Jessica Felicio on Unsplash-May 25, 2022 In Part 3 of Conquering Worry: Understanding Catastrophic Worry & Ways to
Persevere by Nathaniel Valera, I will discuss solutions to challenge extreme
negative thoughts leading some mothers into postpartum symptoms.Many good things come from healing the mind. This is a decision mothers
must make for themselves and their babies. Though the world may see you
as something that you are not staying true to yourself and doing what is best
for you should always come first. As they say, you cannot pour from an
empty cup. When overwhelmed, it is more challenging to think positively, but
Valera’s article introduces a five-step plan for tackling concerns created by
Doctors Pamela Wiegartz and Kevin Gyoerkoe, who specialize in mental
health and assist parents suffering from catastrophic worry. He states the
five-step plan is “ideal for redirection and stabilization in both immediate,
dire circumstances of stress and during times of reflection.
The plan is displayed as follows:
1. Practice relaxation
2. Determine whether your worry is productive
3. Change your thoughts
4. Use exposure and response prevention
5. Accept uncertainty
In step one, Practice Relaxation, it focuses on stillness.
When anxious and
focused on the negative, unwanted symptoms occur such as muscle tension,
nausea, insomnia, and lack of concentration.
These symptoms can be reversed by relaxation. According to Valera,
“common relaxation techniques include diaphragmatic breathing,
progressive muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, all of which can
significantly aid a frantic, worrisome parent in immediate situations or during
reflection.” Other techniques include yoga, tuning into a favorite show, or
spending time with loved ones help to alleviate stress.
Step two, Determine Productivity of Stress, offers advice about using your
energy to be productive. Productive worry shifts how you see your concerns
and instead allows you to focus on what you should be worried about, like
getting the right car seat.
Valera addresses productive worry as three main features:
1. It’s focused on the present or immediate future
2. The problem is specific and likely to occur
3. There are definite steps you can take to solve the problem
For step three, Change Your Thinking, I always say this is easier said than
done. If we could all wake up with a new mindset, worry would not exist.
However, this is the real world, and most women experience fear as they
enter the world of motherhood.
Four steps to shift your mindset include:
1. Counter catastrophic thinking – preparing yourself for any outcome
helps ease worries. Thinking things like “how likely will this incident
occur?” shifts the mindset that the result will be negative.
2. Examine the evidence: Assess both sides of the outcome to come to a
more reasonable thought process.
3. Cost-benefit analysis: Analyze when you must be decisive. Look at the
good and bad and be in the moment rather than focusing on what
good goes wrong.
4. Double standard technique: This is simple. Would you tell someone
very close to you the negative thoughts you tell yourself?
no. So feed your mind positive thoughts.
Step four, Practice Exposure and Response Prevention, also known as
(ERP). Valera states, “exposure provides a glimpse into the ‘what if’s of
parenthood, working by identifying concerns and exposing oneself to their
concerns over and over.”
Writing out your fears is what this is all about. As anxiety-inducing as it
seems, it helps to familiarize yourself with the thought. Once you have
repeatedly exposed yourself to the idea multiple times, it relieves the
anxiety because you have processed the scenario and figured out how to
cope if it ever occurred.
Lastly, step five, Accept Uncertainty. The unknown is a part of life. As soon
as it is embraced, the easier life becomes. Parents will never know
everything and are only capable of so much. Giving themselves grace and
understanding to face scenarios as they occur will create peace.
This series was meant to enlighten and provide hope. Parenting is easily one
of the most challenging choices to make. It comes with a ton of responsibility
and is an ultimate sacrifice, but it is one of the most incredible journeys to
take with the right tools and mindset. Good luck and be well!