

When you've got a lot going on, it can be particularly hard to give yourself a break. We keep thinking that this is just a "season" or that "work is really busy right now" and we put off a date night, an outing, or anything fun until things slow down. Well, what if they don't slow down? What if you wait and wait for that opportunity to breathe and it never comes? What if this is the new normal?

You have got to schedule some downtime. You have got to give yourself something to look forward to. Make it quick, make it small, make it easy. Whatever works for you right now to just remind yourself of how good it feels to have a break and to have something to look forward to. And then you'll probably be more motivated to schedule the next one and the next.

Don't feel bad about feeling overwhelmed. It happens to the best of us. Yes, it even happens to me. And because I know what that feels like, and I'm guessing you agree with me when I say it's not an enjoyable feeling, I want to make sure that you have the tools to stop yourself from spinning too far out of control. Because it's true what I said earlier—this feeling is only temporary. You've got this.

Originally posted on The Mother Nurture.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

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Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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