It is extremely common to have an increased level of stress during pregnancy. With so much to think about: what to and not to eat and drink, financial needs of having a baby, what will labor be like, will the baby be healthy in addition to becoming more and more uncomfortable and getting less sleep. Add that to the roller coaster of emotions and it is no wonder your stress level is climbing. If this is your first or unexpected pregnancy, anxiety and stress can be even more heightened.
Why Is It Important to De-stress? Can Stress Harm My Baby?
High levels of stress aren’t good for anyone, including your baby. New research has identified a hormone produced from high levels of chronic stress than can be linked to increased ricks of preterm labor and babies with low birth weight. And so for your health and the health of your baby, it is important to find ways to relieve stress during pregnancy.
This is not to say that you should now also be stressed about being stressed!
What it does mean is that a part of having a healthy pregnancy means finding ways to curb excessive anxiety and stress.
Two Ways to Knock Stress Out
- Reduce the level of stress by eliminating common stress inducers
If you always host a holiday at your house, this might be the year to give someone else a chance to host and you can volunteer to bring a dish instead.
If you often volunteer to help co-workers with their work to help ease their workload, now is a good time instead to get all your tasks done and prepare your own position for when you will be taking leave.
If friends are coming into town, you could recommend great hotels instead of offering they stay with you for the week.
Learning to say NO is an important skill. It doesn’t mean that you are selfish or unkind; it just means that you need to prioritize what you say yes to so you aren’t taking on more than you can handle. Investing your time in a few things you do well and can focus much of your energy is better than many things can focus only a little energy on producing only “ok” results. Being able to step back and look at a task before saying yes is key. Instead of saying “yes” right away when someone asks for your help, saying “can I take a day to think about it” will pause the conversation and allow you to really consider the offer. Ask yourself:
Do I really WANT to take on this task?
How much time will it really take me?
Will it add stress to my life? If so, does the benefit outweigh the stress?
What would happen if I say no? Can I think of someone else to suggest?
- Modify how you handle the stress you do have
Life has stress. There is no way around it. So the next best thing is to modify how you handle the stress that you will experience.
Asking Others For Help
Look at what causes a significant amount of stress in your everyday life and see if there are people or services that can help you in that area to take it off your plate. Anytime you can eliminate a task from your to-do list, you are decreasing an element of stress. Hiring a monthly cleaning service or switching to having your groceries delivered might be worth the money when compared to the stress of doing the task yourself.
You want to start preparing for the baby but there is so much to do. Ask your friends to help you paint the nursery. See if a parent will take home all the baby outfits and wash and fold them for you. Have relatives and friends who like to cook make you a few frozen meals you can keep in the freezer for the days you just don’t have the energy to cook.
You will probably find that your family members and friends want to help you but may not know how they can help during your pregnancy. So identifying areas that they could help AND take away some of your stress could be a great way to get everyone involved.
Cut Yourself a Break
Allow yourself to cut corners in ways that will help you reduce stress. Invest in a Swiffer to clean the floors instead of scrubbing on your hands and knees. Make a list of meals that are easy and quick to prepare. Hang your work clothes in the bathroom while you take a hot shower instead of ironing. Give yourself permission to say “good enough” in some areas of life that you typically want to be perfect. Anytime you can eliminate extra pressure you are putting on yourself is a great place to start.
Practicing the Art of Surrender
Remind yourself that there are just some things in life that you have no control over. This isn’t a thought to cause you more stress, but instead to help remind you that there isn’t anything you can do so there is no point in wasting worry on it. You are running late and you hit traffic – there is literally nothing you can do and worrying won’t make the cars go faster so use that time for something other than worry. Turn up your music and sing along.
“If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” ― Śāntideva, A Buddhist Monk
Ways to Help De-Stress
Make a List – Sometimes just jotting down a list instead of relying on your memory can help take stress away.
Close Your Eyes & Take 5 Deep Breaths –This is an easy and technique that can quickly defuse stress you may feel building up inside. For example: your boss just brought in a stack of papers that need filed and you just finished filing the stack you already had from the morning. Stop, close your eyes and take 5 deep breathes before you begin the task. It will help center your mind and calm your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.
Exercise – Not only is exercise good for you body but it is also good for your mind. Prenatal yoga classes may be just what the doctor ordered. Even if you just get out for a short walk every day, it can make a big impact to decreasing your stress.
Treat Yourself – A prenatal massage or special spa treatment can help you relax. A little pampering can go a long way.
Get Enough Sleep – Not getting enough sleep can not only make you feel miserable but can also be a cause of stress and you will be less equip to handle your daily tasks. Taking naps when you can throughout the day may help as well.
Learn New Relaxation Techniques – Using relaxation techniques are often easy to learn and can give you new ways to handle your stress.
Wear Comfortable Clothing – Comfort is key during a pregnancy. Be sure to invest in comfortable clothing and shoes.
Get Outside – A change of scenery can help decrease your stress. If you are cooped up in an office or house all day, getting outside to take a walk or sit on the porch can help to free your mind and decrease your stress.
Laugh – Laughter really is the best medicine and nothing works faster. Call some friends over and enjoy time together. Laughter relaxes your whole body and releases endorphins. Laughter decreases your stress hormone and increases your blood flow.
Drink Plenty of Water – It is important to stay hydrated and to drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day. Staying hydrated will also eliminate toxins in your body that cause stress.
Avoid Research Overload – Reading parenting books, following blogs, researching about childbirth and taking care of an infant is great but make sure your aren’t being overloaded with so much information that it is causing you excessive stress.
Journal – If you enjoy writing, journaling during your pregnancy can help alleviate stress. It can also be nice to look back on these memories after your pregnancy.
Write Down Your Worries – When you find your chest tightening from stress and your anxiety rising, ask yourself “What am I worried about?” Write it down on a piece of paper then write down solutions or a plan of action in response. For example: If you are worrying about how to get to the hospital when labor starts, your solutions might be to list a person and phone number for all the various scenarios you could be in: At work, at home by yourself, in the middle of the night, etc. Sometimes having a solution and thinking proactively can be enough to eliminate anxiety of stress. Knowing you have a plan, whether you need to use it or not, can decrease worrying that it might happen.
Talk with Someone – Find someone to confide in when you are worried or stressed. Saying things out loud may even cause you to realize that you were stressed about something insignificant. Talking to someone is important to prevent bottling up your worry and fear which only causes more stress.
Seek Professional Help – If your anxiety and stress continues to build and you aren’t able to find relief, talk with your physician about what you are feeling and ask them for a list of counselors that you could speak with. There is no shame in asking for help when you need it. A professional will be able to identify the deeper causes of anxiety and stress and can help you work through those feelings.