Try a little self-kindness: help for stressed-out new mums

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It’s 3am, the baby’s been crying for hours, your partner’s on night shift, no one’s going to appreciate a phone call at this hour for help.

You feel you could lose your mind: “This wouldn’t happen to those mothers on YouTube with their no-fail ways to get baby to sleep”; “the playgroup mothers’ babies sleep through the night”.

On it goes as you beat yourself up about your mothering.

“That’s exactly when you should give yourself a dose of self-compassion,” says QUT doctoral researcher Nicole Flanagan from QUT’s School of Psychology and Counselling who has developed a workshop series for new mothers.

She is seeking women who have given birth in the past 12 months to trial the four one-hour workshops and learn how to apply kindness to themselves to improve their health and wellbeing without medication.

“Self-kindness means treating yourself with kindness and respect, especially during tough times. In this situation, the mum could say to herself ‘this is a moment of suffering and I will get through this’.

“She should stop comparing herself to other mothers or ‘supermums’ in the media and accept she is doing the best she can.

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“With self-kindness you remind yourself that everyone has challenging times and that they get through it.”

Ms Flanagan said self-kindness was a burgeoning field of research with evidence-based techniques for promoting positive mental health.

“Practising self-kindness in stressful situations has been found to reduce release of the stress hormone cortisol and increase the level of the ‘feel-good’ one, oxytocin,” she said.

“This is not surprising because it takes energy to put yourself down and feel miserable. People have reported finding strength when they needed it by being self-compassionate.

“Research evidence shows that self-kindness actually spurs you on to greater things, rather than being demotivating. You look at your achievements instead of criticising or comparing yourself to others.”

Ms Flanagan said although there had been a lot of research on enhancing wellbeing and self-kindness, little had been done on new mothers.

“We all know that the first year of a baby’s life is particularly challenging for parents and the changes inherent in pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood are profound, especially for perfectionistic or self-critical women.

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“Most mothers are loathe to take medications during this time, and are much more likely to seek support if it is brief and non-pharmacological.

“Despite the large body of evidence clearly showing the benefits of self-kindness, little research exploring its impact has been done on new mothers.”

(Source: Queensland University of Technology)

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Date Created: April 29, 2015 Date Modified: May 2, 2015