Parents are among the busiest people in the world. Biologically programmed to care for our offspring, we’re also concerned about our appearance and health, our relationship with our partner, the contribution we’re making to our families and communities, pets, friends, work, finances, school, other kids, etc.
Even the healthiest and most well-supported parent can feel overwhelmed at times. And, a mother who struggles with mood and anxiety can begin to feel desperate, hopeless, and guilty. In about 15% (that’s 1 in 7) of moms, a perfect storm of environmental, biological, and psychological factors will result in postpartum depression or anxiety.
In addition to support, therapy, and medication, the ideal treatment plan for perinatal depression and anxiety often includes mindfulness techniques. Exercises such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation, for example, have been shown to reduce blood pressure and promote recovery from many illnesses. Unfortunately, it’s often very difficult for moms, who are pulled in so many different directions at once, to find the time, space and peace of mind to engage in these techniques.
But, you can actually create a different frame of mind in just 10 seconds at a time. I call this composing a moment. It’s based on the idea that you can give yourself a 10 second break and create the mental state you want for 10 seconds. Sometimes, this 10 second break is enough to enable you to regroup and see things in a different light, kind of like changing from blue to pink-tinted glasses. Everything is still there, but it might look a little different.
So, here’s the exercise I often do with my patients (and myself). We use words beginning with A. B, C, D, E, F, G— like the musical scale—to compose our moment. They are Allow, Breathe, Center, Drop, Engage, Free, and Go. A step-by-step description follows. I’ve also included links that may help you with each step. I hope it’ll be useful to you as it is, but please change and adjust the words, order, ideas, etc. to benefit you the most.
Edith Gettes, MD, is Medical Director of the University of North Carolina Women’s Mood Disorder Clinic at Rex Hospital, in Raleigh, NC. In addition to seeing patients privately, she is also a consulting psychiatrist at Rex Hospital and Assistant Clinical Professor in the UNC Department of Psychiatry in Chapel Hill. Formerly a professional musician, she remains active in her community as a violinist and youth music organizer. Dr. Gettes is a wife, mother, step-mother, adoptive mother, and pet mother. She’s a passionate advocate for screening for and treating perinatal mood disorders, especially in rural communities, and of disseminating accurate, scientifically based information about women’s mood disorders and their treatment.