Reducing Stress in Pregnancy
During pregnancy, we tend to focus on taking care of ourselves and being as healthy as we can be. We try to eat a nutritious diet, get a little more sleep and make sure we avoid things that may be unhealthy for us and our baby, but one thing that we sometimes forget to do is deal with the stress that has a way of creeping up in our daily lives. The little annoyances, like traffic or a long “to do” list and the big things, like relationships or finances, can affect our health in very negative ways and can have harmful results during pregnancy. Sometimes we are able to remove ourselves from the circumstances that are causing stress, but other times we have to work through these situations. But don't let this article stress you out; we have some suggestions for ways to minimize stress and ideas for dealing with unavoidable stress during pregnancy and beyond.
Identify the sources of stress. We often feel stressed when events or circumstances feel too much for us to handle or when we are fearful of something that may or may not happen. Think carefully about the biggest sources of stress in your life. What are they and what specifically is stressful about them? Having a better understanding of your stressors will help guide you to the right management techniques.
Stay away from avoidable sources of stress. Just like we are drawn to gawk at a car wreck on the side of the road, we can be drawn to dramatic situations by our curiosity or our desire to help. Sometimes it is better to walk away or politely decline to join situations that may be adding to our stress. This includes family affairs, social situations, workplace gossip, websites or groups/chats, and TV shows. Consider how you feel after spending time in these situations and when you can, reduce your exposure to situations that leave you feeling uneasy or stressed.
Sometimes less is more. We can become very stressed when we take on too much. Maybe your “to-do” list has 300 things that you must get done before baby arrives or your work is piling on extra projects to complete before your maternity leave begins. Even just trying to be healthier by eating better or exercising can bring on more stress if we try to do too much or if we have unrealistic expectations. You will never have the “perfect” diet, exercise routine or life. What you can do is try your best and be happy while doing so. Are there things you can cut back on or eliminate from your life that can help reduce your stress?
Focus on the positive. We can get stressed if we focus on the “what ifs” and the negative aspects of a situation, but we can change our thinking completely by focusing on the positive. What are you learning from this situation? What can you be grateful for as a result of this situation?
Do what you can do. This isn’t a license to slack off, continue to endure stressful situations or maintain unhealthy habits, but sometimes a few changes or minor achievements are more attainable than a complete lifestyle overhaul. Say “no” or “not now” to an extra project, walk up a few flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator, or set aside one hour per week for yourself to just relax. Be proud of yourself for making these minor changes and you just might be inspired to do a little more each week/month. What one or two small changes can you start to do right now to reduce your stress and improve your health?
Ask for help. Pregnancy is not an illness, but sometimes we have to accept that we can’t do everything we used to do. Perhaps you can ask your partner or a family member to take on a few additional responsibilities so that you have time for self-care or you hire a house cleaner or laundry service to help. Maybe you swap childcare with your neighbor for a few hours each week or ask your supervisor for modifications to your work schedule or duties. And/or you adjust your expectations for what you can comfortably manage while pregnant. Who can you ask for help?
Practice self-care. As they say when you fly in an airplane “put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others.” You will not be at your best unless you take care of yourself. There are many cope with stress, but most require your undivided time and effort. Get as much sleep as you need by taking naps during the day or going to bed an hour earlier than you normally do. Set aside time to unwind with your favorite activity, such as taking a bath, listening to soothing music, meditating or journaling. Make time for exercise/yoga/massage or any other physical practice that makes you feel better, releases endorphins and loosens your muscles. Or spend time focusing on your breathing and take deep, slow, relaxed breaths as you feel your body and mind unwind. What self-care technique will you do this week?
Remember that taking care of yourself is just not for pregnancy. Stress is unhealthy for anyone. Continue to work on reducing stress and treating yourself kindly after the baby is born. A mom who takes care of herself, eats well, exercises and takes time to unwind will have a happier, healthier life.
What helps you cope with stress? Add your comments below!
For more information on stress during pregnancy, visit Medicinenet.com.
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