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You can’t sense and stress at the same time…

Birth Preparation

Story by Director & Owner, Karen McClay

One of our biggest goals in the @Calmbirth Program is to give you and your partner tools to work with the challenges and stressors that can arise not only in labour but also parenting and your everyday life. So here is a quick and simple, but powerful tool to use whenever you may be feeling a little overwhelmed and stressed.

Have you ever noticed that you can’t sense and stress at the same time?

Just stop and think about it for a moment – you can’t sense and stress at the same time!

Better still try this… close you eyes and take your awareness to your breath. Feel what it feels like to breathe in and out through your nose, how your tummy rises on an in-breath and falls on an out breath. Or perhaps you would prefer to simply take your awareness to the smell of your coffee or to the feeling of your bottom on your chair or your feet on the floor? Where was your attention while you were doing this? Or better still… where wasn’t your attention??

Your mind and brain are incredible but they don’t like to multi-task when it isn’t necessary, and sensing and stressing at the same time is considered unnecessary. When you are stressed, or perhaps feeling anxious or overwhelmed, your amygdala, your body’s stress and fear center lights up activating your survival system, bringing with it those big emotions and the tendency to overthink and feel more anxious and overwhelmed.The interesting thing is that when you are aware this happening and you re-direct your attention to one or all of your senses, you anchor yourself into the here and now quietening and turning down your amygdala. Your senses act like a switch, grounding you and helping you to feel calmer and more in control, while turning down your stress response. And the more you do the more readily it helps with not only your immediate stress but over time your amygdala itself becomes less reactive to stress reducing your long-term stress and anxiety. 

That’s why this is a great tool to add to your tool box for labour and for your partner to add to his or her toolbox to support you because he/she can also re-direct your awareness to your senses if he/she sees that you are starting to feel a little overwhelmed also.

Let’s look at how you might do this in labour, remembering that this is not just for labour but anytime that you may need to feel a little calmer and grounded…

Your Sense of Touch

  • Notice your breath – this is Calmbirth’s biggest tool for birth so notice it – what does it feel to breathe your breath?
  • What position are you in? Notice your hands, your arms, your feet, your legs, your knees, your posture, your shoulders, your pelvic floor, your face and your mouth
  • Notice your partners and support teams touch
  • If you’re in a bath or shower how does the water feel on your body
  • Notice your baby – what are his or her movements, talk to him or her
  • What does the heat pack feel like?
  • What do the cold washes on your forehead feel like?
  • Rub your hands together
  • Notice the feel of the grass on your feet if you’re outside
  • How does that hug feel?


Your Sense of Hearing
Listen to:

  • Your music
  • Your breath
  • Your partners words of encouragement
  • Your baby’s heartbeat
  • The water of the bath or shower or even the toilet flushing
  • The sounds around you inside and outside

Hear your mantra

Your Sense of Smell
Take your awareness to the smell of:

  • The room
  • Your partner
  • Your aromatherapy
  • Your pillow
  • The smell of your garden

Your Sense of Sight (real or imagined)

  • Find a point in front of you and focus there
  • Notice a photo or picture, what is outside the window
  • Focus on your partner’s face
  • Go inwards and visualise your special place, your baby, and/or your body working as it opens

Your Sense of Taste

  • Notice the water or drink in your mouth or the ice crunching
  • Taste the barley sugar and feel it swirling in your mouth
  • Eat mindfully, noticing the taste and feel of each mouthful.

It is important to understand that the simplicity of bringing your awareness to your senses means that it can have an immediate effect even if you have not tried it before. However, like all that we teach in @Calmbirth, practice makes it stronger. So don’t wait for labour or a time when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. Start practicing now, each day, stopping what you are doing for a moment and bringing your awareness to a sense, noticing what it feels like. And the more you practice doing this the better you will get at doing it so that when you really need it, it will work beautifully for you.

What other ways can you think of to bring your awareness to your senses?

#calmbirth #reducestressinlabour  #toolsforlabourandbirth #senses #touch #taste #smell #sight #hearing


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