Fighting the good fight against mommy brain? This post’s for you.
Do these signs sound familiar? Brain Fog. Forgetting stuff. Feeling out of sorts. Seeing a decline in productivity.
These are all symptoms of mommy brain.
It’s a challenge so many moms deal with.
And we think mommy brain, or momnesia, (or whatever you prefer to call it) is not talked about enough. So in this post, we share tips we’ve learned to help cope with it.
Now, there are some that might disagree that it’s even a real phenomenon. In fact, one recent study argued that it isn’t.
But here’s the thing, while becoming a mother might not result in momnesia (i.e. from biological results), the experience of being a mom can lead to momnesia…
The stress of managing a household, surviving a pandemic, keeping on top of everything, and keeping your kids healthy and alive can be a lot for any one person to manage.
Add in to all that a healthy dose of elevated cortisol levels and immense sleep deprivation, and that’s enough to start forgetting all sorts of stuff.
If you’re struggling with mommy brain, know that you’re not alone.
Living day to day with a foggy brain can be lonely, and like you’ve fallen into a dark hole and are struggling to climb out.
At first, you’re disoriented. But over time?
You’ll find the light switch and ladder so you can climb out. It’s just going to take some experimentation to figure out what those are for you.
In the meantime, there are steps you can take while you feel stuck in the dark to get things going again.
So stay strong, keep the faith, and try these mommy brain tips…
Let’s dive in.
TIP #1. Get back to getting things done, slowly.
Mark Twain said:
The secret to getting ahead is getting started.
And it’s still true today…
When you’re overwhelmed, exhausted, and stressed, your brain doesn’t function right.
And if you have mommy brain?
It’s even harder.
But when you’re feeling this way, the weight of your to-do list can paralyze you.
If you’ve got a bunch of stuff to do…
Even if you can’t decide what to do first on your to-do list, starting on a small task will help you build momentum.
This is key to fighting mommy brain.
As a parent, your to-do list will ALWAYS have a ton of stuff on it.
Yet if you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything, you won’t want to start on anything.
After all, there are endless reasons to put things off.
So, if it’s been a while since you felt like you were getting things done…
… start today.
Even if you only have 10 minutes. The symbolic mental steps of taking action will propel you forward.
TIP #2: BREAK your parenting routines.
In the abstract, routines sound good. The idea of a set routine sounds amazing in print.
Consistency is good. The stability is good. But as a parent, routines can suck the life out of you.
With young kids though, chaining yourself to an ideal routine can spell disaster.
If you’re just rushing through life every day, said routines can become more of a hindrance than a help.
You’ll become more complacent than Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
While routine and habits are great for the kids, recognize when it’s starting to kill your own inner light.
And then find ways to break your routine.
Now, we’re not saying to throw them out entirely. But rather, that you gotta mix it up.
This will be good for your soul, your heart, and your brain.
One way to do that is our next tip.
TIP #3. Escape on your lunch break.
Your environment is everything.
If you’re working right now:
Do you stay at work (or your desk) during lunch break? Or do you take some time for yourself? This is an easy one to think about shifting as it’s such low-hanging fruit.
Perhaps you sit in your small cube or workspace at home.
You stare at a screen all day.
You answer as few e-mails as possible.
All while the clock is ticking.
But here’s the thing:
There’s a good chance that you’re NOT getting paid for your lunch.
Not getting paid? Might as well use that time for yourself.
And if you don’t proactively make plans to use your time effectively, it’s easy to waste it.
On the other hand…
Making a deliberate effort to recharge your brain and soul with certain activities can be restorative.
There’s a couple of reasons for this.
First, t’s the middle of the day. So even though you’re at work, you’re not at home chasing the kids around.
Second: You’re not surrounded by everything in your house with a million things on your mind to do…
In other words?
It’s the perfect time of day to focus on the project of YOU.
Even if all you can manage to do is just step around the corner to a coffee shop and read and write for a few minutes…
You might find a previously untapped productive time of your day.
Your soul will thank you.
TIP #4. Ask your treadmill for forgiveness.
We’ve all been there with a new baby…
The extreme exhaustion. The cumulative brain fog from months of sleep deprivation. That feeling of “I wish I was only tired” (and not completely drained).
And when you’re in the thick of tiredness, it’s easy to let things in other parts of your life slide.
And one of the easiest?
After all – when are you supposed to make it to the gym?
In the morning?
Everybody’s getting ready.
On your commute?
During the day?
Maybe – if you happen to have a gym on-site or close by (rare).
My point is this…
If you were a regular exerciser before the baby, at some point it’s gonna slide.
So after the baby starts to get older, then the question becomes:
How can you get exercise back into your regular routines?
Well, one first step (in my experience) was making peace with my own exercise guilt.
I’d been beating myself up for not exercising. I was making it to the gym just once a month.
Hardly anything at all.
So I had to make peace with myself. But I kept beating myself up.
So I had an idea.
Kind of silly. I realized:
I need to repent.
From my neglect of the treadmill.
A turning point?
Because once I did, then I was able to stop beating myself up.
Doing so gave me the mental space to be a bit kinder to myself.
And then, start getting back into the swing of things.
TIP #5. Doodle With Your Toddler
Distracted parenting kills your soul. Whatever kind of play your kid enjoys – whether doodling or otherwise – try engaging with it.
Instead of mindlessly clicking around on your phone…
Try engaging your toddler on their level.
With the allure of your phone, it can be hard to disconnect…
But time spent fully in the moment, doodling with your toddler can actually help you relax.
As adults, we forget the value of play as a way to engage and relax our minds.
But one of the joys of being a parent is that you now have an excuse to do all sorts of fun kids stuff that you wouldn’t otherwise.
And in doing so…
Find a break from your parenting stress while you play with your kids!
TIP #6. Do This With Your Kids’ Toys
After a few years with kids…
The junk piles up. Takes up space. And adds to your mental clutter.
All of this increases your stress and drives your cortisol levels higher.
Now, it’s easy to hear advice about decluttering and de-stressing your life and think you need to do that.
But that’s hard to do, especially if there’s a toy you have fond memories of your little one playing with.
So here’s an idea that’ll save you the pain of tossing that precious toy out and yet will let you get it out of your house:
Bring a few of your kids’ toys they don’t use to work!
You don’t have to go crazy with this, but if you spend your workday in a cube it’s a fun way to brighten things up.
The idea here is to bring a piece of joy from home in the form of a toy to remind you of your little one and keep your memories close.
Because there’s a good chance that seeing that little toy truck (or whatever toy you bring) will:
- Bring a smile to your face
- Help you feel grateful
- Help you connect with other parents at work
- Add a spot of joy to your workspace
All good things to put your mommy brain back into a better headspace.
TIP #7. Tell your spouse and kids “No!”
When did you last have half an hour (or more!) to do something for yourself like sit and listen to an audiobook?
Has it been a while?
If so, this tip is for you. Part of what makes your brain fog so tough to process is that to do so you need time to yourself.
And with a busy schedule and family?
That can feel impossible at times. Add on top of that feeling selfish about it, and you’ll find yourself never having a minute to yourself.
Let’s say you like to be helpful, make other people happy, meet every last desire and need of your children.
When will you have any time for yourself?
While it may feel impossible to say no to your family, it isn’t.
But to make it feel accessible, you gotta start small. Make it manageable, so you don’t feel like you’re being too selfish.
Because if it feels selfish, then there’s a decent chance you’re not gonna let yourself do whatever you need to do (listen to a book, relax, etc.).
So start small. And reclaim some time to yourself by saying No.
And if I don’t set boundaries and find some time for yourself?
Remember that it actually has a net negative effect.
Because then you’re left feeling drained. Exhausted. With no spare mental energy for yourself (much less your family).
Learning how to say “No” so you can have some time (even a few minutes to yourself) will help you do a better job caring for your family.
If you’re less worried because you’ve had some time to yourself to rest or do some self-care, then you’ll better be able to:
TIP #8. Be present to play with your kiddos.
In an interview, Ruth Bader Ginsberg talked about how she built time into her busy schedule as a working mom for her kids:
She’d have what she called the “children’s hour” when she got home from work. It was time she spent with her kids, totally focused on them.
And we love this idea!
You see, in this modern crazy world we live in…
It’s easier than ever before to get sucked into something and not be fully present with your kids.
But they need your attention, and they notice when they’re not getting it.
So take some inspiration from Justice Ginsberg…
And dedicate some time on a regular basis to be with your kids.
You could even do some deep breathing while you’re focusing on them.
Commit. Be present fully with them. You’ll feel less distracted and overwhelmed later when you need to focus on your work (or whatever you’re trying to do).
You don’t have to spend EVERY hour that you’re home entertaining your kids.
But you do need to make sure to spend quality time with them. When they’re older, they’ll still remember that you were there.
Your kids. Do that and you’ll find:
You’ll be on a better path to feeling like yourself again.
Tip #9: Nurture Your Brain’s Plasticity
Do you remember the excitement of learning something new? If you’ve got mommy brain, those days probably feel distant.
When you learn something new…
All those neurons firing in your brain form new connections. And these get you feeling energized and excited about life.
Yet now, as a parent, you probably don’t feel that way. Chalk it up to sleep deprivation, brain fog, and mental stress.
But if you’re dealing with mommy brain there is some good news…
While in the old days, people used to think the human brain was more or less set for life at a certain age.
But we now know that’s not the case at all.
In fact, in recent years researchers have come to learn that the human brain, is in fact, quite “plastic.”
In other words, we can strengthen our brains by building NEW neural connections.
Volumes could be (and have been) written on this alone. And we plan to write more about it either here or in another post.
But for now, the main thing to remember is that there are things you can do to help your brain generate neurons.
And one of the best ones?
The other one is sleep, and if you’re having struggles check out our post Fight Postpartum Insomnia With These 14 Tips
Conclusion: How To Fight Mommy Brain
Mommy brain is real. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise!
But while it’s most challenging with a newborn, it does get better over time.
And it’s important to know that it’s more of a journey than an endpoint you get to when things are back to normal.
In other words, it’s kind of a roller coaster.
So be kind to yourself, do what you can to manage mommy brain and the fog that comes with it, and know that it’s quite common.
And let us know:
What are you doing to fight mommy brain?