As I write this, I feel like I can’t do another day.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been quarantined at home with my 3-year old son, my 5- year old daughter, and my usual work schedule. We no longer have household help, school, childcare, or my husband (who lives on another continent for work and now can’t cross the border). We do have everything we truly need. We have our health and our jobs and each other. We are enormously lucky. But gratitude doesn’t eliminate all other emotions. You can feel blessed and still feel your ears bleed every time your toddler screams when he’s supposed to be sleeping. You can acknowledge how hard sudden transitions can feel and still be grateful for what you’ve got.
The trick is learning how to shift your mindset.
Quarantine has been long enough to give a daily beat down to my normally iron-clad optimistic mindset. And it’s been strong enough to give my negative self-talk the spotlight and the mic. Here’s what it says: “You are such a hot mess.” “I can’t wait for this to be over!” “This is a total disaster.” “It’s just so hard.” “I’m supposed to be doing more …” “I don’t know how to do all of this.”
Here’s how it feels: awful. It’s a total buzzkill.
But that’s not the worst part. These sort of statements create mental patterns that keep us stuck. Like listening to the same sad breakup song on repeat, we practice these patterns over and over and over—and then wonder why we don’t feel better.
I’m a self-care educator and coach for mothers, so stress management, mindset, and mom support are literally my job. So when I hear my hot mess voice pipe up, I know it’s time to interrupt the mental pattern with one of my favorite mindset-shifting tools: mantras, because they can instantly transform how we think and feel. Here are six of my favorite mindset-shifting mantras for you to try on. The one that fits today might not be what fits tomorrow.
1. “I’m a hot mess” can be “I can do this.”
How it works: Empowers you with resilience-building beliefs. Negative statements remove your power; positive, affirming mantras can put it back.
How to try it: Visualize the challenges of your day. Take a deep breath. Say or write, “Today, I can do ___________________” throughout the day until you do.
2. “I cannot wait for this to be over!” can be “After this ends, what will I appreciate?”
How it works: Takes a bleak situation and finds the light that always exists within it. This reframes and refocuses your energy and the lens through which you see the world—which changes what you see.
How to try it: Reflect on your collective pandemic-related experience so far, in all of its weirdness and worry. Think of three highlights or benefits from it. Take a deep breath. Say or write “After this is over, I will appreciate ______________, ____________, and ______________ the most.”
3. “This is a total disaster” can be “It’s not a disaster, but it still sucks.”
How it works: Resets perspective but still allows all feelings—an essential care ritual to getting through tricky transitions, releasing old wounds that flare up under stress and strengthening self-worth.
How to try it: For one 24-hour period, simply notice (without judgment) how many times you say or think “This is a disaster/the worst/etc.!” (Notice also how many times someone says it to you—this is deep mental programming, mama.) Take a deep breath, and think of three true disasters. See them visually. Feel them viscerally. Say or write, “Today isn’t a true disaster, but ____________________ still sucks. I wish that was different. I allow room for all of my feelings.”
4. “This is so hard” can be “I can do hard things.”
How it works: Changes the focus from your external barriers to your internal abilities. Reminds you of your inner light, strength, resilience, and mama grit.
How to try it: When you have a hard day, write this mantra on a sticky note, as a phone alarm reminder, or even on your hand. Close your eyes and think of one hard thing you’ve done that you’re really proud of. Say or write “When I ______________, that was hard, but I did it—and I can do this too.”
5. “I’m supposed to be doing more …” can be “I’m supposed to be surviving.”
How it works: In true mom fashion, we move from mantras of doing too much to that “not enough” feeling we all know too well. This shift clarifies your true assignment during a pandemic or any other crazy, transformation time—survival—and that looks different for each of us.
How to try it: To practice, take a deep breath. Say or write “I am strong. I am safe. I am surviving. All is well.”
6. “I don’t know how to do all of this” can be “I just have to do the one next thing.”
How it works: Reduces overwhelm and scatterbrain syndrome by breaking down big, looming mom life into small, actionable steps—so you feel productive, confident, and focused.
How to try it: Feeling overwhelmed at the thought of everything you have to do after reading this article? Don’t be! Take a deep breath. Then, say or write “The ONE next thing I will do after this is ______________________.” And do it.
Like any wellness strategy, mindset shifts aren’t a cure-all for COVID-19 stress in motherhood. But they’re a tried-and-true way to take care of yourself every day, even if you only have a little time, no money to spare, and children hanging off of every limb.
We may give our kids our time, our water bottles, and the last bite of pasta off our forks. But your mindset is 100 percent yours. And in motherhood, it’s the #1 way to take care of yourself, whether you’re in the middle of an epic toddler meltdown or global pandemic.
And these days, we’ve got both happening on repeat. But with enough practice, your mindset-shifting mantras will be too.