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What Does Being “Touched Out” Mean in Motherhood?

If you want to lock yourself in the bathroom or jump out of your own skin if someone needs anything else from you, you may be “touched out.” Here’s more on what it means to be a touched-out mom.

Maybe “touched out” is a brand new term to you, or perhaps it’s something you have heard before. No matter your reasoning, you’re here because you’ve been feeling it – something! – and want to know more about it and how to cope.

What does it mean to be “touched out” as a mom?

“Touched out” is a state of overwhelm or agitation that arises due to high demands for physical contact from another being (usually a child). It is a common experience for mothers and occurs more often during infancy and toddlerhood, as these stages require a lot of close contact with our children.

As a breastfeeding parent, you might feel even more touched out than expected as you use your body to feed your child. While you might not feel touched out with your baby while eating, these feelings may arise when your partner or another child tries to initiate physical touch or contact.

Common signs that you’re touched out

Do any of the below signs apply to you? You might be feeling touched out if:

  • You don’t want to be touched and are actively avoiding it
  • The idea of being touched or needed feels stressful
  • You’re more reactive than usual
  • You become agitated, frustrated, or resentful when you are touched or think about touch
  • Your skin or body feels tense or uncomfortable when touched
  • You have a lower sex drive than usual
  • You feel guilty about avoiding touch
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Being “touched out” is a symptom of overwhelm

To better understand the feeling of being “touched out,” it can be helpful to understand overwhelm.

Brene Brown defines overwhelm as “an extreme level of stress and emotional and cognitive intensity to the point of feeling unable to function…the big difference is we can function in stress; we really can’t function in overwhelm.”

We all know that motherhood comes with a lot of stress – taking care of another human being while trying to take care of ourselves and all the other stuff is hard work.

It takes effort to do anything when children aren’t a factor, but it is more difficult when they are. When children rely on us for almost every need and want – feeding, comfort, play, essential task completion, and so much more – it requires seemingly endless anticipation, preparation, responsiveness, and problem-solving, making it hard to keep up.

The good news – if you’re feeling “touched out,” your body is working. “Touched out” is your body’s way of communicating with you. It is your body’s way of telling you you’re overwhelmed and need some extra space and support.

Breaking the “touched out” cycle for good

As I said earlier, motherhood is stressful, and the stress is unavoidable. Many moms find themselves with much less time for self-care than before; old stress management strategies don’t work either, and they try to push through.

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They don’t realize the negative impact until the icky, tense feeling in their bodies, the agitation, and the annoyance show up. They may be unaware it’s too much until their body signals them.

In motherhood, it can feel like the needs of our children and others (especially the physical ones) push against our own needs – needs for calm, bodily autonomy, time, and self-care. When “touched out” happens, your body is saying that it needs a break from caretaking and to be taken care of.

Strategies for touched-out relief that work

  • Communicate with your partner.
  • Be clear about what you’re experiencing
  • Find ways to negotiate needs and get space.
  • Share the load.
  • Honor your need for space.
  • Practice meditation.
  • Find time to work out.
  • Connect with friends/family.
  • Take space when you need it.

In moments when space isn’t available

  • Give yourself compassion.
  • Label your feelings.
  • Acknowledge that it’s temporary.
  • Allow yourself to handle it.
  • Make space.*

*Making space with a baby could look like handing the baby off, putting the baby in a crib, go to the bathroom for some deep breaths. With toddlers, model the need for freedom to regulate emotions and come back to yourself.

Final thoughts on being touched out as a mom

Experiencing the feelings of being touched out as a new – or seasoned – mom is completely normal. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it’s easy to handle or navigate.

Now that you know more about these feelings, hopefully, you feel better equipped to give yourself compassion and be proactive about your needs the next time they arise.

Recommended resources on overwhelm in motherhood

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