Wondering what exactly happens in our brains during intense moments? Let’s delve a little deeper into the fascinating world of neuroscience and mum rage to understand it better.
By Harper Steele
We’ve all been there, right? The laundry pile is at Everest heights, the sink is overflowing with dirty dishes, the kids are going wild, you haven’t showered in days and you’re surviving on only a few hours of sleep.
Then, like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, your toddler spills juice all over the newly cleaned carpet, and… boom.
Enter mum rage.
“THE NEXT TIME YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THE MIDDLE OF A MUM RAGE MOMENT, REMEMBER: IT’S NOT THAT YOU’RE A BAD MUM, IT’S JUST THAT YOUR PREFRONTAL CORTEX COULD USE A LITTLE REST.”
The Stress Response
First and foremost, it’s important to recognise that motherhood inherently involves a great deal of stress. The sheer responsibility, the lack of sleep, the seemingly never-ending tasks, and the perpetual worry about our little ones can add up to significant stress levels.
When we’re stressed, our brain releases a hormone called cortisol, our body’s main stress hormone.
The role of cortisol is to prime your body for a fight-or-flight response. In other words, it’s designed to help you deal with threats or danger. However, when your brain is constantly bathed in cortisol due to chronic stress, it can lead to negative effects, including heightened emotional reactions.
That’s when minor incidents, like a spilled cup of juice, can trigger an explosive reaction – AKA mum rage.
The Amygdala Hijack
At the center of our emotional responses is a small almond-shaped set of neurons called the amygdala. This little structure is the part of our brain that processes emotional responses, including fear, anxiety, and anger. When we’re stressed, our amygdala can become hyperactive, leading to what psychologists call an “amygdala hijack”.
During an amygdala hijack, our emotional response overrides our rational thinking. The amygdala triggers a surge of adrenaline which boosts our energy levels and increases our heart rate and blood pressure.
This is why, in moments of rage, we can feel like we’re not in control, or why we might react in ways that we later regret.
The Exhausted Prefrontal Cortex
Remember, it’s not just about what’s firing up, but also about what’s powering down.
In moments of rage, our prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that’s responsible for decision-making and self-control, is less active. This can be due to chronic stress or sleep deprivation – both common in motherhood.
An exhausted prefrontal cortex can contribute to impulsive reactions, as it’s not working at its best to help regulate our emotional responses.
So, the next time you find yourself in the middle of a mum rage moment, remember: it’s not that you’re a bad mum, it’s just that your prefrontal cortex could use a little rest.
The Path to Calm
Understanding the neuroscience behind mum rage – what actually happens in our brain – can be the first step towards managing it.
Practices like mindfulness, deep breathing, yoga, or any form of exercise can help reduce stress levels. Thereby lowering cortisol levels. Prioritising sleep [easier said than done, I know] and self-care can also give your prefrontal cortex the break it so desperately needs.
Remember, it’s perfectly normal to have moments of mum rage. It doesn’t make you a bad mother; it just makes you human.
What’s important is that we recognise these moments as signs that we need to take better care of ourselves. Because let’s face it, mamas, we can’t pour from an empty cup!