Have you ever heard of Roger Bannister? He was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. Prior to his success, sports journalists had us convinced that it couldn’t be done. Whether or not you believe that athletes would have reached this barrier eventually, it’s no surprise that Bannister’s attitude towards the feat was one of positivity. If we believe that we will be successful in something, we are more likely to work hard to make it happen. And if we feel like we are going to fail, our actions correspond accordingly. Bannister visualised himself breaking the barrier and used positive affirmations to reinforce the idea that he could do it and ultimately this mindset helped him to succeed.

So, how can our mindset affect childbirth and our careers and what can we do about it? Here’s how to power success in career & childbirth.

The mind is like an iceberg

This might sound a bit odd, but stick with me here. The mind can be separated into two parts, the conscious and the unconscious mind. Our conscious mind is the rational part of our brain. It’s the part of our brain where we make decisions and it is the bit that we are aware of. Our unconscious mind is much bigger, like the iceberg hiding under the water. It is the bit that we are not aware of and it controls our emotions and reactions and it stores a backlog of messages, experiences and information that we may or may not remember. To power success in career & childbirth, we need to
a pregnant woman in a dress standing in a field holding her bump.

The messages we tell ourselves

We are often our own worst critics and this could be said for both our personal and professional lives. How often do you tell yourself that you’re not capable of something or that something that you’ve done is not good enough? This can cause real blocks when it comes to progression at work. And if you tell yourself that you’re not going to be able to birth your baby, then you’ll be going into labour already two steps behind.

These messages go into that back-catalogue and get filed away by your unconscious mind and they will come back to haunt you when you’re feeling at your lowest and most vulnerable. When it comes to childbirth, we also have the added issue of the horror stories that women love to recant about their friend, sister or next-door neighbour whose labour lasted an ungodly amount of hours and ended in an unplanned c-section. These stories, as well as dramatized programmes like One Born Every Minute add to the idea that labour is something to fear. It’s these ideas stored away in the depths of our minds mean that when the big day arrives, our body becomes tense and works against us, making labour that painful experience we’ve been expecting.

What can we do to help?

Workplace

Negative messages

In the workplace, we can write down those negative messages we tell ourselves. Become aware of them and think about whether it’s true. Is this something you would say to a colleague or friend if they were in that position? Instead, what is a more positive message that you can tell yourself? Write that down and look at it every time that negative thought surfaces. It should always be done using an affirmative sentence, avoiding using negative words like not.

Feedback

Ask people for feedback. If you’ve worked closely with someone, ask them for feedback. Chances are, they’ll view your work far more positively than you do.

Write a journal

Make a note of your achievements and set out your goals. This will help you to see your progress and act as a form of encouragement when you see how far you’ve come. Using it to set realistic goals and write them down will help to keep you focused and understand what you want from your professional career. Additionally, you can use it to keep track of those negative thoughts we talked about before.

Childbirth

Scare Stories

Don’t watch or listen to horror stories – they will only reinforce the idea that childbirth is something to fear!

Read, watch or listen to positive birth stories. These can be found on social media, blogs, books and YouTube. The more positive birth plans and birth stories you read, the more you will believe that birth can be a positive experience.

Prepare and plan

You may often hear people saying that they didn’t bother with a birth plan because it all goes out the window anyway. This is the worst thing you can do! Writing a birth plan helps you research your options and prepare for every outcome. Look at scenario A, scenario B and even scenario C. Think about what choices you might come across in each scenario and talk about it with your birth partner so that they can advocate for you when the time comes.

Work and Birth

There are a few things that can be used to help your mindset in both your birth plan and work.

Visualisation

Going back to Roger Bannister, he frequently imagined himself running that mile in under four minutes, picturing the crowd cheering and the feeling as he crossed the finish line. You can use this too. Do you have a job interview coming up? Or perhaps a presentation with senior stakeholders? Don’t just practise it, imagine yourself giving that presentation and being full of confidence while doing so. You can also do this with your birth plan; imagine yourself having the calm birth you want. Think about what the room will look like and how it might smell. Our brains can’t tell the difference between real memories and imagined ones so the more you do this, the more confident you will feel as it will seem like it has already happened. The same can be said for nerves and excitement; they are two very similar emotions. It’s down to you to convince yourself you are excited about something rather than nervous. If you can master this, then that interview, presentation or even childbirth will go a lot more smoothly.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations can be a powerful tool for improving your mindset, boosting self-confidence, and fostering a positive outlook on all aspects life. A few examples could be:

I am a valuable asset for my team.

I am capable of any task that comes my way.

Birth is an empowering and wonderful experience.

Affirmations should always be written in the present tense and be written in the affirmative. You should choose affirmations that resonate with you, repeat them regularly and believe in what you’re saying. We need to hear these positive messages again and again to believe them. It can be helpful to put them somewhere you will see them regularly, for example on your desk, in the cupboard where you keep the coffee or as a wallpaper on your phone.

A woman working at her desk Powering Success in Career & Childbirth while holding a hot drinkMindfulness

Practising mindfulness can have many benefits at work, at home and in childbirth. Practising mindfulness encourages you to develop an awareness of your body and your feelings by bringing your attention to the present moment. Meditation and yoga are types of mindfulness but even activities like going for a walk and being aware of your surroundings is a form of mindfulness. Practising it has been shown to reduce stress, increase resilience and improve performance in various areas of life.

Finally, be kind to yourself. Whether it’s at work, at home or during pregnancy and childbirth take a moment to notice how you treat yourself and change the narrative to a more positive one.

 

Fiona Deans (née Robertson) is a hypnobirthing and antenatal teacher and Junior Delivery Manager at the University of Warwick. She took part in our Springboard programme in 2020. You can check her out on Facebook or Instagram at Fiona Deans Hypnobirthing or visit her website www.fionadeans.com