Expecting a bundle of joy is one of the most exciting times of your life but all of this change can also bring with it unwanted stress and anxiety. It is very important to keep stress and anxiety in check when you are pregnant because you don’t want your little one to be negatively impacted in any way.
If you suffer with anxiety prior to pregnancy like I did you may find that some of your coping mechanisms such as certain medications are no longer an option. So what’s the good news?
There are many ways to manage stress and anxiety naturally that in my experience work much better than medication long term and can continue to be useful tools postpartum and long after as well.
One of the best things you can do to manage stress and anxiety is to have a self care plan. The things listed in this article are part of mine and I hope they help you form one of your own!
Know Your Triggers.
The first step is to try to recognize what your triggers are. What were you eating, doing, watching or who were you talking to when your stress or anxiety came on? Take note of what brought the feelings on and plan accordingly. Learn to reduce and avoid triggers when possible. We all know that avoiding triggers isn’t always an option but, knowing and preparing yourself to face them can help.
Know Your Comforts.
Learn what soothes you. Everyone has a happy place! Is yours a book? A warm (not hot) bath? A back rub from your babe? Soothing music? Find what you like and do it regularly. Daily even! It’s not selfish! Caring for yourself is part of caring for others and having a healthy pregnancy.
You don’t need to pump iron or run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise for both body and mind while pregnant! A short walk or gentle yoga flow can regulate your blood pressure, release serotonin, keeps your expanding body loose, and does wonders to clear your mind.
There is a reason the lady on the last flight you took had an “emotional support animal”. Though they can’t verbally communicate animals provide companionship when you may be home alone or on bed rest, relieve stress through petting and snuggling, and can be used to ground you when your anxiety starts to take over (more on that below). Read our adoption story and how my dog helped me through my last pregnancy here.
So many of us suffer from vitamin D deficiency and don’t even know it! An estimated 40%-60% of the entire U.S. population is deficient! Especially in the winter and colder climates with less sunshine. Vitamin D cannot only support your mood but is also important for healthy bone development in your baby. There are few foods that contain vitamin D in comparison to other vitamins. The average prenatal vitamin oftentimes doesn’t provide enough so talk to your doctor about supplementation.
We all know a healthy diet is best but, sometimes food can become an unhealthy coping mechanism (Hi! Stress eater over here!). We can reach for sugar when we feel stressed for that serotonin release. I wouldn’t dream of denying a pregnant woman a cookie but make sure your snacking comes from hunger and isn’t being used as an emotional crutch. If you feel yourself bingeing stop and assess how you are feeling. The sugar rush might help at the moment but, it won’t solve any emotional issues you may be having.
Talk to your partner.
You’re in this together! Tell him how you feel and let him be the glue to hold you together. I know my husband is #1 on my list when I need to vent. There will be many challenges to face throughout life and parenthood and knowing you have him to lean on can be the reassurance you need to keep moving forward.
Talk to your Doctor or Midwife.
If your stress and anxiety is becoming overwhelming there is no shame in counseling. Having someone to talk to can be helpful and a professional with an unbiased, outsider’s point of view can give you a hand in recognizing the reasons for your stress and anxiety, provide you with healthy coping mechanisms and can create a self care plan tailor made for you!
Growing a baby is a 24 hour 7 day a week process but unless you are very lucky it probably isn’t all you have to do! Just say no to the extra chores, extra commitments, and extra activities that you don’t have the energy for. Take time off of work if you need it. Ask your friends to excuse your absence and ask your family to pick up your slack! You can resume your Super Woman ways in a few months.
Do it early, often and while you can! Once baby is here you will wish you took advantage of a midday nap when the house was quiet. For me sleep has always been easier said than done. Pregnancy insomnia is as real as any other lovely symptom and can really stress you out. If you feel yourself tossing and turning don’t freak! Do a calming activity like reading or listening to music until your sleepy again. Avoid the blue light of your TV or phone screen as it can be stimulating and can wake you up instead of soothe you back to sleep.
This is by far the best tool in my self-care arsenal! Peter 1: 5-7 says Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. God is always there and wants us to come to him with our every need, no prayer is too small! Place it all into his hands! Pray for you and your baby’s health, your baby’s future, your marriage, ask God to bless your delivery and motherhood journey, and medicate on scripture. For me, knowing that I could rely on God and witnessing his faithfulness built my trust in him. Read my post here about how my faith helped me overcome my anxiety.
But what if I panic?
Panic attacks are a physical response to stress and anxiety. Your heart starts pounding, your chest gets tight, or your hands could sweat or tingle. Over the years I have been able to feel them coming on and developed some techniques for escaping their grasp.
- Sit Down! If you feel light headed, sit down! We don’t want any falls when we’re carrying precious cargo!
- Breathe! This is the best way to get your heart rate to return to normal. Take full breaths in and out. Practice rhythmic, calming breathing techniques and use what you learn during attacks.
- Ground Yourself! Find a familiar item around you and focus on it. Count the fan blades or floor tiles, go pet your dog or cat, find a family member or call a friend. Distract yourself from your anxiety by occupying your mind with something other than your trigger.
- Talk to Yourself! Panic attacks can put you into a spiral of irrational fear. Find a mantra, something as simple as “It’s going to be okay” can help you remember that everything is okay.
- Get Help! If you feel out of control do not hesitate to call for help!
Share your self-care plan and some of your techniques for managing stress and anxiety below!
Wishing you health and happiness!
*This information comes from my own experiences. I am not a medical professional. Please check with your doctor before starting any supplementation or exercise program!
Photos by: Jessica Dantowitz