Episode 86: Anxiety, Mom Guilt and Getting Out of Your Head – In Conversation with Kimberly Mueller (previously released as Episode 7 on Feb. 13, 2020)

Here’s another oldie and goodie pre-pandemic episode worth another listen! This episode is packed full of real talk about mom guilt and how your expectations and self-awareness can impact parenting and your attachment to your kids. This conversation between Dr. Toni and registered psychologist, neurofeedback therapist and SheWorth founder Kimberly Mueller was recorded in August 2019 and previously released on Feb 13, 2020.

In this juicy episode, we cover:

  • Lessening your egoic attachment to your kids
  • Awareness of how your experience with your own parents impacts how you parent your kids
  • The inevitability of mom guilt
  • Distorted thought patterns women can get stuck in
  • How mood follows action
  • How trauma, anxiety, sleep and nervous system patterns can shift with neurofeedback brain training

Powerful Mama Advice from Kimberly:

Are you anxious about what your child is doing or not doing, especially in regard to their grades in school, their behaviour in public or their activities like dance or sports?

Remember that your kids are not yours; they are with you right now for a period of time before they go out into the world. Your kids do not have to define you and your identity doesn’t have to be tied up in them. It can be helpful to loosen your egoic attachment to who your child is, what they are saying or how they are acting. This can lessen some of the stress and anxiety you may feel about who your child is becoming. As a result, this can give your kids the permission they need to be loved and accepted for exactly who they are without conditions and expectations.

This idea can be a shift from previous generations. Growing up, you may have felt the burden that you had to be a particular kind of person or fit into a specific mold and that it wasn’t ok to be different. You may even regress back to feeling that way when you go back to your childhood home now!

As an adult, you might still be healing from the idea that it’s not ok to be yourself or you have to be a certain way. Hopefully, we can all step into a new fluidity and looseness around the rigid belief system we grew up in. 

Your experience growing up with your own parents can colour how you parent your own kids. 

When you become an adult, there is a lot of value in seeing your parents for who they really are. We can begin to see the inevitable faults in our parents and their parenting choices. With increased self-awareness, you can start to be radically honest with yourself and be willing to see the tendency of your parents in your own parenting. If your mother yelled often when you were growing up, you might be yelling often with your children. If your mother was a disagreeable personality type and your father was an agreeable personality type, you are likely going to think it’s ok for one person to often succumb to another person’s opinion or desires.

By breaking down how your family of origin influenced you, you can see how some of your parents’ faults might be manifesting in your own parenting. Because of that conditioning on your nervous system over the years, changing how you respond to different situations doesn’t happen overnight. This is also the case with your partner, too! Give yourself permission to make mistakes and learn from them. 

Mom Guilt, Anyone?

The idea of the perfect, happy image that can be present on social media doesn’t help with some of the inevitable mom guilt that you can experience. While mom guilt is inevitable, it is manageable. You are knocking on some primitive parts of your brain when you are experiencing mom guilt. You are evolutionarily wired to want to protect your young. When you go out to seek out resources (in other words: working), you might feel some dissidence or the feeling that something isn’t quite right at some level. Even in the 21 century, you are still operating on the same software system from many, many years ago.

From an evolutionary perspective, your tribe was designed to help raise your young. You can look at it that way when it comes to having your kids in daycare or at school while you are working. Your tribe is helping to raise your young and helping with social skills. The research 

When you have those emotions, be curious about it. Go through the process of checking in with yourself. Are you working a lot of extra hours and being more short with your kids because of guilt around that? Even if you love your job, this can come up over and over again. Is the guilt coming from a place of your spidey sense telling you that something is off? 

While nothing is perfect, often mom guilt can be turned down when you feel comfortable with the care that your kids are getting when you are at work. Honour your intuition if your gut is telling you to make a change. It’s helpful to have someone in your life to talk it out, whether it is your partner, friend, another family member or a therapist.

Could everyone benefit from therapy and seeing a psychologist? 

The biased answer is yes! Being aware of your emotions and putting a label on it is the biggest part of making change and feel better. You don’t need to have a problem or diagnosis to benefit from working with a therapist. It can help look at things in your life with a new lens that you may not have considered. Mental training and emotional agility is something that needs work, like training for your physical health and how brushing your teeth is necessary for your dental health and overall well-being. 

Do you get lost in your head?

Our minds can be a dangerous place! Our imagination can create stories and narratives that are not true. 

Examples of distorted thoughts include:

  • Mind reading – you think you know what another person is thinking, even though they aren’t thinking that way
  • Catastrophizing – you think that if one thing goes wrong, then another and another will happen and create a problem that is far worse than it really is

These distorted thoughts can be challenged by a therapist or a really good objective friend. Seeing a therapist can be a great alternative to talking to a friend because it can be hard for a friend to not be biased or not just say something you want to hear in order to affect the friendship and be nice. While your social tribe is there to unconditionally support you, a therapist is objective with no skin in the game. Also, you are wired to want to keep your status and position amongst your tribe to ensure survival. While it is great to share with close friends, you can say whatever is there for you with a therapist without worrying about the potential impact.

Mood follows action. 

You might not have the “perfect” mood to go out for a walk or go to a new place. It can be hard, but by not doing it, you are reinforcing the same pattern that there is something to be afraid of or is threatening.

Just talking about patterns around past trauma and anxiety (big or little) you might be stuck in sometimes isn’t enough to remove them. This involves the firing of neurons in different areas of the brain and different brain neurotransmitters.

Neurofeedback trains the brain and can help re-organize the brain at the subconscious level. As a result, the brain is no longer firing or stuck in the patterns that are causing anxiety or insomnia or keeping trauma stuck in the body. 

Your brain doesn’t want to exert a lot of energy. It takes a lot of energy to be anxious, depressed or ADHD. Neurofeedback helps the brain to become more efficient and resilient. Like the internet, neurofeedback is super easy to use but incredibly complex in how it’s organized behind the scenes.

Neurofeedback has been helpful for some women to wean off anti-anxiety medication. Also, Dr. Toni has experienced the benefits of neurofeedback while pregnant to calm anxiety, reduce the amount of waking in the middle of the night and gain better sleep quality. 

Today’s tip: 

Take a deep breath. Recognize that you’re doing the best you can and your kids are doing the best they can. Support each other and celebrate our successes. 

Today’s Mama Must Have:

Dr. Toni recommends having indestructible stainless steel water bottles for both moms and kids. She loves Klean Kanteen for herself and her daughter Frankie. 

Kim recommends having a guide for free, fun family activities in your area, like Calgary’s Child: https://www.calgaryschild.com/

Find out more about cognitive behaviour therapy, neurofeedback and Kimberly’s approach at www.psychologycalgary.com 

Connect with Kim and find out more about her organization SheWorth on Instagram @sheworth_women 

Thank you for joining us today! 

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