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trouble concentrating covid-19

You need coffee, but can't remember where you put your cup. When you finally find it, it's cold so you put it in the microwave to warm it back up… where you forget about it until you realize you need your coffee again. Feel familiar? If you're feeling distracted and you can't seem to shake it, it's not just you, mama.

If you can't focus, complete a thought, or if making decisions or even following directions and recipes seems overly difficult, this is your brain's way of protecting you from even more stress that accompanies the situations you cannot control—but this is only temporary.

While your brain is trying to protect you from the overwhelming nature of the experience, it's common to zone out, daydream, or have your mind go completely blank. The information overload that can happen during uncertain times as you try to handle a lot of new, important information at once—like updates—can cause you to feel a little dazed, unsure of what to do and unable to concentrate.

When stress has no endpoint in sight, like during a pandemic, it may be more challenging to cope, mentally and physically.

Chronic stress puts a strain on your nervous system by keeping your body in a continuous state of fight-or-flight in order to be prepared for what's next. Your body reacts by secreting stress hormones, like cortisol and adrenaline, into the bloodstream. That excess of hormones can hinder your brain's memory functions and cognitive functioning by interfering with its capacity to encode memory, and delay its recall.

According to psychologist Dr. Alicia Clark, when stress hormones "are present for too long or in excessive quantities, they overwhelm and exhaust the brain," making it even more difficult to manage the stress. This cycle can become progressively worse if left unchecked.

So, how can you help manage your stress level?

  1. Reframe how you label stress. Research shows that you can help to control how and what you feel by how you label the feeling. By framing your stress as a learning experience, for example, you can see it as a positive influence and motivator.
  2. Establish some control over your situation. If stress isn't predictable, focus on controlling what is, like building structure into your day. "Having a routine is good for development and health," says Dr. Kerry Ressler, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
  3. Rest. Prioritizing sleep is one of the most important things you can do for a tired, overwhelmed brain that is foggy, easily distracted, or just "off."
  4. Exercise. Physical exercise can potentially prevent or reduce elevations in stress hormones. Just 30 minutes a day of walking can help improve your mood and lower your stress.
  5. Take time to connect with others. If you feel supported during your stress, you are likely to weather it more successfully than if you don't.

The good news is this state of mind is only temporary—and it's reversible.

Research indicates the brain has a natural ability to recover from stress. "Generally speaking, the brain...has a substantial degree of plasticity, meaning that the brain is quite malleable," says Stanford researcher, Sundari Chetty, PhD. This means that once whatever stressor you are experiencing is removed or diminished, your brain can bounce back, lifting the fog.

Bottom line: That 'off' feeling you've been having can be a reaction to the stressful environment. By adapting to difficult circumstances, you and your family can develop skills that could have a positive impact on the rest of your lives.

[Editor's note: Stress is your response to an external threat, like a pandemic, and subsides once the situation has been resolved. Anxiety, on the other hand, is your specific reaction to stress, and it doesn't fade once the threat has passed. Characterized by a feeling of apprehension or dread, anxiety is internal, triggered by stress, and can be present even in situations that are not actually threatening. If you are experiencing anxiety that interferes with your ability to function safely, contact your doctor.]

10 must-have registry items that will change your life, mama

The baby gear heavy hitters that should be top of your list

Calling all mamas-to-be! It's a fundamental truth of (impending) motherhood that your prepping-for-baby To Do list can feel a mile long, but really the best way to feel organized is to sort out the most important item at the top of your list: your registry. Sure the items you choose to include will end up running the gamut from nice-to-haves to absolutely essential game-changers, but mamas in the know quickly learn one thing: Not all baby gear is created equal.

So while you can and should pepper your registry with adorable inclusions that aren't necessarily can't-live-withouts (go ahead, add 'em!), you should make sure you're ticking the boxes on those pieces of baby gear that can be absolute life savers once you're in full-blown mama mode. From car seats to bouncers and playmats, your play and travel gear will be some of the most obvious important items on your list, but so can unexpected things, like a super comfy baby carrier and a snooze-inducing white noise machine. So to help you sort through the must-have options, we turned to the holy grail of motherhood that is buybuy BABY and handpicked 10 of the very best essential pieces that will change your life, we promise.

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

$35

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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