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Discussion with with Lynn

A Q&A on Mindfulness and Being a new Mum

Valleys Steps caught up with Associate Practitioner Lynn Rodgerson to have a Q&A session about anxiety new mums may feel in the first year of motherhood.

VS: Hi Lynn, thanks for taking time to chat to us, I am aware you are passionate about perinatal mental health, can you give us a little insight into your experience?

Lynn: I?ve been a practicing Mental Health Nurse for 38 years mainly in the community and other settings.I held the post of Clinical Nurse Specialist Perinatal Mental Health in 2016 for 2 years, providing care to women, their babies and families across Cwm Taf UHB. I?ve had experience in a variety of mental health settings and helped to deliver the Mindfulness for Everyday course prior to Valleys Steps being set up. I am passionate about Mindfulness and practice myself. 

VS: So what have you noticed in your work with new mums?

Lynn: There appears to be a lot anxiety during the first year of motherhood, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety than men, 1 in 5 women develop some form of mental health problem during their pregnancy or in the first year following the birth of their baby, 13% of women can be affected by anxiety during pregnancy and/or in the first year following the birth of their baby. Many mums worry and that is normal  but there is a difference between worry and anxiety.

VS: So what is the difference between worry & anxiety?

Lynn: Worry is usually initiated by real life events and might prompt you to do something about it, you are able to think rationally about your concerns and once the event has passed the worry subsides. Anxiety is harder to control and more likely to impact your quality of life. It might come with physical symptoms and often includes lots of over thinking.If worry remains unchecked it may progress into anxiety. Anxiety is definitely worth addressing, regardless of how much it impacts you.

VS: So what can new mums do about Anxiety?

Lynn: Understanding anxiety and learning simple techniques to lessen anxiety is very beneficial to reduce the impact it can have on yourself and motherhood. As mums, you are sold the belief that you can do it all, however the reality is that mums can feel that they are running on a treadmill with the speed set too high for their legs! 

VS: So knowledge about anxiety is a great starting point to start managing it?

Lynn: Yes, then ask yourself what coping mechanisms you have and do they help. Mums are good at putting on a brave face and also at comparing themselves to others e.g. “she is doing a better job than me “. We often use comparison to validate and/or shut down our feelings. Sometimes keeping busy helps to drown out anxiety, to distract ourselves and we fear that if we slow down the feelings of anxiety will overwhelm us. It?s important to pay attention to the things which put your body under stress e.g. dehydration,  hunger, exhaustion and sleep deprivation which are all common states when you have a young baby.

VS: So self-care, compassion and kindness towards yourself  is very important?

Lynn: Of course, when we?re anxious we isolate and avoid to protect ourselves from the world which might cause us to feel uncomfortable. Anxiety can affect our self esteem and self worth and we can be quite self critical and judging, this is where the compassion and kindness towards ourselves comes in. As a busy mum sometimes you may find that you are running on empty, it is like when the red fuel light comes on in your car, we have a choice to refuel or grind to a halt so maybe we need to slow down and refuel. 

VS: Have you got any other tips for new mums?

Lynn: Yes, try to stick to your usual routine of getting showered, brushing your teeth and getting dressed. Go out for a walk, meet a friend and/or a friend with a baby too, read and of course my favourite, meditate. Shallow breathing and breath holding are common reactions to stress and anxiety so breathing exercises can really help and tell our physical stress response to back down and let our body know that everything is okay. 

VS: If there was one tip that is practical and useful for anxiety what would you suggest?

Lynn: The 5,4,3,2,1 method – 

Name 5 things you can see 

Name 4 things you can touch

Name 3 things you can hear

Name 2 things you can smell

Name 1 thing you can taste

This grounds you in the present moment and takes your attention to external cues, and reduces the overwhelming feelings of anxiety.

VS: Finally Lynn, are there any books you would recommend?

Lynn: ‘ Mind over Mother  ‘,  Every mum’s guide to worry and anxiety in the first year by Anna Mather 

Mindfulness for Mum’s by Izzy Judd

VS: Thanks Lynn.

By Lynn Rodgerson

Course Wellbeing Practitioner