If you feel that since you’ve become a mom that your nerves are friend and you’re more anxious… this post will help you find a solution.
Two weeks ago we were in the Bahamas.
On the last day of our trip, as we headed off to the airport, we were worried Tropical Storm Alberto would keep us stranded. We arrived at the airport early and, as it turns out, ended up staying there for over three hours for flight delays.
3 hours with 5 kids ages 7, 6, 4, 3, and 1.
Kids who were hungry, worn out from 11 days of vacation, and who are not naturally quiet.
At first they were loud and unruly because they hadn’t yet eaten. After we got breakfast and water into them, things calmed down. And then after a couple of hours… things ramped up again.
They didn’t want to sit still. Duh.
They didn’t want to be silent. Duh.
They didn’t want to be in the airport for 3 hours. Duh3
Everyone around us was completely silent reading newspapers, books, scrolling their phones, or staring at us. Two parents trying to keep their 5 children quiet while every single noise they made seemed to reverberate throughout the entire area.
- pinpoint an issue
- draw out how it’s affecting you
- label what you don’t like about it
- determine areas of responsibility
- figure out how it’s showing up
- say what you’d rather happen
- brainstorm solutions
There were no other kids.
After we finally boarded the plane, landed, and got into our van to drive home, I told my husband… “I feel traumatized by this morning.”
(The kidlets, right before we left for the airport…)
Motherhood Can Fry Your Nerves…
Or to be more specific… our reactions to our emotions can fry our nerves.
Are you wondering if your nerves are a little on edge? Here’s how to know.
Signs Your Nerves Could Be Fried:
- You feel jumpy in reaction to the slightest noise
- Emotions seem to be very exaggerated for you
- You can go from calm to Super Stressed in the blink of an eye
- You wake up (or go to bed) with this weird sense of dread / apprehension / unease
- Even the smallest things (like dishes) seem like a huge undertaking
- Your emotions seem to get away with you
And here are a few more…
- You just feel down, on the verge of sadness all the time
- You no longer feel like “you” and your world seems to be shrinking as you worry over what’s happening in your own home or yourself
- One annoying or undesirable behavior from your child can bring up a lot of anger
- It’s hard for you to enjoy being in the present with your kids because your mind is always ruminating
That’s a good starting list, there are many more symptoms, check out the book if you want all the full details.
Our Nervous Systems
To better understand why we feel so strung out, let’s take a quick look at how our nervous system works. If I do not use all the exact right wording, forgive me, I studied Liberal Arts.
First, there are Voluntary and Involuntary Responses.
- Voluntary Responses: These originate in the brain and direct the movement of our body and are more or less controlled by us.
- Involuntary (Autonomic) Responses: These responses are not under our direct control but, instead, respond to our moods and help regulate us using two types of nerves – sympathetic and parasympathetic.
This is important for us nerve fried mamas.
- Sympathetic Nervous System: These nerves are “sympathetic” to our moods and are often activated during periods of stress. This is activated when we feel threatened or fearful. This is, essentially, the adrenaline-producing part of us.
- Parasympathetic Nervous System: Parasympathetic responses work as a check and balance for the sympathetic nerves, and they work to help conserve or restore energy.
So, in a normal healthy person, they work together well and keep you grounded.
So what does this mean?
It means that when our nerves are sensitized (fried) even the smallest situation can cause us to involuntarily produce lots of adrenaline into our bloodstream which hypes us up and makes us feel like we’re in danger. It puts us in fight, flight, or fight the flight, in other words.
How It Works In #MomLife
This is actually how it plays out in the average mom’s life.
This is a very simplified explanation, but it holds true.
Read: Why Am I An Angry Mom? 5 Anger Triggers And How To Manage Them
Do you forget to sleep, bathe, eat, relax, etc.? NO MORE. This tracker will help you consistently live within your limits so you have more love to give to your family.
Stuck In The Cycle
I have wanted to break this cycle I was in for a LONG TIME.
I didn’t quite know what it was.
Now I am certain that through stress and worry and fear (especially fear) I have trained my nervous system to release stress hormones at the drop of a hat. Even when I don’t want to feel stressed. Even when my thinking brain says, “This isn’t that big of a deal!”
My nerves are like…
Oh no. THIS IS A HUGE DEAL.
Then, in an effort to carry on as normal and get rid of this nonsense, I fight that fearful stressed feeling. I try to push it down and avoid it and use A Lot Of Energy trying to pretend to be normal.
And this is the problem.
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Breaking The Cycle
According to Hope And Help For Your Nerves, in order to break this cycle you’ve got to do two things:
- Separate your first involuntary reaction with your secondary voluntary one (more on that below).
- Begin healing your sensitized (fried) nerves so they are not so quick to send your sympathetic nervous system into overdrive.
Let’s dive in.
1. Separating Your Two Reactions…
If you have sensitized nerves and something happens to trigger your stress hormones (whining, crying, tantrums, lying, relationship issues, $ struggles, etc.) you will likely experience a quick release of stress hormones that elevate your heart rate, your blood pressure, make you sweat, and put you on edge. That is the first reaction.
When these stressful feelings come up, what we often do is fight them, stuff them down, or maniacally try to avoid them. This is the second fearful reaction.
What will bring eventual healing is controlling your second fearful reaction.
2. Begin Healing Your Sensitized Nerves…
Instead of trying to avoid these feelings, trying to push them down, or trying to fight them… the answer is to accept them calmly as your present reality.
That’s it. It’s really that easy.
By accepting what’s happening and not fighting against it, you are breaking the cycle of continual nervousness. When your spike of nervousness happens, Hope And Help For Your Nerves suggests imagining you are floating. You can’t help but relax when you imagine that.
Little by little, as you begin accepting your feelings and not fighting them, you’ll heal your sensitized (fried) nerves. As your secondary fearful reactions become less and less frequent, you’ll know you’re well on your way to desensitizing your nerves.
My Airport Trauma
After reading through this book it became clear to me why our little airport fiasco was so traumatizing to me.
It was because not only was I experiencing stress from trying to keep 5 young kids quiet in the airport, it was because I was also fighting my stress the whole time.
I was in a nasty cycle of stress compounding stress compounding stress and it took its toll on my body. After a few hours of that, my parasympathetic nervous system kicked in to help me calm down and I felt drugged for the rest of the afternoon.
Since having read this book and put it into practice… I’m already feeling relief.
I can’t control when my body goes into stress mode, but I can control how I react to stress mode.
If you feel so stressed and anxious that life is becoming miserable…
If you want to enjoy being present with your kids more instead of ruminating in your mind…
If you just want to be a relaxed, calm person who can handle life’s challenges without freaking out…
I want to encourage you, mama.
You can find relief.
This is excellent!!! As a mom of 2, one with autism, I have *struggled* to understand *why* I have been feeling this way for so long! I knew a little bit about the sympathetic/para-sympathetic nervous system dynamic, but, not enough or not the *right* information or something… it totally explains why I have been LIVING in a CYCLE of gritting my teeth and pushing through, until I can’t take it anymore and break down, then (like you said!) feel “drugged” for a while during that parasympathetic stage!! It’s a vicious cycle for sure. I am on my way to my psychiatrist appointment and am going to mention this post! Thanks for sharing your experience and very good information!
Karan Sharma says
Many women think that they should be filled only with love and joy for doing these things — and then feel bad when they don’t. But this is hard work we’re talking about here! In reality, almost every mother feels some level of ambivalence.
Thank you for this. It is so validating. I am someone who holds it in as long as possible and then explodes…I feel my frustration building, but how do you let it out in a relatively civilized way when in public or driving, etc? I envy people who have help with their kids and get to chill out or at least keep up with the housekeeping, but the only time I find to myself is after bedtime, then that eats into my sleep, which eats into my patience and awareness, and I end up backing into someone’s van after a playdate and fighting my toddler into his carseat cause I’m late to pick up my other kids from VBS…I never feel like I catch up and my bad dreams are regularly about me being late to any number of occasions and commitments. Sorry that was so long.
For the past week, I have been telling my husband my nerves were shot. Today I tested positive for COVID for the 5th time. In the past five years I have experienced all those bad things at once…..divorce, move, loss of health, loss of job and loss of loved ones. I have three little kiddos who need me to be there and to be present. I have a very rare autoimmune disorder so that consumes most of my non Mom headspace. I have been seeing a trauma counselor but the methods haven’t really helped. After another bout of COVID and the kids at school, I just googled …. “can you actually fry your nerves”…..
Well, this article popped up a little farther down on google. All I know is that I am imploding and fighting with everyone. I have managed to stay ok with the kids, but forget anyone else. I am at a point that I will probably take offense to anything and it isn’t with good reason.
While I can calmly type this, I can’t stop verbal outbursts. Divorce attorney…obliterated for not responding to me on time. Doctor….obliterated for sending in the wrong prescription. Husband….obliterated for working. Family…..can’t even deal. Texts from friends, good or bad……frozen trying to respond.
Thank you so much for writing this. Each Mom has a journey and I don’t know a single one that doesn’t have some episodes like this. I mean how many loads of laundry can a person do before they snap? How can my child like a food so much one day and not the next? Motherhood is the hardest job in the world. This is someone who just spent the last 20 years working and traveling. Feeling good about being a Mom can sometimes seem impossible. I too will take this write up to my psychiatrist and therapist. I have been trying some breathing techniques….but much like another Mom said….when I finally get my alone time, I really just need to sleep. I am accepting of self care but can’t seem to accomplish it. Now I am in an extraordinary circumstance with all of the bad stuff….but mostly my diagnosis. It hangs over my head as it is progressive and genetic. All I want is some sense of normalcy. Last night I didn’t sleep at all as I thought about what my body will be like in 10 years. Will I even be able to care for my kids then.
I am here with you all. Hang in there.
PS-reading the airport situation was enough to put me in a panic. I’ve been there and it is horrifying.