While pregnancy itself includes by it’s very nature several physical and emotional stressors, many Americans live very stressed lives, including many pregnant women. Stress over things like the economy and personal finance causes many people to experience physical and psychological reactions.1 As a pregnant woman already may have issues with things like headaches, dizziness, moodiness, insomnia, and similar problems, the last thing she needs is to have them multiplied by outside stressors.
Unfortunately for all of us, we don’t always have control over stressful circumstances. So what can a woman do to alleviate some of the stresses of pregnancy (and life)?
Change what you can, accept what you can’t.
Stoicism is sometimes undervalued. A person can spend years trying to change what they know they cannot fix (an alcoholic relative, a traumatic past experience), essentially choosing to take on stress that they could avoid. Humans are not all powerful…some things we cannot change no matter how hard we try. Those things are best set aside and left behind.
Optimism can’t change a circumstance, but it can certainly help us feel better about some things. Making a habit of acknowledging “This stinks” but then going further to look at what might be learned from the stinky circumstance, or what good thing might not have happened if not for this bad situation can help to keep a negative, stress-inducing mindset at pay. A positive mindset plays a big part in overall emotional health. 2
Go for rationalism.
Stressful situations can get overwhelming. Added to the physical and emotional stresses of pregnancy, they can be freak-out material. When these feelings arise, think them through. So the economy is bad, is it really the end of the world or does it just feel like it? Your income is down and you’ve got a baby on the way. That’s a stressor, but are there solutions? Is it always going to be down? If you have to live very frugally is it going to kill you? Are you in danger of finding yourself roaming in the wilderness eating locusts for sustenance?
It’s natural for feelings of sadness or fear to arise in difficult situations. The idea is not to stuff those feelings. Acknowledge them, feel them, but avoid letting them rule your reactions to such situations.
Start Healthy Habits
Many activities already recommended for a healthy pregnancy are also known to relieve the effects of stress. Moderate exercise is great for pregnant women (with exceptions related to high-risk pregnancies, naturally) and it also releases the “feel good” endorphins that help us relax and feel…well, good.3 Swimming, in particular, may be a wonderful stress-relieving exercise for pregnant women, as being immersed in water often works to relieve the physical stressors of pregnancy, like swelling, aches and pains, and muscle tension. Other exercises such as yoga or tai chi can help with both physical and emotional stress during pregnancy. Likewise, things recommended for pregnant women to avoid are also in the list of things to avoid when trying to reduce stress. Caffiene, for instance, should only be taken in moderation during pregnancy, and also is known to increase unpleasant physical and psychological responses to stress.
Take the Time
In the pell-mell pace of life, don’t forget to take the time–or make the time–for a little quiet. Turn off the TV, listen to some quiet music, or nothing at all. Read a good book. Dig in the garden. Sit on the porch with a glass of lemonade. Write a letter to your soon-to-be-born baby. Think of something you know would lower your heart-rate and let your mind stop racing for a little while. Then do it. Regularly.
The list of things to do in order to reduce stress can seem overwhelming, and perhaps a little stressful in itself. While stress doesn’t make your life or your pregnancy easier, it’s unlikely to kill you. Even if you take a little bit here and there from the ideas presented, you are helping yourself. You don’t need to try to accomplish all of them all at once. Do this a little at a time. What’s most important is to seek out the time to relax and activities that will soothe your body and mind, whatever they may be.
1APA: One-third of Americans Live With Extreme Stress, Foxnews.com
2Positive Thinking: Reduce Stress, enjoy life more, Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayoclinic.com
3Exercise: Rev up your routine to reduce stress, Mayo Clinic Staff, Mayoclinic.com
4Caffeine Drinks: Pros, Cons of the Caffeine Craze, Kathleen Doheny, Webmd.com