"...Playing in the yard with her children on a beautiful summer day; the sunlight streamed through the trees and the fluffy white clouds rolled by making the blue behind them pop with striking intensity. Giggles filled Amanda's ears as little feet ran through the cool spray from the garden sprinkler.
Relaxing in her hammock she noticed a rock in the lawn near her children. Her mind flashed with images of tiny toes tripping and what would happen if a small body made impact with that rock. Instinctively, her hand grasped her phone. She mentally pictured where the diaper bag was in the house and tried to remember when the last time she restocked it was and if there was enough in there for a day to two in the hospital..."
Have you ever experienced moments like Amanda?
This kind of catastrophizing, intrusive thoughts can be symptoms of postpartum depression among other mental health concerns (and if you are experiencing these moments frequently, please reach out to your doctor), but they can also happen to all of us, especially moms!
Dr. Brene Brown describes them as moments of "foreboding joy". She says that joy is the most vulnerable of emotions. In an effort to protect ourselves from the pain of that euphoric moment being stolen from us, we don't allow ourselves to be present (if we never really experience joy, we can't experience pain when it is gone). Instead, we sense impending doom, waiting for the other shoe to drop. As soon as we realize the warmth of joy in our hearts, our brain sends a cold wash of doom. We practice and rehearse worst case scenarios in our minds to prepare ourselves, just in case.
Many of us have made goals for 2022 to be more present with our kids, but this kind of unconscious resistance to joy can sabotage that dream.
So what is a momma to do?! What can we do when we are pregnant and feel an urge take *another* test, just to be sure? When we continually check on our baby while they are sleeping to make sure they are breathing? Putting our newborn on our kitchen scale in an attempt to DIY a weighed feed? When we rehearse emergency plans in our minds to make sure we have thought through every possible situation?
Brene Brown offers us a way to soothe our hearts, stay in the moment and actually feel the depth of joy we available to us. And that, my friend, is the practice of gratitude.
And yes, it is a practice. It takes intentionality and we won't be perfect at it.
When you notice the slip into catastrophic thinking (all the "what ifs?" and graphic images our brains come up with):
1- Take a deep breath
2- Label it: "Hey - I'm experiencing foreboding joy!"
3- Out loud tell yourself how thankful you are for the thing you are so worried about: "I am so grateful for my sweet children. I am thankful for this moment to relax in the yard and watch them play."
This is an exercise I walk moms through frequently regarding both lactation & parenting. I also use it myself!
It seems simple. Too simple, perhaps. However, it is powerful.
I encourage you to give it a try. And, the more you practice (out of the moment) the easier it becomes in the moment. Set a daily reminder in our phone to practice gratitude for 15 seconds. Make it part of your dinner time, or bedtime routine with your kids. It will have a profound impact on our ability to truly trust and BE. To soak up the rays in your hammock in the yard or relish in the sweet innocence of your sleeping little one.
And yes, scary things can happen! But being present in the moment is actually what can empower you to handle those moments confidently and effectively.
Start practicing in the comments! What is one thing you can practice gratitude for right now?