Are you an overstimulated mom? Are you feeling over-touched, overwhelmed, and over-tired? Some days can feel like too much, and it can be hard to power through it. If this is you, don’t worry. You are most definitely not alone in feeling this way.
Picture this: you’re sitting on the floor of your family room in days-old leggings, a t-shirt covered in… something, your hair hasn’t been washed in a week, and you can’t remember if you put deodorant on this morning. You’re in a complete daze, sleep threatening to knock you out. And you have a vague sense of the chaos that is surrounding you that you’ve somehow managed to tune out for a moment.
But then, that daze is interrupted by your child howling “let it go, let it gooo…” for the 45th time in this hour, a swift kick to the boob, and… what is that smell? You look around you and realize that in 60 seconds, the mess of toys that you *just* tidied up during nap time are somehow back on the floor, your slipper just got shoved under the couch where it’ll live for the next month, and, is that the neighbor (who seems fully incapable of reading the room) showing up unannounced again?
You get up to grab the door and step on the sharpest toy your child owns, apparently having already forgotten the new mess. All of a sudden, your child is repeating “uh oh, uh oh!” as your sense of smell kicks in again and you realize you’re burning dinner.
Back to… is this my reality?
If you’ve felt any semblance of this chaotic life… hello, sister.
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You’re not a bad mom
Being a mom is incredibly rewarding. You’ve carried your baby for nine months. You literally gave them life! And now you get to watch them grow, learn, and thrive each day. And, for those of us who have gone through infertility and IVF in order to get here, it can be that much more fulfilling to finally have a family.
However, despite the joy and fulfillment that comes with motherhood, the truth is that it can also be overwhelming and overstimulating at times. And, this overwhelm can rear its ugly head at all stages of motherhood, even when it comes to the little things that didn’t once trigger you. It isn’t exclusive to any one period of time (although it’s true what they say about the terrible twos – help meee).
Personally, in the last three years, I’ve done a round of IVF, had my first baby, nursed for 17 months, did another round of IVF (starting on my last day of nursing), and had my second baby. My body and brain have had no breaks.
I am in my third trimester while being a work-at-home mom with a two-year-old who craves my constant attention. And truthfully, it’s gotten to the point where even the smallest things like a little too much clinginess (anyone else have a leech?), singing at the top of her lungs for an hour straight, or just one more tantrum over getting on the potty or putting the toilet paper back where she found it is enough to put me over the edge on the wrong day.
Today, for example, my toddler was a wack job. And by the time my husband got home from work, she was sitting for dinner and I was washing dishes. I’d overstacked the dishes on the drying rack and a pot fell to the floor just as he was coming to say hello. Well, this overstimulated mama broke down in tears at that very moment. The day was *just enough* to make me feel at a complete loss.
I have to be honest, there are days when it feels like too much. To the point that I have to remind myself as much as possible that she’s just a kid. She’s learning. She doesn’t know any better… yet. And, most importantly, I’m not a bad mom.
Fortunately, these lows (or are they highs in their own way?) are normal and they don’t last forever. In the meantime, it’s important to take care of yourself and find ways to cope with the overstimulation that you may be experiencing. Not only for the sake of your family but for your mental health.
Coping with the Hard Days as an Overstimulated Mom
No matter how amazing we are as moms, and no matter how much more amazing we want to be as moms, we’re human beings who need grace and respite.
Here are 13 ways you can deal with overstimulation as a mom.
1. Get Out of Your Head
Maybe I’m just not cut out for this.
What am I doing wrong?
So-and-so seems to have her s*** together, why don’t I?
Is there something wrong with me?
I’m not what my kids need.
Do not, for a second, tell yourself that you aren’t a good mom. And do not, for a second, compare yourself to other moms.
Doubting your abilities as a parent and allowing toxic thoughts to infiltrate your mind will help no one, and they won’t make you feel any less like an overstimulated mom. If anything, you’re feeding it. This is your call to put an end to the negative thoughts now.
I know, I know, you clean enough already. How will more cleaning make you feel better?
Well, when you’re stressed and overstimulated, it’s common to feel out of control. Cleaning and organizing your physical environment can give you a sense of control over something tangible. By tidying up your surroundings, you can create a more ordered and structured space, which can help alleviate some of the overwhelm and give you a sense of accomplishment.
It’s also a way to distract yourself and focus. Cleaning can divert your attention away from the chaos and provide a mental break – even if the space you just cleaned will inevitably be messy again by dinner.
3. Prioritize Sleep
Lack of sleep can make everything feel more challenging. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to be frustrated, irritated, or overstimulated by your kids who may just be doing kid things.
Try to establish a sleep routine and prioritize getting enough rest. This may mean sacrificing some evening TV time or scrolling through your phone endlessly, which doesn’t really help anything anyway. I’ve taken to putting my phone on Do Not Disturb mode by 9PM every night so I don’t feel the temptation to check it every time it buzzes. Do your best to set your own bedtime and stick to it.
If you’re a mama to a little bean that isn’t sleeping through the night yet, ask for help with nighttime feedings or enlist the support of a family member or friend so that you can catch up on sleep.
4. Do a Toy Rotation
Keep your kids on their toys (I mean, toes) by rotating their toys periodically. You can leave the ones that they are too attached to (not worth the inevitable meltdown), but rotate out the others to keep their options fresh… especially if you have a high sensitivity to loud toys. This way, there’s less of a chance of them growing bored with their options and finding their way to mama for more entertainment.
5. Get Fresh Air and Sunlight
When I feel like I can’t breathe, getting outside always helps. Even if it’s just to sit on the back porch for ten minutes while my daughter runs around.
Being outside exposes you to fresh air and natural sunlight, both of which have positive effects on your overall well-being. Fresh air can help clear your mind, increase oxygen levels in your body, and boost your mood. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which plays a role in regulating mood and supporting mental health. Exposure to sunlight can also help regulate your circadian rhythm and improve sleep quality.
An added benefit: getting outside will help your kiddos sleep better.
6. Make Time For Exercise
There’s a reason exercise is a recommended self-care remedy for any and all problems.
Exercise is beneficial for an overstimulated mom for many reasons, including but not limited to stress reduction, mood enhancement, energy release, increased focus and concentration, improved sleep, self-care and personal time.
And, like getting outside, an added benefit would be finding an activity that your kids can do with you. The more energy they get out, the more likely they are to konk out! Just be sure to designate time for something that will truly benefit your needs as an adult.
7. Insist on “Me Time” (not the same as self-care)
I don’t care if it’s to take a shower (or a second shower, JUST FOR SOME QUIET), a long poop (dads get to, right?), a quick nap, to read, scroll through social media, sip a cup of tea, or to do ab-so-lute-ly nothing. Steal away from the loud noises when you can so you can find some zen and decrease your mental load.
It’s okay to step away for a few minutes when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Find a quiet space where you can have some time alone to recharge. Even a short break can make a big difference in how you feel.
8. Ask for Help
Don’t let pride get the best of you. If you can, ask for help when needed. If you are lucky enough to live near family members that are willing and able to help, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for assistance from time to time. It’s okay to lean on your partner, family, or friends for support. Delegate tasks and share the responsibilities of childcare and household tasks to lighten your load.
9. Create a Self-Care Routine… and Commit to it
Make self-care a priority in your life. Find activities that help you relax and recharge, whether it’s taking a bath, reading a book, going for a walk, or listening to music. Carve out time for yourself each day, even if it’s just a few minutes. Doing so will cause a ripple effect and hopefully help you get enough sleep at night as well.
10. Declutter & Purge
Clutter is a known stress-inducer. I know when I feel buried in stuff, I get overwhelmed and have a hard time thinking clearly and making decisions. Reducing the visual stimuli in your home is a great way to handle your overstimulation and improve your mental clarity because when you are surrounded by clutter – whether it’s toys you’ve yet to pack away or donate, or you know, *things* – you’re creating visual noise and increasing your sensory input.
Decluttering and simplifying your surroundings can help calm your mind, reduce that sensory overload, and create a more peaceful atmosphere.
11. Practice Deep Breathing or Meditation
Deep breathing exercises or meditation can help calm your mind and reduce stress. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Take a slow, deep breath… in through your nose and out through your mouth. This can help you relax and reset.
12. Journal Your Frustrations Away
Writing down how you feel is one of the best, and easiest, ways to get a load off your chest. When you feel like losing your marbles and word vomiting all over your kids or partner, grab a notebook instead. Write down how you feel, explain your frustrations, let it all out. You may find that it’s just as good as screaming into a pillow, except you got real words out.
13. Seek Support
Reach out to other moms or support groups who can understand and empathize with what you’re going through. Sharing your experiences and concerns can provide relief and give you new perspectives on how to cope.
Remember, you are doing an amazing job as a mom, and it’s important to take care of yourself too. Prioritizing your well-being will not only benefit you, but also your children.