We can’t take your worries away, but with a little luck we can help you figure out how to relax, unwind and enjoy the miracle of growing life.
For some women, pregnancy can end up being more stressful than enjoyable. “I started my pregnancy thinking that this was going to be so fun and exciting, but after a few months I was totally stressed,” says 28-year-old new mom Meredith Sabo. “I was disappointed that it wasn’t the experience I thought it would be, and of course, that just ended up stressing me out even more.”
“Pregnancy can be, and often is, very stressful for expectant mothers,” says Dr. Kathleen Hall, internationally renowned stress expert and founder and CEO of The Stress Institute. “Women should learn how to relax and be mindful of how all the little things you take the time to do can have positive effects on your baby.”
If you’re spending your pregnancy in a state of constant stress, try some of these tips to relax and take pleasure in your growing baby and body.
Stressor: You don’t have time to do anything other than work, clean, eat, sleep and worry.
Solution: Debbie Mandel, stress-management specialist says, “Create time for yourself every day to do something that makes your heart sing.”
[tip:] Take just a few minutes out of every day to do something that you find entertaining … even if it’s 10 minutes scrolling through celebrity-babies.com.
Stressor: Your job is insanely demanding and your all-day morning sickness is making it impossible for you to get your work done.
Solution: First, you should be honest with your boss and tell her that you’re not feeling great—you can’t be expected to perform as Superwoman at any time, but during pregnancy you sometimes are physically incapable of performing at your old level of productivity. You can reassure her that you’ll be back up to par soon, but for the time being you might need to take some short mid-afternoon breaks.
[tip:] Meditate at your desk, advises Hall. “Little mini-meditations can calm your stressed nerves and help you relax.”
Stressor: Your house looks like a tornado blew through and you don’t have the energy to tackle it.
Solution: One thing many moms fail to do is adjust their pre-pregnancy expectations to more reasonable plans and goals. Since you’re going to be more tired than normal and feeling a little less chipper, you need to reassess what you’re reasonably able to accomplish in a day. If everything piles up until Saturday afternoon, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be overwhelming.
[tip:] To keep things under control, do a little bit daily. Or hire someone to come in and do the more tedious chores, such as mopping and cleaning the bathrooms.
Stressor: All this stress has made your back and shoulders painfully tense.
Solution: While you should avoid super-hot baths, a soak in the tub or a hot shower might be a great source of tension relief. “Baths and long showers can help to wash away your stresses and relieve sore joints and feet,” says Mandel.
[tip:] A professional massage or even a simple rubdown from your partner can also help.
Stressor: You constantly worry about something going wrong and it’s making it impossible for you to function.
Solution: Sometimes all it takes to put things in perspective is getting your worries out in the open. “Talk about what’s bothering you, even if you think it’s probably silly,” says Meredith. “It made me feel so much better when I would mention something that was worrying me and my husband would automatically have a thousand reasons that it was an unnecessary concern. Just talking about it made me feel so much better.”
[tip:] If you’re having a really tough time, consider talking with a therapist.
Stressor: Since you’re already a mom, relaxing things like taking a nap and kicking up your feet just don’t happen anymore.
Solution: A second or subsequent pregnancy is often harder than the first since your workload has increased significantly (no job is tougher than being a mom). Give yourself a little time off to just take it easy. But don’t spend your free time cleaning or doing something work-related—this time is for you, duty-free.
[tip:] Lighten your load by asking your mom, hubby or best friend to take a couple of hours of kid-duty once a week (or more) so you can take a nap or just unwind in silence.
Stressor: Your ankles look like they belong to an elephant, and no matter how common it is, you can’t stop stressing that something isn’t right.
Solution: Talk to your doctor. If he says everything is OK, it probably is. Swollen ankles are a cause for concern when they’re experienced with high blood pressure or protein in the urine, but alone they’re usually nothing more than a nuisance. If it is other physical concerns that have you troubled, give your physician’s office a call and talk with a nurse about what’s going on. Don’t cause yourself unnecessary worry with information overload. Prenatal information books are great, but they sometimes make moms anxious for no reason—often symptoms of serious conditions are the same symptoms of pregnancy in general, so an apprehensive mom-to-be can go overboard self-diagnosing every ache and pain.
[tip:] To reduce the swelling, prop your feet up higher than your heart as often as possible and try not to spend long periods of time standing.
Stressor: You’re so exhausted that you think it might be seriously hazardous for you to get behind the wheel.
Solution: If it’s a matter of discomfort, try changing positions, piling up the pillows, or if you’re desperate, settling in on the couch or recliner if you can get more comfortable there. Take naps but make sure that you’re not sleeping too long or too late in the day. Don’t exercise too close to bedtime, either, as it will get your adrenaline pumping and make it even harder to sleep.
[tip:] Invest in a body or “pregnancy” pillow to support your belly and back.
Stressor: Everything. This whole pregnancy thing is way more stressful than you expected.
Solution: Mandel recommends getting some exercise, as it releases stress hormones and increases endorphins, making an expecting mom (and anyone else, for that matter) feel a whole lot brighter. Also take into consideration how you’re approaching your life and pregnancy. According to Hall, your outlook can make all the difference. “Choose a positive and loving attitude during pregnancy to ward off tense moments.” It is a naturally stressful time, but moms agree at the end of the 40 weeks that it was worth every second.
[tip:] A brisk walk around the block can do wonders for the soul. Or try yoga for another relaxing way to keep your stress levels in check.
Stressor: You’re scared that parenting isn’t going to come naturally, and you’ll end up being a horrible mom.
Solution: You have to trust that your instinct will kick in, because it will. Any mom who loves her baby and tries to do what’s best for her is a good mom, regardless of how many mistakes she makes. And you will make mistakes, no matter how much you read up on parenting or how hard you try to be perfect. The single most important thing a mother can possess is a sense of humor—the little things that start out making you cry can end up being really funny, if you take a step back and put them into perspective. The stress of pregnancy is tough and it honestly doesn’t get any easier—parenting is just as demanding and as soon as you figure one thing out, something else comes along to cause concern.
[tip:] Approach pregnancy and motherhood with a 12-step attitude: just take it one day at a time. Even the most stressful days can end up being pretty darn fabulous.