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Mirror neurons: How our babies are picking up on our stress

Neuroscientist weighs in on how stress during the pandemic is affecting mothers and the entire family.

HARTFORD, Conn. — A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that nearly 1 million mothers have lost their jobs since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago.

Dr. Rebecca Mannis, Ph.D., neuroscientist, learning specialist, and single working mother spoke with FOX61 News about how the stress affecting mothers during the pandemic is picked up by their entire families.

“What moms are experiencing now is an out amalgam of what we usually need to juggle but only due to COVID on steroids,” she said.

From former working moms who have been let go to current work-from-home moms who are also pulling the majority of the parenting weight, to full-time moms who are now all roles, all around the clock – the stress is very real.

In fact, Dr. Mannis said concepts we’ve always known instinctually are now actually reinforced by neuroscience research.

“We now know that moms and their kids are hardwired with what scientists call mirror neurons so that literally the brain cells in our kids' minds from the time that they are babies are attuned to fire in the same place in sync with us,” she said. “And that’s why it’s so important for us to be mindful of our own stress levels so we can both give and also model emotional balance at a time which is so stressful.”

It’s quite a challenge to manage stress this past year.

Dr. Mannis refers to renowned psychologists and philosophers like Dr. Dan Seigel and Socrates for guidance.

“A mom does not need to be perfect. What a child needs is what Dr. Seigel called a ‘good enough mother,’” she said. “Part of being a ‘good enough mother’ is knowing how to tend to the people in your family. Part of being a ‘good enough mother’ goes back to what Socrates told us, ‘know thy self.’”

She continued: “So you need to be aware of who you are. Are you someone who won’t be on her game if she’s going to be grumpy from lack of sleep? Are you the sort of person who’s just going to feel so much better if you’ve had a chance to walk with your friends? In doing that, not only are you taking care of yourself so that you can be the captain of the ship you’re also really modeling for others and your family how to be mindful of your own needs and helpful to others.”

More on from Dr. Mannis: https://ivy-prep.com/team/rebecca-mannis/

More on Mirror Neurons: https://www.additudemag.com/calm-down-your-adhd-teen/



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