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Mumnesia or Societal Stress? My tips for overcoming new parent memory anxiety

September 18, 2009

As a parent, you may have experienced the panicky feeling before; suddenly you start forgetting simple things like names, tasks, phone numbers, addresses, or find yourself thinking “why did I come into this room?” And occasionally, a panicked feeling crosses your mind that one day birthdays and child-rearing memories will be gone. In my discussions with clients who are parents of young children, the inevitable “I think I have developed a memory problem” often slips out. I’ve heard “I think I might have Alzheimer’s” uttered under the breath of new moms too often.

It’s taboo isn’t it, to admit that you think you’re losing your memory… to admit your struggles as a new parent?

This phenomenon has been given a title – Mumnesia – and some say it is a genuine medical condition. Mumnesia is a symptom of complex life and societal situations and significant biological changes that happens to new moms.

Along with the stresses and pressures of being a new parent, there are also consumer driven messages to be a “good parent”; maintaining nutritious feedings, ideal childcare, picture perfect school schedules, extra-curricular activities, homework, friends, sleep-overs, shopping (the list goes on!) On top of the pressures to fit into the new parent role, the busy parents I meet with also balance the complexities of having and running a home, career, adult relationships and the struggle to find that work/life balance.

It doesn’t seem to me that the majority of the parents I work with have medical “Mumnesia”, but rather, are just new parents lacking the organizational tools that are essential for coping with all the new changes.

So what can you do to deal with this scary situation (on top of everything else you have to do?) First, take a moment to laugh at life’s simplest moments. Laughing helps me with stress reduction! This short video will make you smile.

Next, to cope with this worrying memory anxiety, use my tips for memory recall and task organization – these tips will not only help you to adjust to new parenting, but can help in any challenging new life situation.

1) Begin with a notebook – yes, writing it down really does help! Get one sturdy hard-cover notebook, and divide it into three sections; To-Dos, Communications (Call-backs), and Purchases; (books you want to read, courses you want to take, and the all important shopping list).

2) Log every call. Be sure to have the notebook with you each time you’re on the phone. Take notes – the phone number, what you discussed, the date of the conversation, and who you spoke to.

3) Cross it off! Note every action item, call or letter in your To-Do section. Review your list often, and cross off items as you go (even the littlest of tasks) – it will help!

4) Take it with you! The last section of your notebook should contain the names of books, classes or special interest purchases that you might want to make in the near future (kind of like a wish-list shopping list!). Having your action items, call list and shopping items in one book ensures that you’re not digging through scraps of paper, searching for that little post-it note, or forgetting the shopping list on the fridge. This hard-cover notebook contains everything you need to keep you on track.

5) A place for everything … and everything in its place. Yep. That’s right – your mother said it to you growing up but, in this case she did know best! File away important documents (couldn’t help it I had to mention filing!), and reduce those ‘Now where did I put that?’ moments by establishing designated places for keys, agendas, umbrellas….

6) Hydrate. One of the main symptoms of memory loss is dehydration. A lot of moms forget to drink throughout the day, so up you intake of water, herbal teas or fruit juices – now that was easy eh?

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