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How Cognitive Distortions Can Affect Moms: Strategies for Managing Them From a St. Louis Therapist

Updated: Sep 6

A woman and her daughter smile at each other while sitting on a couch. Motherhood can feel even harder when cognitive distortions impact your life. Marble Wellness is a therapy practice in St. Louis, MO that specializes in therapy for moms, couples counseling, child therapy, therapy for teenagers, and men's mental health.

Hi there! As a Licensed Mental Health Therapist, I have worked with many moms who struggle with cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are negative thoughts that can cause a lot of stress and anxiety, and can even affect our behavior and decisions.

In this blog, I'm going to talk about 4 effective ways moms in St. Louis can manage cognitive distortions to live a healthier life.

1. Identify and Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

The first step in managing cognitive distortions is to identify them. It's important to be aware of the negative thoughts that are going through your mind and recognize them as distortions. Here are some common cognitive distortions that moms might experience:

  • All or nothing thinking: This is when you see things as black or white, with no gray area. For example, if you didn't get everything done on your to-do list, you might think that you're a failure as a mom.

  • Catastrophizing: This is when you imagine the worst-case scenario, even if it's unlikely to happen. For example, if your child is running a fever, you might start worrying that they have a rare disease.

  • Personalization: This is when you take things personally that have nothing to do with you. For example, if your child has a tantrum in public, you might think that everyone is judging you as a bad mom.

  • Overgeneralization: This is when you make a broad conclusion based on a single event. For example, if your child gets a bad grade on one test, you might think that they're going to fail the entire school year.

Once you've identified your cognitive distortions, the next step is to challenge them. Ask yourself if there's evidence to support your negative thoughts or if you're jumping to conclusions.

For example, if you're catastrophizing about your child's fever, remind yourself that most fevers are caused by minor illnesses and not life-threatening conditions. If you're overgeneralizing about your child's grades, remind yourself that one bad grade doesn't mean they're going to fail the entire school year.

This takes a lot of practice. It will feel hard at first and you might not always remember to do it. But keep at it. In time, this way of thinking will start to feel easier, which means it will happen more, and eventually it will be your new default thinking. But be patient in the beginning. Don’t expect constant victory. But try nonetheless, because the other side of this can create the internal life you’re longing for.

2. Practice Mindfulness

We know, we know. “Mindfulness” is such a buzzword right now. It’s touted across sectors; in tons of social media; and many other places.

But before you glaze over this section, do you really know what mindfulness is? And if yes, have you given it a good ole college try? We double dare you to reconsider it as a habit that can help you, as well as challenge you to try new ways to implement it, if you’ve tried before and it didn’t get much traction.

Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. It can be a powerful tool for managing cognitive distortions.

A woman practices deep breathing exercises. Therapists at Marble Wellness in Ballwin, MO 63011 teach mindfulness techniques as a form of anxiety treatment for women, men, kids, and teenagers.

When you're mindful, you can observe your negative thoughts without getting caught up in them. In fact, you can start to see your thoughts as separate from you, instead of defining you. This can especially be a game-changing shift for those who have long been putting up with symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.

Here are some tips for practicing mindfulness:

  • Find a quiet place to sit and focus on your breath.

  • Notice when your mind starts to wander and gently bring your attention back to your breath.

  • Observe your thoughts without judging them. If you notice a negative thought, acknowledge it and let it go without getting caught up in it.

  • Practice mindfulness regularly, even if it's just for a few minutes a day.

A quiet place to sit and focus on your breath sound too unrealistic to get started? That’s totally fine! Try just standing still while brushing your teeth and focusing on the actual act of brushing. Or perhaps while chopping veggies for dinner, cleaning up dishes at the end of the night, mowing the lawn, or even something short like rolling the trash to the end of your driveway….try it there!

3. Develop Positive Self-talk

Positive self-talk is the practice of replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. It can help you to challenge your cognitive distortions and build your self-esteem. Here are some tips for developing positive self-talk:

  • Identify your negative thoughts and challenge them with positive ones. For example, if you're thinking "I'm a terrible mom because I didn't make dinner from scratch," challenge that thought with "I'm a good mom because I provide nutritious meals for my family."

  • Use affirmations to build your self-esteem. Affirmations are positive statements that you repeat to yourself. For example, "I am a capable and loving mom."(Hot tip on affirmations: they have to be believable to you. So it should be something that maybe is a little hard for you to think about yourself, but shouldn’t be something you find really outside of your realm of belief.)

  • Surround yourself with positive people who lift you up and support you. (MAJOR! This is a really underrated tip for a good life in general.)

4. Practice Self-care

Self-care is essential for managing cognitive distortions. When you take care of yourself, you're better equipped to handle stress and negative thoughts. Here are some tips for practicing self-care:

  • Prioritize sleep. Getting enough sleep can improve your mood and reduce cognitive distortions.

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise releases endorphins, which can improve your mood and reduce stress.

  • Make time for hobbies or activities that you enjoy. Taking time to do things that make you happy can reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.

  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.

  • Set boundaries with others and prioritize your own needs. Saying "no" to commitments that don't serve you or asking for help when you need it can reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.

In conclusion, cognitive distortions can be a challenge for moms. They can be day-ruiners, if we’re being totally honest. BUT, the presence of them–even if you’ve struggled with them for years or most of your life–doesn’t mean you have to accept them for the rest of your years.

There are many effective ways to not just manage cognitive distortions, but even to overcome them altogether.

By identifying and challenging negative thoughts, practicing mindfulness, developing a positive self-talk, and practicing self-care, moms can reduce stress, improve their mood, and live a healthier life.

A small paper sign says "mindfulness". At Marble Wellness, a therapist near me in St. Louis, MO, self-care tips for moms and mindfulness techniques can be shared through in-person therapy, online therapy, and park therapy sessions. Online therapy is available to anyone in Missouri and Illinois.

If you're struggling with cognitive distortions, consider seeking support from a mental health professional who can provide additional guidance and support. Our therapists at Marble Wellness specialize in supporting moms at all stages of motherhood and can help you develop tools to gain confidence, manage overwhelm, and find joy in parenting. Reach out to us today to get started. Remember, you are a capable and loving mom, and with the right tools, you can manage cognitive distortions and live a fulfilling life.

Spotlight on St. Louis Therapist, Heidi Hubbard

Heidi is a Licensed Professional Counselor and member of the team of therapists at Marble Wellness. Heidi is one of our maternal mental health specialists and enjoys working with moms at all stages of motherhood to bring a sense of calm and peace to the parenting experience. In addition to working with moms, she provides counseling to children, teens, and families. Heidi provides in-person therapy sessions at our office in Ballwin, MO; online therapy; and she especially enjoys meeting clients for walk-and-talk therapy in nearby Queeny Park.

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Our St. Louis team of therapists have a variety of training backgrounds and areas of expertise. We specialize in anxiety, depression, grief, chronic illness, therapy for men, couples, and maternal overwhelm. We can also help new moms with various postpartum concerns, moms in the thick of parenting, and moms with teens. We can also chat from wherever you are in the state with online therapy in Missouri and online therapy in Illinois. No matter where you are in your journey, we would love to support you.


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