Just as what you eat during pregnancy affects your unborn child, so does stress and anxiety. In fact, studies have shown that stress during pregnancy does indeed have negative effects, not only on your baby, but you as well.
Stress is a part of life. We experience stress whether we’re pregnant or not. We’re going to experience stress in a variety of situations in life; work, school, commitments and deadlines. It’s unavoidable. However, learning to control the effects stress has on you is very possible, and not as difficult as we might think. Much of not letting stress get the best of you is your attitude and perspective on things, which we’ll talk about later. But there are other factors that play a vital role in handling stress and anxiety.
I use the word nutrition here because when one hears the word “diet,” it’s automatically associated with weight loss. That’s not what we’re focusing on here. We’re focusing on nutrition. Without good nutrition, we’re not going to be healthy. Being healthy is important at all times, but much more important when you’re pregnant. Lack of good nutrition can not only lead to a wide group of health problems, but low energy as well. Low energy, in turn, can result in feeling stress and anxiety because you’re simply too tired to get things accomplished. You’re going to have times of feeling tired any way, simply because you’re pregnant. Don’t add to it with poor nutrition.
There are so many wonderful foods today that give us energy along with much-needed vitamins and nutrients. You may encounter foods that provide us with energy that you enjoyed pre-pregnancy that now may upset your stomach or give you heartburn, so replace those with energy-packed foods that don’t. Common sense will tell you what foods are good for your during pregnancy and what aren’t. This doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in your cravings from time-to-time. Go right ahead! But don’t make them the mainstay of your nutritional source. Balance things out between all the food groups.
Sleep & Rest
Never is a good night’s sleep and restorative rest more important than during your pregnancy. However, many of us find that just as we’re ready for bed and a nap, our minds start spinning with the grocery list, honey-do list, obligations, commitments, etc. This robs you from the rest and sleep that you need.
This ties in with the attitude I mentioned earlier. Training your mind to accept things we cannot change is a step toward curing the spinning mind as we try to rest. This may take time, but it’s certainly very doable.
If you find yourself having a hard time falling asleep at night, plan on soaking in a warm bath about 45 minutes before bedtime. Dim the bathroom lights and fire up a few candles. Sip on a cup of warm tea. Close your eyes and breathe calmly and deeply. Or read a pleasant book while soaking. If you schedule doesn’t allow time for soaking, you can still develop a routine that fits your lifestyle to help you slow down for bed time.
The deep breathing I mentioned earlier is an instant stress-reliever, and a technique I use often in my every day life. Something about getting all the fresh oxygen deep into your lungs and then into your bloodstream just has such a great calming effect. Pregnant or not, this is a sure-fire stress buster.
A little white noise in your bedroom may help as well. I sleep with a fan running every night, and the gently whir lulls me to sleep quickly. I listen to the white noise instead of thinking about the events of the day or what I’ve got to do tomorrow.
Taking naps during the day is a must for some pregnant women. Being pregnant requires extra energy and can wear a person out quickly. Find a nap routine that’s best for your lifestyle. Perhaps it’s best for you to take two or three cat naps a day, of 20 to 30 minutes each. Or if it fits your lifestyle better, perhaps one nap lasting an hour to 1 ½ hours. Make naps a concrete part of your schedule, like a doctors appointment or a meeting would be. You can even write naps down in your planner. That rest time during the day will help your body restore itself so by 6 p.m., you’re not dragging.
Exercising while pregnant should only and always be done under your doctors supervision. Each and every pregnancy is different, and even if you used to be a triathlon before pregnancy, it’s vital you talk to you doctor first before continuing or beginning any exercise when pregnant.
Walking is the number one exercise in America. It gets your blood flowing, gets your heart pumping, and is good for bones and muscles. It’s relaxing as well. Choose to walk in pleasant places where there’s plenty to see, like the park or a somewhat level hiking trail (you don’t need to be climbing mountains!). Parks and trails are typically quiet and peaceful, and nature is the most beautiful thing to look at. Walking will also keep those muscles used during pregnancy and delivery strong and tone.
I consider the deep breathing mentioned earlier to be an exercise. Sitting quietly, with no distractions, and doing a few moments of deep breathing gets the blood full of oxygen. Deep breathing before a walk is good, too.
Yoga is another gently for of exercising, and you don’t need to spend money on a class. Many television channels have programs showing yoga, and the library has videos and books on yoga exercises. You don’t have to be able to bend like a pretzel and be stick thin to enjoy and benefit from yoga.
Exercise energizes you and gets your heart beating, blood flowing and oxygen into your system. All very beneficial! The best part of all: studies have shown that exercise is a great stress-reducer.
Again, talking to your doctor before any exercise if key, even if you just plan on walking.
I believe that attitude is the number one way to rid yourself of stress. There is great merit to “mind over matter,” although sadly, many people don’t give their mind enough credit when it comes to controlling how outside influences effect them.
One of the best ways to help reduce stress in your life, pregnant or not, is to rid your life of toxic people. Toxic people are those who complain about everything. They look at things negatively and verbalize their negative feelings. Even if you’re typically a very positive person, negative people, a/k/a toxic people, will affect you and you may not even realize it until it’s too late.
Ridding your life completely of toxic people may not be possible, especially if one of those toxic people are your co-worker or neighbor. But choosing how to allow their negatively to affect you is, essentially, your decision. Let their negativity remain their problem, don’t make it theirs. And it is, indeed, their problem that they need to work on. You are not their problem solver.
Focus on your blessings in your life. Strive to maintain your positive attitude, and let that attitude come out even when dealing the negative people. Instead of permitting their negative attitude rub off on you, do what you can to see that your positive attitude rubs off on them.
Your Support System
A support system is vital to all of us, pregnant or not. We need to know someone will be there to help out when we’re exhausted, or sick, or just need to vent. Finding a support system during pregnancy is a must. Single or married, there is a system out there for you.
You may find support through your church family, or your work family. Perhaps people in your neighborhood are ones you know well enough and feel comfortable with to call on when you need help. By help, I mean everything from lawn care to grocery shopping, to a shoulder to cry on when you’re bawling during a movie.
Don’t be afraid to ask, and then make it clear exactly what you need. Your support system can’t read your mind. Tell them what you need. Remember to not ask for more than what they would ask you, and offer some form of reimbursement after you’ve had your baby and have plenty of time to rest afterward. Maybe someone from your support system would be willing to prepare one meal a week for you, just to give you a bit of a break. If so, offer to do the same beginning when your baby is six months old, or a year old. Ask your support system to give you a quick call before they do their own grocery shopping in case you need anything. They’re going anyway, so it’s not as if they’ll be making a special trip.
Don’t ever feel bad about developing a support system and then using that system. You’d do the same for them. Knowing that your support system is there and delegating some work and chores to them will greatly reduce stress and anxiety.
If you work outside the home, consider talking to your employer about a reduced work load. This may not be necessary early in your pregnancy, but might be later on. Perhaps there’s some work you could do from home. If not, maybe you could start working a four-day week, then later on cutting down to a three-day week. If the budget is tight, asking for some work-from-home days would be the best option.
Focus On You
A lot of people need you and depend on you. During your pregnancy, you need to make it clear to those people that right now, the focus is on you and your baby. Explain to them that some of the things you used to do, you simply won’t be able to. At least not during your pregnancy. Learning to sometimes be a “no” person will help you avoid taking on too much, which can really stress you out. Avoiding overextending yourself will also keep anxiety at bay. A lot changes during your pregnancy, and so should your commitments.
This time is about you and your baby, and doing what’s best for both of you. Keeping stress and anxiety at bay is just as important as regularly visiting your doctor. There is nothing selfish about putting yourself and your baby first.
Relax, indulge, exercise, eat properly, avoid negative people and situations, and reach out to others.