As moms, the momming never seems to end. The hours spent doing both visible and invisible tasks throughout our day that often go unrecognized. The time spent cleaning, scheduling, problem-solving, the arranging and rearranging, all while feeling like you’re somewhere between “just let go” and “there is no other option.” We persevere and continue to push forward because we know that when someone is sick, asks what’s for dinner, or needs that thing they can’t find, someone must be there to help, to do, and to find—and that someone is often Mom.
When pulled in so many directions, between some correlation of work, home, and personal life; wearing so many hats— chauffeur, chef, housekeeper, nurse, teacher, assistant, scheduler, volunteer, party planner, timekeeper, and so on—momming can begin to feel exhausting, overwhelming, stressful, and intense and cause guilt, resentment, sadness, and irritability.
The negative thoughts come one after the other, and the “shoulds” start. I should have done more with them today. I shouldn’t have let them have so much screen time. I should not have lost my cool. I should be feeding them something other than chicken nuggets. I should take better care of myself. I should be able to ask for help. I should be able to handle this better.
While we easily can’t shorten the to-do list, get your partner to understand, or ease all the burdens, there are certain hormones that can help with regulating our moods. They promote positive feelings and will make the negative feelings that are sometimes associated with momming less intense.
Tap into Those 5 “Happy” Hormones When You Feel Tapped Out
The first two, dopamine and serotonin, are also known as the “feel-good hormones.” They work together to maintain a chemical balance in the body. Dopamine is involved with the part of the brain that is associated with pleasurable sensations, movement, and coordination. Serotonin can help increase happiness by alleviating depression and anxiety and helps to regulate digestion, sleep, and memory.
To activate these two hormones, we have to do things like stand in the sun and go outdoors. Try spending 15 minutes a few times a week in the sun. You could also listen to music. Listening to instrumental music can increase dopamine, while listening to music that makes you happy or that you connect with can increase your serotonin.
Next, we have endorphins, considered to be the “body’s natural pain reliever,” as they’re centered around how the body responds to pain, which causes an increase in stress and discomfort. The key to accessing higher levels of endorphins is laughter, so find time to have a good laugh with loved ones. Dancing is another way to access an endorphin release, by yourself or with a partner. Bonus—if you choose to dance with someone you care about, you’ll create a double hormone release, which leads us to our next hormone, oxytocin.
Oxytocin, the “love hormone,” is increased when we’re excited by our sexual partner, when we smell a newborn baby, and when we fall in love. A few ways to access it are by getting a massage (bonus if it is from a loved one), cuddling, giving someone a hug, or petting a beloved pet.
The final hormone on the list is estrogen. It is very complex, and it acts everywhere in the body. When estrogen is increased, all these hormones are impacted. Low doses of estrogen are linked to mood disruptions, such as PMS (premenstrual syndrome), PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), and postpartum depression, as well as brain fog. Stress management is a way to increase this happy hormone. Tap into it by creating a quiet restful sleeping environment, take a break from the source of your stress, and try engaging in physical activity.
While these hormones may help promote happiness and pleasure and aid in reducing anxiety, depression, rage, and feeling overwhelmed, they’re not always the answer. If you’re having difficulties, talk with your healthcare provider, who can recommend additional therapies and treatments that may help.
Mischa Hadaway is a perinatal therapist with over 10 years of experience. As the owner of Gentle Mama Counseling, she provides personalized therapy to hopeful, new, and soon-to-be parents. Mischa creates a safe space free of judgment for her clients who experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, shame, and guilt. Telehealth and evening appointments available.
Call 860.215.4710 and visit: gentlemamacounseling.com for more information.