Are you walking around in a fog after having a baby? Many women report that they’re more forgetful, less focused, and overall less “sharp” as new mothers. Although many people dismiss it, “mommy brain” is real and it can feel very discouraging.
It’s frustrating and even kind of scary to lose track of what you were saying or to struggle with cognitive tasks. As a new mom, you’re also dealing with a whole new set of responsibilities and it can be hard to make space for anything else.
If mommy brain is affecting your daily life, it’s important to realize that you don’t just have to accept it. There are ways to improve your cognitive thinking — like learning something new.
What is Cognitive Thinking?
Cognitive skills are those involved with thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, memory, understanding, and responding based on prior knowledge. These skills are critical for many of the tasks and activities we engage in throughout our daily lives and they are responsible for our ability as a species to advance and innovate.
When cognitive skills decline, we have trouble with processes like retaining information and using sound reasoning or judgement. This can be extremely frustrating, especially for people who are used to operating at a different cognitive level.
How the Brain Changes to Cause Mommy Brain
During pregnancy and after giving birth, changes take place in several areas of the brain: the amygdala, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and nucleus accumbens. Although these changes might be intended to help with caring for and bonding with an infant (such as making the brain more attuned to their cries), they can affect memory and a mom’s ability to think clearly.
Many moms report that they have trouble with tasks like organization, or activities that require focus. This can be very frustrating, especially for new moms who are trying to just get through each day. Moms with multiple kids can find mommy brain challenging as well since they have to manage more than one child while dealing with poor memory and a lack of focus.
Other Factors Affecting Cognitive Thinking
In addition to changes in the brain, it’s reasonable to think that sleep deprivation also plays a role in mommy brain. New parents are chronically sleep-deprived, which affects their ability to function and think clearly.
Many moms also feel overwhelmed after the birth of a child, which can contribute to problems with focus and memory. While it’s not clear if mommy brain is temporary or if the brain experiences permanent changes, there are some short-term effects that might contribute to it.
Boosting Cognitive Abilities
The changes that occur due to mommy brain primarily affect executive function and cognition. Fortunately, there are ways to improve your cognitive abilities.
Some of these strategies are easier said than done when you have a newborn, like getting enough sleep or practicing mindfulness. Still, it’s important to take care of yourself as much as you can by prioritizing activities like sleep, exercise, and social engagement.
Other ways to boost cognitive thinking include trying something new, learning, and even playing games. That’s good news because it means that getting rid of mommy brain can be an enriching and even fun process! Learning a new skill will help improve your cognitive abilities and help you gain confidence.
How Learning Can Help
Cognitive skills are all needed in the process of learning. When you learn, you have to think, consider different possibilities, absorb new information, problem-solve, and retain the new information you learn. As you go through the learning process, you are using your current cognitive skills and expanding them by pushing the boundaries.
Learning anything new can help with cognitive abilities. This is great news for busy moms — you can choose any subject or skill you want, from learning a new language or instrument to studying chemistry. Even playing games that require cognitive thinking can help you build and stretch your abilities.
When you’re tired and struggling with your memory, it can be tough to find the motivation for cognitive training. With that said, stretching your brain is a lot like physical exercise — it can be tough to get started, but it will make you feel a lot better. Over time, you’ll likely find that you’re better able to focus, your memory will improve, and you’ll feel less foggy. As you continue increasing your cognitive skills, you should notice the mommy brain fog starting to fade away.
Online Learning for Moms
Online learning has become an extremely popular option for anyone who wants to continue their education, whether that means earning an advanced degree or simply learning a new skill for fun. Moms who want to get rid of mommy brain can benefit from the flexibility that online learning offers.
For many parents of young children, having an hour to attend class sounds like a far-off dream. The great thing about online learning is that it allows students to fit their classes around the other responsibilities in their lives. Moms can work toward a degree at their own pace, or simply take some online courses for fun and to improve cognitive skills.
Be Patient with Yourself
The changes associated with mommy brain can linger for a while—some women report noticing that the effects last up to two years after having a baby. It’s hard to say how long the changes will last, and there’s always the possibility that some changes are permanent, with people just adapting to the new status quo.
That shouldn’t be a cause for panic, but it is a reason to be patient with yourself. Learning can help you sharpen your cognitive abilities, but you’ve still got a lot on your mind and your plate as a mom. Being patient with yourself and finding ways to help your brain cope, like using lists to stay organized, can help you fight back against mommy brain.
Becoming a parent changes you in so many ways — some good and some not-so-good. But when it comes to mommy brain, you don’t have to just accept the cognitive changes — you can actively work toward improvement while being kind to yourself!
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