Conquering parental stress with mindfulness

ANI | Updated: Nov 03, 2017 09:29 IST

Conquering parental stress with mindfulness .

Washington D C [USA], Nov 3 (ANI): As the mother of a newborn diagnosed with congenital heart disease (CHD), life may be filled with emotional ups and downs . According to a recent study, mindfulness may offer an active coping mechanism .

Mindfulness, which aims to increase a person's awareness and acceptance of daily experiences, is currently used in a variety of healthcare settings as a potentially effective skill for stress reduction, emotion, affect and attention regulation .

A team of nurse-researchers from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing) gathered perspectives on coping mechanisms from focus groups with 14 mothers of critically ill infants, and explored the feasibility of mindfulness as a stress-reduction technique .

"Mothers of infants with complex congenital heart disease are exposed to increased stress, which has been associated with numerous adverse outcomes," said principal investigator Barbara Medoff-Cooper . "The coping mechanisms these mothers use critically impacts the family's adaptation to the illness, and most likely infant outcomes as well ."

"Thus far, parental interventions in the CICU generally are informative or educational, aiming to increase parental abilities to actively manage the caretaking demands of an infant with CHD," said lead author Nadya Golfenshtein . "Mindfulness can be a helpful tool that assists mothers during an incredibly stressful time for them, and for their family by allowing them to pause and be present in the moment rather than wishing something different was happening or worrying about tomorrow ."

The researchers collected data during focus groups between July 2015 and March 2016 . The sessions included a short introduction to mindfulness as a stress reduction intervention, led by a moderator who is a psychotherapist experienced in group formats .

After experiencing a brief guided session of mindfulness in a focus group, one mother said, "Most meditation is about clear your mind and lose focus, but this is to focus on now . I think it works for me, I was never able to do the clear mind thing . This is more accessible to me ." Another noted, "This is something I'm doing for myself, remembering I'm part of this too . Sometimes you are on autopilot, making sure everyone else is ok . Yes, this is a moment when I'm doing something for myself ."

The mothers agreed that mindfulness should start early, preferably immediately after the prenatal CHD diagnosis . That way, they felt, that they would have time to learn and practice the skill by the time the baby is born . There was also a general agreement that the worst time to begin the practice is around surgery, as that is an overwhelming time and mothers are too busy to learn a new skill . The mothers preferred engaging in mindfulness in a private, quiet room as the sounds of the CICU stress them and may prevent them from relaxing .

"We hope to design a program that draws from these findings and more research on mindfulness meditation is needed in a larger cohort of mothers," added Golfenshtein .

The study is published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing . (ANI)

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