How to Fall Apart Well
Motherhood stress comes in many different forms. Each of us has a certain amount of responsibilities and challenges we can handle at any given time, but if one more thing gets added to the equation, it can throw us into feelings of anxiety, anger, and intense overwhelm. When I am at the max of mother stress, I have the feeling of “falling apart.”
One way it happens is when the unexpected occurs, like your child falls and has to get stitches or breaks an arm, your own parents need medical support from you, or the car breaks down. Any of these types of things that show up unexpectedly can push an already stressed mama over the edge and beyond the “tipping point.”
When things like this happen, and I’ve passed my tipping point, what I feel emotionally is fear that I’m going to fall apart. I worry that I can’t handle things. I’m very anxious, I get very impatient, more irritable and less connected with my son and my husband.
Recently, I went through this when, along with my “normal” life which is pretty full and challenging just as it is, I had three weeks during which my son had a severe ear infection and needed a strong painkiller at the ER. On top of that, my 77-year-old mother needed to be hospitalized for two weeks due to her chronic lung disease.
We all have times when hard things happen on top of our already full lives and we feel we can’t handle it. And sometimes it’s our regular life that leaves us feeling we’re going to fall apart. Here are three steps to help you move through those times.
1. Have Compassion for Yourself
We need to be the main person to validate for ourselves when we feel this overwhelm. You don’t need to explain to anyone why. Each person has different limits to what they can comfortably handle. Start with having compassion and empathy for what YOU experience as your limit.
2. Don’t Resist the Feelings
Feeling strong when things are rough is what we want, but resisting the vulnerable feelings actually keeps us from our inner strength. Let yourself have a good cry when you feel like you’re at your max. I’ve found that if I stop and let myself do this, I feel recharged. It’s like I’ve let the steam out of the boiling pot. If I allow this release, I’m in a much better state of mind and my family gets a calmer me.
Our babies do this when they are stressed. If they are emotionally or physically stressed, they cry. Often they cry hard! As adults if we simply let ourselves go through the experience, we can move out of it and enter the next moment, often restored. We can be a good mama to ourselves and simply let ourselves discharge the pent-up feelings.
3. Soothe Yourself Intentionally
In between all the “handling” of things, do things that are soothing, like renting an uplifting movie or calling a dear friend.
If you already cry often when stressed, it might require a different strategy. Just as a mom soothes a child with touch, touch also soothes an adult. Try a soothing self-massage or bath, and talk to your body at the same time you are feeling the emotions. Say things like “I know you are really overwhelmed,” “It’s OK everything is going to work out.”
Ask for your partner to hold you while you cry, for as long as it takes, and to not try to talk to you about things at that time. You need to let your feelings run their course. This can be hard for a partner who may want to try and fix the problems through logic, when what you really need is to release the emotions and be loved.
For more help on how to “fall apart” purposefully and still find your inner strength I recommend the book When Things Fall Apart by Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron.
Bach Flower Remedies are very helpful with psycho/emotional stress. When you feel like you can’t handle what’s before you, Hornbeam is a good ally or their Rescue Remedy pastilles. Take several drops three times per day or add 5 drops to your day’s water bottle. Hornbeam is also good when you or your partner is starting a new job or has lost a job, are starting a business, going to school or becoming a new mama; any situation that’s new for us, overwhelming, and makes you mentally weary.
We all go through this…
When you have these times, of everything happening at the same time and your stress goes out the roof, try and remember that, even though you feel like you are going to fall apart, you will feel a lot stronger and better if you give yourself some time to let yourself actually have the sensations of falling apart. Do it more intentionally and then it won’t come out chaotically with your spouse or your kids. You’ll feel more relief this way.
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Mariana is a licensed practitioner of Traditional Chinese medicine, a singer/songwriter and the creator of Mamashine. She is also a survivor of postpartum depression. Mariana lives with her energetic son, her husband and various animals in Austin, TX.