By: Dr. Tanya Cotler, PhD, CPsych
Why is it so hard for me to decide what to make for dinner since becoming a mom?
Mothering and parenting often involves a barrage of daily decisions, many of which we don’t even notice. How often do you wish someone else (maybe your partner?!) would figure out who is wearing clothes three sizes two small and what the kids are going to have for dinner? Or what about when your child asks if they could go out for lunch or stay at the park after school and you feel like they are asking you how to initiate world peace?
The difficulty with making these sometimes basic decisions is that as mothers our every day routines require decisions. All the constant choosing and deciding wears out the primary decision maker (for many that’s mom!)
Below are some of the reasons decision making is compromised:
- One of the symptoms of depression, and specifically postpartum depression, can be difficulty making decisions. When someone is struggling with depression and feels things are more hopeless or they themselves feel helpless- this often translates to seeing minimal options available or feeling that your power or your agency over your choices is missing.
- Anxiety: there is a lot of research to support how anxiety can actually inhibit decision making by disengaging the prefrontal cortex- the area of the brain specifically responsible for executive functioning, planning and judgment as well as flexibility in decisions. The prefrontal cortex allows for “calm” decision making- it removes the intensity of emotion from decisions by quieting the amygdala (the part of the brain that runs on raw emotion and instinct). The research shows that anxiety seems to interfere with being able to limit distractions, making it difficult for the person to weed through the muck so to speak. Distractions can be physical but also emotional such as thoughts or worries. Anxiety numbs some neurons in the prefrontal cortex that are specifically involved in choice making and accordingly anxiety selectively shuts down mechanisms needed for clear choice making.
- Motherhood as a period of change and loss: During a phase of life when you are inundated by so many changes (hormones, physiology, psychological, relationships etc) and losses (relationships, identity, expectations and hopes) it can be unbearable to add to the exhausting list of changes and losses. With every decision comes a loss, as well as one more thing to think about and one more thing to grieve -or at least one more thing to adjust to. Simply put, the decision- even just what to make for dinner- feels like one more thing to consider when the mind is already overwhelmed with making adjustments.
- Guilt: with guilt often comes an increased difficulty decision making. This is because part of what complicates decision making is the sense of “loss.” As described above, with every decision there is something you “gain” and something you “lose.” If someone is already feeling worried or concerned about wrong doing, or not being good enough it becomes harder to decide anything else for fear of making more mistakes.
- Insecurity and lack of trust in oneself or fear of feeling exposed or judged: With so much noise on how to mother, combined with the general idealization of motherhood, many mothers fear they will fall short or won’t be able to measure up to the expectations held out for them. This can also affect decision making. The more one feels insecure about how they are performing in their mothering role, the less likely they are going to be to rely on themselves for anything. Every decision feels like a challenge when you feel you can’t trust yourself.
- The tendency for the mothering one to take the primary role with the emotional load or otherwise termed emotional labor. The mothering one’s mind is often responsible for the executive functioning of parenting (think of it as mom as the organizer, planner, thinker, holder of all detail from who needs socks to what’s for dinner to program registration and more). This role can often keep a mom up at night running through her to-do list fearing what she missed or will miss. The perpetual cycle from “emotional labor” to anxiety to sleep deprivation to anxiety to emotional labor and back again, makes it inevitable that decisions are increasingly difficult for many moms. It’s just too much for the mind to compute constantly!
- Decision Fatigue– Mothers are constantly needing to decide everything from bedtime routines to what to wear (themselves, their children, their partners!) It can become exhausting and utterly depleting to be in charge of any additional, even minute, decisions like what’s for dinner. Decisions require conscious thought and attention and even when invisible (or we aren’t cognizant of it) our brains go through a process of weighing pros and cons and thinking through. An element of expending energy occurs with every decision whether we want it to or not. Taking this together, more decisions mean diminished energy reserves and willpower impacting future decisions.
There are ways we can mitigate these difficulties making decisions. If we learn from prominent leaders in our world- one trick when in a position of power and high decision making power- is to minimize other competing decisions which may be of less importance.A quick look at some business or world leaders (I.e Steve Jobs or Barack Obama) and you can see how many leaders openly talk about wearing the same color scheme everyday or limiting wardrobe to few pieces to minimize daily choice and allow more space for bigger decisions.
Of course in addition to limiting the number of less crucial decisions what’s also required is some advanced planning. For example, having a daily menu of meals that rotate each week.
Also important is to ask for help and to attempt to share decision making power with others you trust such as a partner. Like in any business partnership, this requires dividing roles. If you feel that a lot of the “mental labor” is falling on you, talk about it with your partner. Perhaps your partner becomes in charge of wardrobe while you are in charge of meals. And maybe you divide seasonal ownership over activities registration or doctor appointments.
Ultimately if you are struggling with decisions try to identify which of the many possible reasons might be contributing to your decision difficulty and then try to plug in some solutions or help accordingly. All this needs to be couched in the fact that no one can do this alone mama, we all need help, and with help it’ll feel easier.
This month marks the five year anniversary of our opening of Thrive. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our Thrive family, which includes the inspiring patients we have met over the years, the amazing practitioners that we have been so fortunate to work with and our own families for the support they have shown us through this journey! We are thrilled to say that Thrive is “thriving” and continues to grow and evolve as we hoped it would.
To celebrate our “birthday”, we are having a Google review contest! If you think Thrive is a great place to get healthy and want to help other families get healthy too, please leave us a google review and WIN FREE PRIZES! All you have to do is show your support for Thrive by leaving a comment or star review telling Google what you think about our office. At the end of the month, we will enter you into a draw to WIN 2 movie passes or a gift card at Body Blitz.
Thank you to all of you for your dedication to thrive and to your own health goals. We look very forward to many more years serving you!
The Thrive Health Team
- Social engagement
Accept there are things that you can’t change or control. Focus on the positives, consider forgiveness.
Self-care: Don’t postpone exercise, pleasurable activities, good sleep, or healthy eating because “you are too busy”; you are only giving away your anti-stress “free medication”.
Be social: time to follow the plan and not the mood! Stressful times are the right time to say “yes” to that coffee, that drink, that dinner with friends/family etc..
Be assertive: say what you need and want respectfully, don’t hold back. Also learn to say “no” to unnecessary commitments.
Take pauses, get into mindfulness practice! Meditation is the “new thing” for a reason. Download a meditation app to your smartphone. 5 minutes a day can make a big difference.
Dr. Maria Chaparro, Registered Psychologist in Supervised
Did you know that there are many different types of headaches? The most common types of headaches include:
- Tension-type headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Cervicogenic headaches
This post will focus on tension-type headaches, as they are one of the most common types of headaches suffered by adults. These headaches are often described as “band-like pressure” or “tightness around the head”.
Some common signs and symptoms associated with tension-type headaches include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Mild sensitivity to light or sound
- General muscle aches and pain
What Causes Tension-type Headaches?
There are many factors that may contribute to the onset of tension-type headaches. How many of the following factors apply to you?
- Eye strain
- Cold/sinus infection
- Muscle tension around the head and neck
Most of these triggers are lifestyle factors, which we are able to modify on our own. However, chiropractic care has also been shown to be an effective approach to help battle these nasty headaches!
Research has shown that chiropractic adjustments are effective in reducing the intensity and frequency of tension-type headaches, as well as reducing the usage of over-the-counter medication.
If you are suffering from tension-type headaches, the following 5 steps can help:
- Manage your stress: One way to manage your stress is to plan ahead and organize your day.
- Relaxation Techniques: This may include deep breathing exercises, listening to music, or yoga.
- Diet and Exercise: Eating healthy and exercising often. Quitting smoking is also very important to help reduce the onset of headaches.
- Heat or Cold: The application of a heat or cold pack around the head may provide some relief.
- Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic treatment can assist with muscle tension and postural correction to help re-align the body for optimal functioning!
Boline PD, Kassak K, Bronfort G, Nelson C, Anderson AV. Spinal manipulation vs. amitriptyline for the treatment of chronic tension headache: a randomized clinical trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1995 Mar-Apr;18(3):148-54.
Fumal A, et al. Tension-type headache: Current research and clinical management. Lancet Neurology. 2008;7:70.
Pluta RM. JAMA patient page: Tension-type headache. Journal of the American Medical Association. 2011;306:450.
To read more about tension headaches, click on the link below.
As school starts back up, many families start to anticipate, or fear, cold and flu season. Yikes! Naturopathic treatment for colds and the flu can help reduce symptoms and shorten illness time; but, an even better approach for the fall is prevention. Take active steps to boost your family’s immunity and reduce exposure to the germs that get you and your little one(s) sick in the first place.
The body’s immune system works to ward off and kill germs that we are exposed to. Children are more vulnerable to sickness because they are still ‘growing’ an immune system…and because they touch everything!! In order for an immune system to function optimally, it requires adequate nutrients, proper rest and balanced exercise. While these principles may seem basic, they can be tricky to implement regularly in a busy household. Below are some specific strategies to help you maximize your children’s health. Apply them to yourself and double the benefits.
- Keep a routine bedtime that ensures your child stays well rested through the winter. White blood cells (the guys that fight germs) multiply most while we sleep.
- Enroll children in lessons or make time as a family to engage in activities through the fall and winter – be it swimming, skating, skiing or sledding.
- Increase protein, vitamin C and zinc in your family’s diet as they are all required for optimal immune system function.
- Reduce germ exposure through regular hand washing and proper nasal rinsing. Sound strange? If we breathe in germs and they grow and multiply, in part, in our nasal passages, cleaning them out regularly also flushes out the germs. Infant and child nasal rinsing products are easily available through health and drug stores and are best used in the evening
We’re thrilled to have you with us as we launch our new blog, and we hope you’ll check back regularly! The Thrive Health Blog will be an exciting space for discussions and reliable information about trends in alternative medicine, nutrition, and chiropractic. It will also be a starting point for readers to find out what’s new at Thrive Health, and to connect with our team.
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