(Part 2) What's triggering your emotions?
After normalising your emotions in the context of difficult parenthood adjustment (see Part 1), think about your specific triggers.
Does your anxiety/stress/irritability/low mood seem unprovoked? Shine that light on your emotion to determine which events/situations/thoughts are really behind the scenes. I guarantee there will be some patterns.
VULNERABILITY FACTORS Are there any background factors that make you feel vulnerable to stress? Are you meeting your basic self-care needs? Are you…
✔️WELL-RESTED? You may be fatigued due to child-induced sleep deprivation, parent-induced late nights out of desperation for a break, or maybe ‘just’ from the daily busy/chaotic grind.
✔️WELL-NOURISHED and hydrated? Rule out whether you are ‘hangry’ or using excessive caffeine (not ideal for anxiety symptoms) or alcohol (which is a depressant). Getting adequate Vitamin D/sunlight exposure is essential.
✔️Gaining a BALANCE between simple activities? Can you tick these off daily (with your unique preferences - what made you happy in the past?)… 🔹Achievement (e.g., dinner preparation, housework, exercise or paid work) 🔹Social connection (e.g., open communication with others or doing an activity alongside them like attending a comedy show/markets/sports game/course) 🔹Enjoyment (e.g., beach visits, crafts, photography, reading, sports) 🔹Relaxation (e.g., music, yoga, movies, bubble bath, pampering)
These vulnerability factors can mostly be problem-solved. However, during parenthood you may have to adjust your expectations and take a new ‘short and sweet’ moderation approach.
Support-seeking may be essential at this point. You know the drill - improving your self-care is not selfish - it can be a win-win for both you and your children.
THE REAL-DEAL TRIGGERS Once you’ve understood or ruled out background vulnerability factors, it's time to understand what really triggers your anxiety?
• Certain TIMES of day/week/month - e.g., morning rush, witching hour or weekends stuck inside on rainy days?
• GENERAL situations - feeling overwhelmed with the mission of juggling housework, sick kids, difficult child behaviour, sibling rivalry, maintaining relationships and possibly work commitments?
• CHANGE - future return to work, sharing childcare, moving house or feeling isolated at home? Anxiety may be in anticipation of, and/or during change.
• SOCIAL events - fearing judgement from someone, such as when talking openly with other antenatal group parents about your struggles/fears/mistakes, or assuming others are critiquing your appearance or parenting skills? Are arguments with your partner occurring when you unfairly project your anxiety/frustration about others (often your children) onto them?
• HEALTH – exaggerated fears about illness or dying? This can include misinterpreting panic symptoms as signs you are in physical danger.
• Random, intrusive, unwanted, repetitive thoughts that pop into your mind? These may be related to danger and responsibility for others, which then make you feel compelled to engage in a specific ritual.
• ... or maybe it isn’t an obvious situation, just a fleeting thought when you’re alone or tired.
〰JOT DOWN the triggers you notice and try to join the dots – are some preventable? At the very least, identifying your triggers will help validate why you feel like this.
TRY NOT TO COMPARE with others – “they’ve got it worse than I do” – this can be unhelpful and cause shame and guilt. Instead, just focus on your situation with some compassion.
In Part 3, we will highlight some unhelpful thinking patterns that may be driving your emotions.