This is a guest blog post written by Haley Tardy, Marketing Manager at Expectful

Whether you’ve welcomed your first child or are a parent of multiple, you likely know the struggle that comes with juggling your new role as caregiver. Overstimulated by the sounds and clutter of toddler toys? In need of a nap, but have a cluster-feeding schedule that won’t give you a break? Laundry piling up with no end in sight?

Transitioning from taking care of yourself—or maybe yourself and your partner—to being fully responsible for another tiny human being, can feel overwhelming. Throw in the fact that many solutions require time that you don’t have, money you don’t want to spend, equipment that would take up more space…and you may feel even more adrift. 

The good news? There are some small habits you can adopt to find a little peace. And best of all, they cost little to nothing and require no special tools! So keep reading—we’ll guide you through! 

What It Means to Be Centered

When you’re stressed out, you—or those around you—may notice you're moving more quickly—or even pacing—or, maybe you find you're getting agitated after being asked a question. Internally, you may notice shallow breathing, jumbled thoughts, and more angry or flustered feelings than usual.

On the other side—when you are centered—you become more in tune with your mind and body, to understand exactly what you need from others (or yourself) and achieve a sense of calm. Many people describe being centered as finding an inner peace in their present moment, a way of finding balance in constant change, or being able to control their emotions. 

How to Find Your Center When Life Feels Heavy 

As more and more mothers report carrying the majority of their families' mental load and becoming the default parent, it’s easy to see why they need real, actionable solutions. So, how can you find your center as a caregiver? Here, a few tips.

1. Do a mini-meditation.

The wisdom that meditation can be used to calm an anxious mind has been passed down anecdotally for centuries. Nowadays, research is confirming this notion and even points to added benefits for women who are trying to conceive, currently pregnant, or already in the postpartum phase. From reducing anxiety and chances of depression to increasing sleep quality—meditation shows a great deal of promise.

If you’re unsure of how to start a mindfulness practice, begin with a one-minute meditation, like this one from Expectful. Simply stop whatever you’re doing and let yourself step away for 60 seconds.  

Sit somewhere comfortable—maybe that’s right on the kitchen floor (we’re not judging!). Take a few deep breaths, and really try to focus on what you are feeling as you listen to the words from your meditation guide. When you finish your meditation, you can return to your day, hopefully in a calmer state of mind. 

2. Try a breathing exercise.  

When you’re anxious, you may notice your breath becomes short. You may even start hyperventilating. This shallow breathing can limit the oxygen entering your bloodstream, change the pH of your blood, or may even cause you to become light-headed or faint. 

Breathwork, similar to meditation, seeks to change that pattern by inviting you to focus on how you're breathing and become intentional with your breath. This practice essentially tells your nervous system that you are okay, you’re not on the run, and it’s time to relax.  

A simple beginner’s breathwork exercise, called box breathing, is a great place to start: Inhale for four counts, hold the air in your lungs for four counts, exhale for four counts, and then hold your empty lungs for four counts. Repeat this several times until you notice a shift in your mood. 

3. Speak positivity into yourself.

Affirmations have become popular in the last few years, and for good reason! An affirmation is a positive statement you say to yourself, whether internally or out loud, that helps you regain control of your thoughts.  

Think about it—how many times a day do you tell yourself that you aren’t capable of something, that you wish you did more, that you should have tried harder? We’re here to tell you that you are doing plenty! So, replace that negative self-talk with affirmations such as these and you’ll be on your way to a better relationship with your mind, body, and more:  

  • “I am doing my best and that is enough…”
  • “I trust in my intuition to guide me in making decisions for my family…”
  • “I accept myself now, exactly as I am…”
  • “My body is strong, beautiful, and supports me every day…”  

4. Cry it out (aka emotional release).

This one might seem counterintuitive to balancing your emotions at first, but stick with us. When life gets so overwhelming that you feel like you’re on a ledge, a good cry can be just the thing you need to bring yourself back down. 

Crying has many well-documented health benefits, like helping us to self-soothe, releasing toxins in our body, and helping us sleep (starting when we are babies). Crying in front of our babies and children sometimes also shows them that it’s okay to have emotions and helps teach them how to regulate their own feelings. 

So, if you feel like you need it today, just let yourself go. Have a good cry, maybe even a little pillow scream. Just keep in mind that consistent crying, feelings of dread, or thoughts about self-harm could be a sign of something bigger and you should speak to your doctor.

5. Get outside and try “earthing”.

You’ve probably heard that being outside is good for you. The sunlight on your skin can help with vitamin D production, the fresh air helps you get away from indoor toxins that circulate in our homes, and the greenery might have benefits for cognitive function.

Earthing, also known as grounding, takes the simple joy of being outside just a tiny step further. The easiest way to try earthing is by simply kicking off your shoes and walking on the ground in your bare feet. The belief is that positive charges from the earth will cancel out negative charges in your body to help rebalance and stabilize your mood. If you’ve got a little one that is a natural explorer, now might be a good time to get down and dirty with them, making this a super easy technique to incorporate the whole family in! Other methods of earthing include lying on the ground, going for a swim, gardening, or sunbathing. 

6. Journal your thoughts.

Pen? Check. Paper? Check. Just like that, you’re halfway to journaling! Journaling is a therapeutic technique that isn’t so different from writing in a diary. You can journal in a few different ways, but there are two primary categories: scripted and unscripted. 

As their names might suggest, scripted journaling is when you follow and respond to prompts. Unscripted journaling, on the other hand, is writing down anything and everything that comes to mind at the moment. 

Journaling is a great way to dump your thoughts in a secure place, prioritize what feels most important, and make a plan of action. It can also be helpful for tracking day-to-day symptoms or helping you notice patterns of what's taking up space in your life. 

Small Steps Pave the Way for Big Changes

We totally get that you might not have time to do everything on this list when you’re in the thick of a toddler tantrum. And while this list is not exhaustive, it does reflect a few of our favorite, most tried-and-true methods for finding our center as new parents. 

Take your practice day-by-day. Let go of guilt and remember that you are human and full of your own emotions too. Finding your center can allow you to be more at peace with what you feel and release those negative emotions that get pent-up over time.

If you need a hand along the way, Expectful is here for you. Find meditations, events, support groups and services catered to you. Start a free trial to get full access to the #1 Meditation & Sleep App for fertility, pregnancy, and parenthood.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Haley Tardy is an award-winning social media and content marketer with a passion for telehealth. Currently, she serves as the Marketing Manager at Expectful: the mental health app for pregnancy, birth, and beyond. With nearly 7 years of experience in the wellness space, plus one busy toddler, Haley hopes to help make high-quality mental health care accessible for mothers everywhere.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.