The mommy panic mode!
Here I sit at the children’s urgent care with my nearly 5 month old who just had an intense coughing fit. Vomit and a deep guttural sound that only animals in the wild should make combined with inconsolable crying led this mommy to freak the F out! Working in the emergency field you know certain things qualify for an emergency… issues with breathing is pretty high up there. And of course all the thoughts run through a worried mother’s head when their child is in distress.
I wasn’t sure what to do since I knew an ambulance wasn’t necessary at the time but I couldn’t think straight to know whether to take her somewhere. I just knew I wanted to help her and my head was spinning because I didn’t know how.
I’m sure you have at least one story where panic struck your mommy brain. Your emotions became overwhelming and you couldn’t think straight even if the answer to your problem was obvious.
So what are ways you can keep your cool when mommy panic mode sets in? (One thing to note first off is if you or your baby is having a medical emergency, call 911! 911 call handlers are trained to ask you questions in order to evaluate your crisis and get you help quickly. So if you find yourself in a situation where you even question the necessity of getting immediate help, do NOT hesitate.) The following suggestions are to aid in the times when emotions run high but there isn’t an immediate need for intervention.
Take A Moment to Gather Yourself
Allow Someone to Take Over
If you’re like me and have a calm and cool headed husband, hand the baby to him and step away! Babies are quite sensitive to your emotions. When you panic, they feel it. So allowing someone else who is not dealing with crisis brain will help greatly to get baby to calm down. It’s very difficult to sit there and feel helpless while daddy intervenes with his zen like snuggles… but that’s what daddy’s do! Knowing that your baby is being calmed will help you out of crisis mode to be able to think about and do whatever the next step is.
Put the Baby Down and Take a Moment
(Gonna reiterate the safety thing… do this only if baby is not in need of immediate intervention).
If you are alone or daddy care isn’t an option, taking a moment to gather yourself by putting the baby down can be helpful. I’ve read much advice about doing this when you’re becoming frustrated, angry or overwhelmed, but the same goes for panic and high stress. The same principle of your baby being sensitive to your emotions applies here. Yes it will be hard to allow your baby to cry, but if this is your only means to take a breath and gather yourself, then you’re ultimately helping your baby.
Mindful Breathing and Relaxation Techniques
If putting your baby down is actually causing a rise in panic… cause I’m that mama, try mindful breathing and relaxation techniques. A progressive relaxation of focusing on and relaxing one muscle group at a time can work wonders for slowing the heart rate and allowing the mind to get back to work.
First, focus on your breathing. Breathe in as slow as possible, pause and then breathe out slowly. As your body calms start to breathe slower and deeper in the belly. As you breathe out focus on one muscle group starting from the top of the body down. Starting at say the forehead, imagine the muscles releasing to each exhale. Do this for that muscle group until you feel it relax. Or at least relax more than it was. Then move down focusing on the next muscle group until you get to your feet.
The mindfulness part comes in when you are present with what you are focusing on and allowing all other thoughts to just fall away. Don’t judge your thoughts or put too much emotional investment in them, simply acknowledge them and allow your mind to refocus at the task. Your mind will jump all over the place but gently bring it back to that body part that you’re relaxing and the thoughts will start to calm.
Panic is a state of fight or flight caused by the primitive part of the brain at work. The logical part of your brain that allows you to think through a situation is essentially taking a back seat when this happens. So grounding works by telling your brain to start thinking again.
You can ground yourself by focusing on something present. This can be looking at something and noticing it’s various features, such as focusing on the fur of a teddy bear. It could be feeling the softness of the teddy bear, which is a much better “feeling” recommendation than my husband’s suggestion of punching oneself in the leg… but to each his own. Engaging other senses (smell, taste, hearing) or trying to recall the date or the season can also help.
Acting in a similar meditative fashion is guided imagery. Do you have a favorite scenic spot? Do you have a warm and fuzzy memory from childhood? Maybe it’s a place you’ve conjured up in your mind… think hammock over looking a desolate beach. Take that image in your mind and focus on it. Look around and notice details. What color is the sand? How do the waves look as they hit the shore? What color is the tiny umbrella in your tasty beverage that’s in your hand?
This technique works the same as grounding and mindful meditation. You are focusing on something to allow your brain to re-engage. Often times these visual places help to incite positive emotions which help to combat all the challenging ones that got you into panic mode.
Last but not least, prayer. Sure, it has the same biological impact as the meditative suggestions above but you also get the Spirit of a loving father as well. Pray for peace of mind, for help in the situation, or for your little one to relax and just sleep. Whatever it is, place it in God’s hands. Let Him take this burden. And find rest in knowing He is there carrying you through this with unconditional love.
When anxiety rises and emotions become overwhelming, panic mode can set in. But just like all other emotions, they will pass if you let them. You got this mama! You will be ok.
May your guided imagery include hammocks and mini umbrellas in your tasty beverages and may God bless your journey.