Although Mother’s Day can bring a lot of joy and celebration, it can also bring up a lot of pain, sadness, and anger. It can be difficult to cope with Mother’s Day for a variety of reasons: your mother or children may no longer be in your life due to death or estrangement; you may have never known your mom or kids; you may have emotional pain from past issues with your mom or kids; you may not be as close to your mother or children as you would like, etc. There are a million reasons why Mother’s Day can be painful for someone and yet it is unavoidable. By using helpful coping skills, we can decrease our suffering on this day. Here are some DBT skills that might make Mother’s Day a little more bearable:
If you know that Mother’s Day might be hard for you, cope ahead. Consider what about Mother’s Day will be difficult for you and think about what you will need to do to cope most effectively with that day. Each day, close your eyes and imagine that it is Mother’s Day and see yourself doing the effective things/using the skills that will help you get through it. When you are done, make sure to do something to relax. After doing this for a few days before Mother’s Day, you will likely be more prepared to handle it effectively.
Take time to do something pleasant on Mother’s Day. Regardless of the circumstances, take some time to treat yourself. Eat a delicious meal, watch a movie you enjoy, do your nails, play a video game, or do something else pleasant. If you are spending Mother’s Day with your mom or kids, try to pick a low-stress activity that everyone can enjoy together.
If you experience a lot of distress on Mother’s Day, practice soothing yourself with your five senses. Look at something soothing like a video of rain falling or a picture of a beautiful beach. Listen to soothing sounds like soothing music, white noise, ocean waves, etc. Smell something soothing like lavender, a favorite soap or lotion, or a pleasant candle. Taste something soothing like a warm cup of coffee, ice cream, or a favorite piece of candy. Touch something soothing like a hot towel fresh from the dryer, a pet, or fresh sheets.
Another thing you can do if you are in a lot of distress on Mother’s Day is to distract yourself by focusing your attention on something else for a while. Do an activity like watching TV or a movie, going for a jog, or cooking. Put your attention on someone else by sending a text of appreciation to your friends who are moms or celebrating with someone else like a second mom, a close friend who is a mom, or someone in your life who filled the role of your mom or child. Although it might sound harsh, it could help to compare your situation to that of others who are doing worse than you. Try to do something that is opposite to your current emotion – oftentimes humor is a good way to go. You could watch a funny movie, watch standup, or listen to a funny podcast or audiobook. Distract your thoughts by doing a puzzle, counting certain objects or colors in the room, or repeating words to a song. You can also distract with other sensations like a hot shower, squeezing a stress ball, or holding ice in your hand. If all else fails and you are in a lot of distress, you can always deny the problem or that it’s Mother’s Day for a while, but make sure you come back to process this when you are less distressed.
Half-Smile and Willing Hands
Did you know that our facial expressions and posture communicate to our brains? One thing that might help you feel calmer in the moment is half-smiling. This is when you gently and barely turn up the corners of your lips, just enough that you feel it. This likely will not be visible to others (and feel free to check in the mirror to be sure!). You can also practice willing hands, where you relax your hands and turn your palms up toward the ceiling. Practicing half-smiling and willing hands will communicate to your brain and help you feel calmer. Try it for a few minutes and see what happens!
This day may be a tough one. You will get through it. Depending on your situation with your mother or children, Mother’s Day may even feel like the end of the world. Your emotions may feel intense for a while but remember, they will change. How you’re feeling now is not the same as you felt a week ago and it’s not even the same as you will feel tomorrow. Do your best to ride this out, be as effective as you can, and take care of yourself.
Want to learn more about DBT skills? Click here to learn about the DBT skills training groups we offer at the Cincinnati Center for DBT. We offer online individual and group therapy if you would like to work with a psychologist on the issues that Mother’s Day brings up for you.