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Tips for Surviving as a Highly Sensitive Mom of Young Children – Part 2

Highly sensitive (HS) moms tend to be very attuned to their children. Our sensitivity allows us to pick up on nonverbal communication and other subtle cues quickly. This empathetic response to our children’s physical and emotional needs can create strong bonds with them. As highly sensitive mom’s, we often work hard behind the scenes to ensure our child’s environment contributes to their wellbeing. We are able to recognize our children’s unique strengths, weaknesses, and quirks, and that helps us match our parenting to each individual child’s needs. Plus, our own self-awareness helps us adapt and grow as these parenting needs change over time.

However, as much as this sensitivity and awareness of our children can be helpful, it can also lead us to feeling overwhelmed. In Part 1 of this series, we walked through some situations that can contribute to overstimulation as a highly sensitive mom, and some strategies for survival. In this blog, we will share some other challenging issues that you may experience, and how you might navigate them.

Don’t waste time in the weeds.

Researching child-related decisions will take up a lot of mental space for you. 

As a highly sensitive parent, you can be very conscientious about each and every decision that impacts your child’s life. This can range from small things, like the best diaper brand to purchase, to big things, like the best daycare or school for your child to attend. This attention to detail is obviously beneficial for your child. But at the same time, this hyperfocus on making thoughtful decisions for every single detail can easily lead to burnout. Daily parenting involves ongoing decisions, and for non-HS parents, this might not feel overly stressful. But being diligent about every decision, including research and consultation, can take more time and headspace than you really have. Juggling product research with planning for childcare can feel overwhelming, and trying to choose just one path among many can feel absolutely daunting.

It is impossible to dedicate the same amount of mental space to each and every issue. You will need to prioritize what matters most, and allocate your limited time as a parent accordingly. Pick the battles that would benefit from your thoughtfulness the most. For the ones that you can’t pick, remember these decisions aren’t always permanent. If you don’t like the item or brand, you can always switch to another one. Maintaining a broader perspective can help you reduce your stress as a highly sensitive mom. 

You will need more help than you think, and that’s okay.

Highly sensitive parents burn out more easily because your brain is constantly working overtime, and deeply processing the many nuances of daily life with a child. 

When you are constantly evaluating your environment and your child’s subtle communications, you are likely to hit burnout and exhaustion quickly. But if you are burnt out, you will not be able to care for yourself or your children. This means that it can be very important for you to seek and accept help from family, friends, or professionals in your community. It might be frustrating that you seem to need more rest and downtime than your non-HS peers, but your brain is often managing much more stimuli and information. It makes sense that you will need more time to decompress and give your brain some much needed rest.

You may experience some mom guilt in needing extra support to care for your children. But please know that needing rest is normal, and needing more rest is just accommodating for your brain and your needs. It truly does take a village. Give yourself permission to ask for help when you need it so that you can continue to be physically and mentally healthy. If you have loved ones who are willing and able to lend a hand with childcare or household tasks, accept that help. If you can afford it, hiring a professional nanny or babysitter or putting your children in daycare can give you time to recharge and take care of things on your own. Full-time parenting might be a great choice for your non-HS friends, but it might not be for you and your family. Your highly sensitive brain requires more downtime to function at its best, and it is important for you to do things that are nurturing and restful to you.

Sleep and exercise are not optional.

I know it feels like there’s never enough time, but it is important for you and your children that you make time for self-care.

There are different types of rest, and they are not all equal when it comes to the brain. Of all the self care activities you can do, sleep and exercise are the most crucial to your mental wellbeing as a highly sensitive mom. When you are able to get quality sleep, your brain is able to rest and recover. Just like your baby needs sleep to grow their brain, you need sleep to maintain it. I know that good sleep and time to yourself are both hard to come by in the months and years following a new baby. But sleep hygiene is absolutely essential. It might help to find a balance between sleeping early and making time for yourself. Revenge bedtime procrastination habits, such as scrolling on your phone in bed, may feel satisfying in the moment, but are detrimental to you long-term. It can also help to nap while your children are napping, and to have another adult on wake-up or cleaning duty as needed.

You have likely heard how beneficial exercise can be for your mental health. But for highly sensitive mom’s, these benefits can be even more significant. This is because mental and physical overstimulation can be offset by getting out of your head, moving your bed, and releasing stress. When you exercise, whether that’s aerobic jogging or meditative yoga, you are offering your brain a much needed chance to focus on your body and work through the stress cycle. In the daily grind of parenting, the time to exercise can feel scarce. However, the less you exercise, the more challenging it can feel to do. So start small. Begin by incorporating 10-15 minutes of something active (and enjoyable) several times a week, and increase duration or frequency as you are able. You can also incorporate your little one into your exercise routine, if you feel like you can still focus on yourself. For example, a stroller walk around the block or playing tag with your toddler can be fun ways for you both to move.

Your health is just as important as anyone else’s.

You may be more sensitive to pain and illnesses. 

Highly sensitive people can experience pain and sickness more strongly than others. This is because you tend to be more physically sensitive to all sensations in the body, regardless of whether it’s in your sinuses, stomach, muscles, limbs, or otherwise. This can be particularly troublesome, as young children will experience a multitude of contagious illnesses as their immune systems mature. Of course, it is difficult for non-HS parents to juggle their own cold symptoms with those of their children. But for HS mom’s, it may be even more intense and overwhelming. If you are already sensitive to sound, dealing with a headache from a cold you caught from your little one can make their crying sound so painful. Other aches and pains, like muscle tension or strain, can also be particularly challenging to deal with.

It can feel like you can never catch a break, especially if you have multiple children who are spreading illnesses to their siblings. It can be discouraging to see other parents seemingly not struggling with their households full of colds and flus. When you are in the thick of it, it can help to remember that your symptoms are just as valid and legitimate as anyone else’s, even if they feel worse. Your health is important, and pushing your body to its limits doesn’t help anyone in the long term. As your child grows up, they will be sick less and less often, and their immune systems will get stronger. Your immune system will also get a break. But in the meantime, take the rest that you need, accept the assistance if you have it, and let yourself be okay with the bare minimum. If you aren’t able to get healthy, that will only hurt you, and your family.

Keep the Long View in Mind

Motherhood is a tough transition, and parenting is one of the most rewarding yet challenging roles out there. If you are a new mom in the grind of a young child, I hope you remember to honor your sensitivity and your needs. You are likely doing much better than you think! Your child is so lucky to have you—you are intuitive, conscientious, empathetic, and always the first to know what they need. You have a bond that is truly special. All children are unique, and so are all mothers. While it can be tempting to look to other mom’s as benchmarks for success, you will be better off focusing on finding your own parenting rhythm. Your unique sensitivities as a highly sensitive mom can be difficult to navigate, but can ultimately lead to strong, healthy relationships with your children.

Begin Postpartum Therapy with a High Sensitivity-Affirming Therapist in Los Angeles, CA or New York today!

At our Los Angeles, CA, and New York City, NY-based therapy practice, we have many therapists who can help you navigate the complicated dynamics of being a highly sensitive mom of young children. For your added convenience and simplicity, we offer online therapy for anyone in the state of California or New York. We know that your role as a mom and your overall well-being are both important, and we want to help you feel empowered in these early years. Follow the steps below to begin.

Other Services at Yellow Chair Collective

There are many options for treatment using online therapy in California and New York, it just depends on what you’re needing. And while we certainly service Asian American folks, we also work with individuals from other cultures, too. So, whether you need support in overcoming anxiety, burnout, trauma, or PTSD, we can help. Likewise, we serve teens and couples in need of support, too. So when you start online therapy with us, you can bring your whole self, including past struggles, cultural impacts, and more.