Tag Archives: oxytocin

This is why ‘mom brain’ exists

Moms are always doing a million different things — thinking about what to make for dinner when to get the laundry done, what to get at the grocery store, when to practice spelling words and work on that school project. We are answering calls from doctors offices, trying to schedule playdates, and for some, we are working on our careers outside the home. It is non-stop. We end up forgetting things, feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and just “not ourselves.” This has become known as “mom brain.” 

The science of decision fatigue

Research from neuroscientists around the world point out some of the reasons why this phenomenon exists and it comes down to multitasking and decision fatigue. From the moment moms wake up to the moment they go to bed they are faced with question after question, tasks to be done, decisions to be made. If you have young kids chances are you often feel like your head is moving in a 100 different directions at one time. 

All of the stuff we are taking on on a daily basis is causing us to miss things, make mistakes, forget next steps. But, it’s not all bad research shows that our brains change after having children to be more responsive to our children and aware of their needs. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any less exhausting. So what can we do to improve our “mom brain,” and improve our emotional health as parents? 

Start by implementing processes to minimize decisions. Establish routines and things will become commonplace rather than something you have to think about. For example, every night before you go to bed take care of lunches, clothing options, etc. Have the kids make their beds before they leave their rooms. Have them decide what they want for breakfast, and ask for their help in making lunches/breakfasts the night before. If you have school-age kids put a note on the front door to remind them of the things they need to bring to school with them and leave it up to them. Have them get in the habit of getting homework out and giving you all notes from teachers the second they get home from school. It is these small steps that can help minimize decision fatigue. 

Involve the rest of the family

Eliminate the dreaded meal choice by putting dinner options in a bag and having the children pick from it. Plan meals out on Sunday so you don’t have to worry about them the rest of the week. Stop trying to please everyone. Have those who complain about their meals make their own food. 

Remember lists are your friend. Use them. Write down what you need to accomplish for the day or the week and then you will feel like you have less running through your head. Organize your days and your thoughts will follow. 

Acknowledge that “mom brain” actually does exist, and understand you are not alone. Every mom is struggling to keep on top of everything (even if they look like they have it all figured out). It is ok to ask for help (in fact, it’s encouraged), and take time to care for you.

Source: 

Thrive Global 

Psychology Today

Anxiety as a mom: Turns out, its part of evolution

I have always struggled with a small degree of anxiety, but I was not prepared for what happened after I had kids. Now my anxiety is full blown. I worry a lot, nit-pick at my spouse for not doing the dishes fast enough or right (aka the way I would have done them). I have feelings of my heart racing and my head overflowing with worry all too often, but why? Why is my anxiety so much worse as a mom than it was before?

It turns out a lot of it has to do with the brain, and the love hormone: oxytocin. 

Oxytocin first surges during pregnancy and continues to surge to promote bonding after the child has arrived, according to researchers. The hormone increases with a simple look from a mom to a child, a snuggle, or tears from a “boo-boo.” And moms aren’t alone, researchers have found similar changes in the brains of dads who provide a lot of caregiving (source: theatlantic.com). 

The Oxytocin Effect

The same hormone that creates those feelings of unconditional love, strengthens bad memories. Research by Northwestern University suggests oxytocin could be the reason why events that cause emotional pain, such as being bullied at school or tormented by a boss, can have effects that linger long after the event is over and can trigger anxiety in the future. The hormone has been shown to strengthen the social memory of the brain.

Researchers found when a negative or stressful social experience takes place, the hormone activates the part of the brain that intensifies the memory. Oxytocin also increased feelings of being fearful and anxious during stressful events occurring long after the original event. 

So, yes the same hormone that is increasing feelings of love and making you drool over your child. The same one that makes you want to pick up and cuddle your child—even when they are keeping you up all night, or getting snot all over your shoulder —is the same one that is increasing fear and worry of bad things happening. Is it really the worst thing if the dishes aren’t done the way you want them? 

The good news is now that we know about the double-edged sword of oxytocin, we can use the power of other parts of our brain to reign it in. To stop and assess the situation before immediately getting to high-anxiety level. To be mindful. While you are in the midst of imagining the worst that could possibly happen to your child, your child is playing quietly next to you. Rather than sending yourself into a tizzy, stop, breathe, and talk to yourself about what is happening at the moment, right here, right now. Find out if there is immediate evidence that makes you feel this way, if there is no evidence and you still feel overwhelmed by anxiety then it may be time to seek help from a mental health professional. Call a qualified counselor, such as the Women’s Therapy Institute, where we can help.