Managing Stress and Anxiety During Pregnancy

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.

Exercise.*

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.

Pets.

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.

Vitamin D.*

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.

Diet.

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!

Say No!

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.

Sleep.

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.

Pray.

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.

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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.

  1. Sit Down! If you feel light headed, sit down! We don’t want any falls when we’re carrying precious cargo!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!

❤ Cait

*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!

Sources: www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-health/vitamin-d-and-pregnancy/

Photos by: Jessica Dantowitz

 

Choose Your Own Adventure

If you’re an 80’s baby like me you might remember those “choose your own adventure” books. The whole idea is to assume the role of the main character and the book periodically presents you with options. The choices you make determine the story’s ending. The thrill is in the mystery and anticipation; not knowing what will happen next! I being an eager child (& now adult) often decided to skip all of the build-up, and stress by flipping to the back and reading all three endings at once. That way I could choose the ending I liked the best and enjoy reading the story with the comfort of knowing how it ends. Only, once the adventure book lost it’s mystery it also lost its excitement. It ended up on a cluttered bedside table with a tangled up yo-yo and an abandoned braid of gimp. My impatience and need to know rushed the book and took all of the joy out of it!

Continue reading “Choose Your Own Adventure”

Joy to the World!

The theme of this third week of advent is joy! We light the pink candle and look forward in joy to Christmas which (unbelievably to me!) is now only days away! There are so many things in my life which bring me joy that I could choose to write about today, my husband, my children, a good book and a hot cup of coffee..but, since we are looking forward to the coming of Jesus into the world I would like to focus on him, our ultimate and eternal wellspring of joy!

The joy that comes from my relationship with him cannot be contained in my heart and spills over into every area of my life. Carrying his spirit with me enhances everything and gives even the smallest things a sense of wonder and deeper meaning. When you come to know the Lord you understand that all things are a gift from him. Think of the joy you feel or witness in your children on Christmas morning when they eagerly unwrap their presents and reveal what treasures await them. That is what a relationship with the Lord can bring to your daily life. How can you not feel joyful and thankful when you are constantly receiving gifts?

It is not always easy to see everything as a gift but, when we live in a state of gratitude it leaves little room for malcontent! Joy is our inheritance in Christ and we can claim it! Choosing joy and seeing things through his eyes just makes everything richer, deeper and more meaningful.

When I am walking through the woods and see a beautiful tree or the sunset I see more than just scenery, I see the beauty and power of God’s creation and feel happy that he created such a gorgeous world for us to live in. Or when I look at my children, I see more than just cuteness (although they are quite cute!) I remember that God knew them and set them apart before they were even born, he has plans for them which I can’t begin to imagine, and he formed them in my womb and allowed me the honor of actively participating in their creation. It’s nothing less than miraculous!

Or when I look into my husbands eyes and appreciate all that our marriage means to me and our family and how much pleasure comes with it and to know that it is also something that honors God and personifies the gospel! Or when I am pursuing my passions to write and read and create with my hands, a need that God himself placed within me. These things I enjoy so much are more than hobbies, its the avenue through which his will in me will be accomplished. Or when I see others through the loving eyes of God and appreciate how different he made us all and see the good in them and it makes me want to bring others happiness or speak words of encouragement to them when they are down. I want to share the joy that I have found so everyone can experience it!

Joy can be a choice. With so many difficult things in life and negatives to focus on we can choose instead to think positively, view ourselves and others positively, speak positively, appreciate and focus on what we have rather than focusing on what we lack. When I remember how much I have to be thankful for it is difficult not to feel joyful. Gratitude proceeds and breeds more joy. Even my trials take on meaning, I know they are shaping me into the person I’m meant to be and even in those dark times I can see God’s light shining and hold on to the glimmer of his promises.

So when we are opening our presents on Christmas morning lets remember what they are to represent, the gift of salvation and a daily, enriching, interpersonal relationship with God through his son. Let’s remember that the spirit of this holiday and the people who surround the tree are far more a gift to us than anything that we could find under it.

Merry Christmas!

❤ Cait

The Kitchen Sink

We live in quite a fortunate time in history in terms of modern convenience. Of the many modern conveniences I enjoy each day a dishwasher is not one of them. With a growing family that means visiting the sink often to stay on top of the ever present pile of mugs and plates. Sure, there are times I’d prefer to toss them in the waste basket but soon I found the menial task had become a welcome reprieve.

The windowsill above the sink once held all of the hallmark nick-knacks of a well loved mama; assorted bottles of sand art, heart-shaped rocks, small potted herbs, perfect pine cones and gifts from little hearts and hands. One gift was a small cross that reads “Peace, be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10” One day I was on a re-arranging kick and I decided to (finally!) clear and clean the sill. I was moving all my chotchkies into an old shoebox but when I reached for the cross I hesitated, deciding to leave it where it was.

When I went back later on to do the dishes (again!) I read the message over and over. I found myself thinking deeply, staring through the humble kitchen window at the trees in the yard where my pets and children play. Warm water ran over, soothing my busy hands as I thanked God for the opportunity to be still and rest in his peace. By the time the last spoon hit the drying rack I felt my anxieties drain with the suds and dingy water. The little cross which I barely noticed before served as a gentle reminder and the chore became transformed.

Over time I have added other meaningful things to the sill and it has become a sort of altar in my home; a special place I go to pray over my family, water my herbs, offer up the work of my hands, and set my intentions for the day. It just goes to show anything can become meditative, prayerful and intentional even simple tasks. We don’t need only to be in church or on the mountain top to grow in our spirituality. God’s extraordinary presence can enrich even these ordinary parts of our lives and reveal a deeper meaning in the mundane. Now don’t get me wrong, I may not completely enjoy doing the dishes every day (every mom knows the “angry clean” LOL!) but I do know that if I approach this and all things in love, myself and those around me are simply better for it! Let’s let go of our expectations and allow God to reach us exactly where we are.

What do you do to fit in time for quiet contemplation? Comment below!

❤ Cait

 

 

The Highs & Lows of Pregnancy

This was written back in February and shared on my personal Facebook page. Our healthy, gorgeous baby girl was born May 31st, 2016.

So I try to keep a brave face but, I know you’ve all heard my complaints…This pregnancy hasn’t been all sunshine and daisy chains for me. My baby and myself are in perfect health but most of the time I have felt sick, exhausted and uncomfortable. Some days I don’t know how I’ll make it through the time I still have left. I never had that feel-good second trimester. Spending so much time in my bed (which I have dubbed my cave) can make me feel frustrated, isolated and lonely. And I don’t think I ever did get that glow! 😕

I get so excited when I can do things that make me feel normal. Even little things like a light walk, a lunch date, or a good hair day resemble my pre-pregnancy life and make all the difference to me! Even now as I look forward to my last trimester I have good and bad days but honestly, most are still pretty rough.

Despite these hurdles, the miracle of the life stirring within is never lost on me even for a moment. How awesome it is to anticipate the love my husband and I share personified in a cherished child. How my heart swells as he talks to her and melts when he says he hopes she looks like me. Seeing the way my daughter touches my belly adoringly and hearing the questions that bubble up in her inquisitive mind is so special. Even my cat purrs happily in my lap against the extra warmth of my body. This baby will be born into so much love and that alone is worth every difficult moment.

Even when it gets hard I remind myself to be present and enjoy this fleeting season of life instead of just wishing it away. I truly believe that pregnancy is designed like this for a reason. It prepares mothers to raise their children by offering experiences of sacrifice, joy, worry, and unconditional love from the moment of conception.

The opportunity to assist God in the creation of a new life and soul is truly humbling and such a gift. Pregnancy and motherhood is an incredible journey and one I feel so blessed to be able to continue. I feel like my dreams keep coming true and I know in my heart that the best is yet to come.

Have you experienced a particularly difficult time in pregnancy? Tell me about it in the comments!

❤ Cait

A year ago today…

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A year ago today a test confirmed what I already knew in my heart and tender tummy to be true, I was expecting a baby again after 9 years! In that moment so many thoughts and emotions swirled around me. I looked through happy tears at the blurry image of my proud husband’s face and he said, “We’re having a baby! There’s going to be a crib in here soon!” and I thought back to a daydream.

I was driving to pick up my eldest daughter after a particularly long and exhausting work day. At this time I was working full-time, taking classes at community college part-time  and planning my wedding (I tend to be anxious and not very organized sometimes!) and I was just stressed and exhausted with the go-go-go pace I had been keeping up for far too long. As I drove along my heart projected sweet visions on the walls of my mind..

Rocking my husband’s first child in the quiet morning light, breathing in that heady baby aroma, bird serenades carried in on the breeze of an open window, essential coffee smell mixing in from the kitchen. I snapped back to reality and immediately my attention was captured by a rainbow of color in the sky just ahead of me. Tucked among the usual white was a bright iridescent cloud! Rainbows have been significant to me in my spiritual life and it was as if God was reassuring me, reminding me that He knows the desires of my heart. That small passing brilliance, was to me the gentlest reminder to be patient and trust in His perfect timing.

After a wedding and one tough pregnancy the visions of my heart have come to fruition. Our baby daughter has changed our family for the better. Our hearts and arms are fuller because of her. Ten years with my first precious daughter went too quickly! I have learned that time can be hard on a mama’s heart. That knowing reminds me to savor each moment that much more. Even in the mess and stress, my mundane life is made magic in joy inexpressible and love unconditional.

When I mention the age difference between my girls sometimes people take on an exasperated tone and poke fun at me saying, “Wow! Starting all over again, huh?” and I say yes and my soul laughs as the smile in my heart blooms across my face.

Do any of you have a big age difference between your children? If so tell me about it in the comments!

❤ Cait