Women who ranked higher on a measure of self-compassion reported
that hot flashes interfered less with their daily lives than women
who were harder on themselves.
Many women experience hot flashes during menopause. The sudden
fluctuations in the body’s perceived temperature can interfere with
sleep and concentration.
Practicing self-compassion could be a free, simple way to combat the
disruption these symptoms often cause, the study’s authors say.
“It isn’t just the physiology of a hot flash that can be stressful.
It is also the thoughts, feelings and interpretations that surround
the experience,” said Lydia Brown. She led the study at the
University of Melbourne in Australia, where she is a doctoral
candidate in psychology.
During a hot flash or any other unpleasant event, thoughts can
easily begin to spiral downward. Yet, “If a woman can treat herself
with tenderness and friendliness in the moment of suffering from a
hot flash, the negative whirlwind cannot get a foothold,” Brown told
Reuters Health in an email.
She and her colleagues studied 206 women between 40 and 60 years old
who were currently going through or had completed menopause. They
were all experiencing night sweats and hot flashes.
Participants filled out a survey that measured on a scale from zero
to 10 the extent to which hot flashes interfered with their daily
activities such as work and socializing as well as relaxation and
For the self-compassion assessment, women rated on a scale from
“almost never” to “almost always” their responses to questions like,
“When I see aspects of my personality that I don’t like, I get down
on myself.” The assessment took into account mindfulness, kindness
toward oneself and judgment of oneself.
Finally, the researchers used another questionnaire to evaluate
women’s symptoms of depression.
Brown and her team found that the participants experienced an
average of about four hot flashes and night sweats per day. Not
surprisingly, the frequency of these symptoms was related to how
much they interfered with women’s daily lives. Of all facets of
life, hot flashes interfered with sleep the most.
However, women who had greater self-compassion had fewer symptoms of
depression, and their hot flashes were less disruptive than those of
women who reported less self-compassion.
[to top of second column]
The good news is that anyone can work on boosting self-compassion in
an effort to make hot flashes, night sweats or any other unpleasant
event more bearable. One of the main tenets of self-compassion is
kindness toward oneself when facing a challenge, Brown said.
For example, “In the midst of a hot flash, rather than thinking ‘oh
no, here we go again!’ a self-compassionate alternative would be to
think ‘it’s ok; I am there for you in this moment of suffering,”
Another key facet of self-compassion is mindfulness, which involves
being aware of what one is experiencing in the present moment in a
way that doesn’t peg a given emotion, sensation or event as good or
“With curiosity and a non-judgmental attitude, a woman could notice
the changing sensations that make up a hot flash,” Brown said.
“When the experience is broken down to its constituents through
mindfulness, it becomes less overwhelming, and so has less power to
interfere with daily life,” she said.
Self-compassion isn’t a cure-all. But the study suggests more
research should be done to “assess self-compassion training as an
alternative or adjunct training to (psychological) and
pharmacological treatments for hot flashes and night sweats,” the
authors write in the journal Maturitas. Such a practice has few
“While medical treatments can be costly, self-compassion is a
self-help strategy that can be applied to life at no cost,” Brown
SOURCE: bit.ly/1nMKarc Maturitas, online May 29, 2014.
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