by Clinical Psychologist, Deborah Golend
Life’s experiences can knock our confidence. Difficult times such as bereavements often make us feel more vulnerable and uncertain. But adapting to positive life stages can be just as hard. For new mums returning to work, confidence can be a particularly challenging issue.
Many women talk about ‘brain fog’. Or arriving at a meeting to find not the agenda, but Thomas the Tank Engine in your briefcase. The practical and emotional juggling involved in returning to work can cause anxiety and doubts about your decisions. Have I made the right childcare provision? Will I remember what to do? Will I still be accepted in the team? Can I cope with the new demands?
Why does confidence take a beating at this time?
During the early months with your baby, your body’s nervous system is on heightened alert. An evolutionary alarm mechanism is switched on to ensure our baby’s survival. We are in a hyper vigilant state looking out for potential dangers/predators. However, if this alarm stays switched on we can become exhausted and burnout. Traditionally, the extended family/community protected us from burnout, by sharing the physical and emotional load. But in our modern world, this protection is often lacking.
In fact becoming a parent and changing family dynamics can often create more tensions. Old wounds from your own childhood can surface. Media images of ‘the perfect mother’ can unleash a harsh inner voice that demands perfection and is critical when we fall short. Throw fluctuating hormones, irregular sleep/appetite patterns into the mix, and is it any wonder our return to (often male dominated) workplaces lowers our confidence?
What can we do to help overcome these issues?
Neuroscience offers us a new way of tackling this issue. Put simply, our brain chemistry and neural activity can change depending on our experiences. If we adapt our experiences correctly, we can influence some of the neurotransmitters that allow confidence to flourish.
Examples of these are Serotonin, which calms the nervous system, Oxytocin which help us bond and connect with others and Dopamine which allows us to explore and take risks. These adaptations can be very simple such as thinking positively, reducing stimulating foods such as caffeine, or changing our posture but can have a profound effect. Many psychological techniques used within mindfulness-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other trauma therapies also weaken neural pathways that lead to anxious and critical states and strengthen the neural pathways that lead to more positive and compassionate states of being.
Confidence boosting techniques
MeUnlimited’s workshops, run by Clinical Psychologist Deborah Golend, teach these techniques in a comprehensive way to help you approach your return to work with confidence.
In the meantime, the following tips can help:
- Look out for your inner critic and practice talking to yourself like your best friend instead.
- Pick one daily activity such as brushing your teeth and do this mindfully, staying present with the experience, paying close attention to the smells, textures, sounds and sensations.
- Keep a gratitude diary, writing down 3 things each day for which you are grateful.
- Make one change to your diet, cutting out sugar or reducing caffeine.
- Practice sitting up and smiling before making an important phone call and notice the change in how you feel.
- Increase your physical activity, join a yoga class, take regular walks.
You can find out more information or book a MeUnlimited workshop here: www.meunlimited.org/meunlimited-locale