Pregnancy is a time of great happiness and excitement...but can also be a time of challenges and concerns. Money worries, relationship woes, previous pregnancy troubles, job demands and fluctuating hormones can all impact your mood during these nine months.
But as an expectant mother, it's important to keep anxiety levels to a minimum. Chronic stress can impact not only you (by increasing the likelihood of depression) but also the little life growing inside you. High levels of chronic stress can increase your risk of delivering a baby early, with a low birth weight and delayed cognitive skills.
If you are suffering from long-standing anxiety and sadness, reach out to a health care professional. But if you're experiencing short-term moments of unhappiness, use these four tips to help reduce the negative and increase the positive during pregnancy:
When thoughts of how you'll provide for your new baby, when a co-worker makes an insensitive comment about your birthing choices, or when you question - once again - how good of a mother you'll be, just breathe.
Concentrated breathing can help calm emotions and ease tension. It allows you to focus on the present instead of the frustrations. It allows you to relax.
There are lots of breathing exercises you can try. For a simple one, lay, sit or stand in a comfortable position, and follow your breath by focusing your attention on your inhale, exhale, and the start and stopping point of each.
If your mind wanders, it's OK - just acknowledge the thoughts that come, then return to the breathing process. The goal here is to loosen up, so don't punish yourself; be gentle.
Draw. Write. Paint. Collage. Dance. Sew. Sing. It doesn't how or what you create, as long as you express yourself. Creating distracts your mind from your stress and lets you channel your emotions into something tangible.
Create a self-portrait, highlighting your curves and expectant "glow," or you can turn on your favorite music and dance, getting lost in the rhythms (assuming you're not on bed rest can't exercise like that).
Write in your journal. Or on your blog that shares your experiences with others. Scribble butterflies and daffodils on notebook paper with a red ballpoint pen.
Whatever works for you, just do it. This is not a time to judge your work (unless critiquing fills you with joy). This project, whatever it may be, is just a way for you to work through your emotions and help shift your state of mind.
When you laugh, stress hormones go down and the feel-good hormones go up. Those feel-good hormones, called endorphins, can temporarily suspend pain, and create an overall sense of happiness. Laughter also relaxes your muscles, helps you to feel optimistic and adds joy to your relationships.
So, bring more laughter into your life. Invite your friends over to your home (or the local park or your favorite restaurant) to just spend time together and talk about the funny and embarrassing moments you've shared. Host a movie night where you watch your favorite comedy and laugh the night away. Without much effort, one person begins to chuckle, then the whole room is laughing - it's contagious.
For the everyday, instead of mulling over what's bothering you, find humor in the situation. It's hard to feel sad with a big smile on your face.
To help you reduce stress, you can also confide in close friends and family, by discussing your feelings and concerns with them. Talking with the people you trust can help you feel less alone.
You can also connect in another way: Set aside time each day specifically to pay attention to the little life growing inside. Rub your belly, talk to your baby and sing. You may even find comfort in writing a letter to your unborn child, sharing hopes for their future.
When the stress of life gets to you, stop and remind yourself that you're doing this all for your own precious little miracle.
Helen Lyle West is living in Manchester, United Kingdom. She is passionate about evidence-based nutrition, keen to explore how it affects the health of individuals and population groups. Helen has also had a lifelong interest in holistic, alternative, and complementary medicine. She believes health is your greatest wealth and she will help you live, breath and believe health and enjoy your life to the full. It is her mission to engage and empower people to use food, eating and lifestyle for health and healing as well as a path to personal growth.