Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and why it’s every mum’s best friend.
We mums are a hectic lot. And often a stressed out lot. It can feel like someone’s always wanting something from us.
After being told that we can have it all (but not that we would still have to DO it all) we find ourselves juggling more than ever. Frantically trying to keep all the balls of family, kids, work, friends, and our own frayed sense of identity, up in the air.
We need some help.
And that’s just for the average (but very real) pressures mums find placed upon them. Add the challenges and heart wrenching distress that can come with post natal anxiety and depression, and the need for some heavy duty ways to deal with all this becomes even more acute.
That’s where CBT comes in.
CBT is a form of psychotherapy.. To keep it simple (and I’m all about keeping things simple), the literal meaning of psychotherapy is Mind Help. And that’s just what it is, different ways to help your mind.
In a nutshell, CBT is about the relationships between your thoughts (cognitions), your feelings (emotions), what you do (behaviours) and what your body feels (physiological responses). And how they all affect each other, in multiple, often pretty confusing ways: what you think impacts on how you feel; your emotions in return can affect the way you think and act: what you do influences what you think; the sensations in your body causes thoughts and emotions to be triggered. And so on…
CBT FOR MUMS
I’m a cognitive behavioural therapist and a mum. I know first-hand through my work and through my own experiences of using CBT techniques on myself on a daily basis, just how effective it is.
CBT for mums takes the tools and strategies of CBT and applies them to the specific circumstances and experiences common to mums. It tailors them to take into account the added messages and judgements that mums are bombarded with on a daily basis.
It factors in the heightened emotions that come with the territory of anything to do with our children and our sense of selves in relation to them.
It tackles head on the myths of being the perfect mum and the sense of not being good enough that far too many mums live with.
It gives space for the whole spectrum of experiences to be voiced, positive and not so positive. No judgement. No shame.
It can get complicated trying to figure out what you’re being influenced by and how. And to top it all off, so much of what you think and feel is going on without you being aware of it. You’re on autopilot, responding to things that often don’t even make it to your consciousness. We’re all creatures of habit, we work with what’s familiar. We do things, think things and have certain emotional responses triggered partly simply through habit.
CBT works by breaking it all down and checking out whether what you’re thinking and feeling is really accurate.
It helps you learn to challenge and question long held beliefs about yourself and the world, things you may not have even been aware of before.
It looks at the habitual responses you have, the way you approach things and the automatic thoughts or images that make up the running commentary that’s endlessly playing in your head.
And it helps you to see the connections between what you’re thinking and feeling and what you then do. And whether what you do is helpful or unhelpful in your life. Does it get you nearer to your goals and the life you want, or keep you further away?
RE-TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
CBT works with the neurological principle that it is possible to re-train your brain.
To re-wire how you respond to things and how you think and feel about things. It acknowledges that it is possible to create some space between your conscious self and your emotions and to then choose how you respond rather than firing from the hip and just reacting.
It believes that being mindful of what’s going on internally and externally can help you to do this. It teaches you how to tune in to your thoughts, feelings and behaviours and create new ways.
It teaches you that you don’t have to react to every emotion you have.
So, for every mum who compares herself to other mums and wonders if she’s doing a good enough job; for every mum who berates herself up for not loving every single minute of what we’re all told should be the most blissful time in our lives; for every mum who loses her cool at her kids more than she’d like; for every mum who’s upset by the out of control thoughts that keep bursting through to the surface when anxiety is at play; to every mum who feels sad; to every mum who feels overwhelmed and to every mum who’s not sure who she is anymore but doesn’t know where to start or how to say how she feels….CBT can teach you ways to make sense of it all.
A TOOLKIT FOR LIFE
Start learning how to use CBT in your life and you’ll have a tailor made toolkit of resources and strategies to draw on and help manage the stressful times.
It will give you the tools to re-think your idea of what being a mum means. Instead of basing your benchmark of a good mum on fantasies and ideals, you can create an image that’s more realistic and true to your values. Something that is attainable, will help you embody what is important to you as a mum and let go of the rest
There’s nothing quick or magical about CBT. It’s not about putting a positive spin on life and making it shiny. It requires you to look honestly at what you believe. At what the messages are that you’re being influenced by and that are getting in the way. It requires you to reality check and create some flexibility in your thoughts.
If you practice it, CBT will help you to level out the skewed thinking that we’re all affected by and create some accuracy in our thoughts and beliefs. It will help you approach life and the uncomfortable feelings that are an inevitable part with curiosity and some self-compassion.
Above all, it will help you get back to enjoying more of this ride of being a mum. and to cut yourself some slack for those times when you’re not.