Any mother will tell you mum rage is a very real thing. An unfortunate side effect of pent up frustration, anger, stress and resentment, it can rear its ugly head in moments of overwhelm. In this article I give you some tips to overcome this common maternal stress response.
Anticipate it + know your triggers
Before hitting the angry zone, we usually feel a number of emotions first. Whether it be stressed, flustered or short-tempered, your body will give you warning signs that anger is starting to bubble under the surface. Similar to the way you can anticipate when your child is about to throw an epic tantrum, knowing your triggers and ‘red flags’ is the best way to avoid a mama meltdown. For example, if you know your kids hate their car seats and you’re running late, take 3 deep breaths and accept that you’re late before rushing them into the car and battling with wiggly toddlers & annoying seat belts. When it comes to rage, it’s usually the straw that breaks the camels back, so better to anticipate than be on the back foot if you feel triggered. You can’t always avoid your triggers but you can at least be mindful about them.
Acknowledge it + talk about it
Mum rage is a result of unprocessed emotions & experiences and unmet needs bubbling away on the burner until something makes the pot boil over. In order to tame the rage, you need to acknowledge it first. Step one: recognise your feelings as rage then start dissecting the reasons you feel the way you do. Journaling can help with this. Step two: speak to someone…your husband, a mama friend, you mum…and let them know what you’re experiencing. A problem shared is a problem halved as they say. And while your hubby might be a bit baffled, no doubt your bestie will relate and tell you a few relatable ragey stories to make you feel better. The reality is that mum rage is extremely common and solidarity is sometimes all it takes to get a cranky mama off the ledge.
Reframe it + do the opposite
Motherhood is relentless, so while it would be great if we could tell our kids to ‘take five’ while we run for the hills, sometimes that’s not physically possible. So…just do whatever it takes to calm you down in the heat of the moment. If you’re home, that might mean heading to the bathroom to wash your face with water, or the bedroom to scream into a pillow; Or if you’re somewhere public, simply taking some deep breaths to mellow your agitated nervous system. Positive affirmations are also helpful in moments of deep anger. Simple statements such as ‘This is just a feeling and it will pass’, or ‘I can handle this’, switches your mindset from overwhelmed to constructive. And while this might sound strange, sometimes doing the opposite of how you feel can help. For example, if you feel like you’re about to throttle your kids, give them a hug instead. Or start whispering instead of yelling. Flipping your rage into a less toxic response can also switch your internal emotional state.
Sit with it + delay your response
Once you become better at anticipating and recognizing your anger triggers, it’s important to sit with your ragey feelings when they arise. Even if you are in the middle of a negotiation with a tyrant toddler, press pause in your mind and allow yourself to feel the emotion on a physical level. Where do you feel it? In your throat? In your belly? In your clenched fists? By taking a minute to take physical inventory, you inadvertently ground yourself and give your emotions time to settle. Even better, breathe into those places to allow the tension to decompress. By observing your feelings without judgement, you validate them. What’s more, as you’re going through this process you can explain to your children ‘Mama is feeling mad right now, so I’m going to take some time and big breaths until I feel calm again.’ That way you model healthy emotional regulation and show them ways to deal with their own anger in future.
Ask for help + set boundaries
If rage is a regular emotion for you and you’re feeling it on the daily, it might be time to get some more support. Support might take the form of scheduling weekly alone time so you can do whatever fills your cup, without kids in tow. Or it might mean a daily walk before the kids wake up (hubby can be on breakfast duties). It’s also incredibly helpful and healthy to chat to a counsellor or mentor if you feel like you have a lot of unprocessed emotions that need venting. And while others can do their best to help you from the outside in, only you see your life from the inside out and know when your boundaries are being stretched by motherhood. Boundary setting is a vital aspect of mumming and is important for your mental health. If setting boundaries doesn’t come easily to you, asking a pro for some tips will serve both you and your family. Above all else, practice self-compassion if you lose your s**t every now and then. You are human and doing your best.