Modern day lifestyles are very stressful, often to the point that your health is severely affected. You should be very careful about managing stress during your pregnancy – your body is already going to be under pressure and you are going to be a bit emotional at times anyway. We’ve listed several techniques below that will help relieve the sense that life is getting out of control.
- Asses your lifestyle:
Take a piece of paper and write down all your current time obligations: work activities, home and family responsibilities, other obligations (church, community activities, clubs and organizations to which you belong). Include “your time” in the list – exercise, down time, socializing etc.
Once you have done this, be honest with yourself as you ask the following: Is this schedule achievable? More importantly, will this level of activity be sustainable AND satisfying? If not, accept the reality that you have to change the schedule.
- You’re not super women:
Accept the fact that even if you currently can thrive on your busy and demanding lifestyle, you probably won’t be able to sustain it as your pregnancy progresses and makes more physical demands on you. You will need to cut back on what you’re doing to allow more time for rest and relaxation. You will need to sleep more. Remember, though, that you will feel better if you allow time to engage in a reasonable exercise program. Finally you will need to allow yourself some “mental growth” time. This is time for reading, thinking, and planning for the new, incredibly important role of motherhood you will soon assume.
- The dreaded symptoms:
Many things about pregnancy are not in your control – accept this. Morning sickness, overwhelming fatigue, possible pregnancy complications etc are all things which may affect your ability to do things.
For many women, especially those who have demanding jobs, the idea that biology might interfere with their responsibilities is intolerable — but it happens. If you are mentally prepared to accept this, you won’t be as stressed out if/when it happens.
- Know how you feel:
Remember that you, and not your husband/mother/boss should determine how you feel about your pregnancy and how you cope with it. Other than your medical care providers, you are the best person to determine what your needs are, how hard you should work, how much you should rest and all other aspects of your behavior during pregnancy. Listen to the advice of both medical professionals and friends and family members that you trust. Just don’t allow yourself to be made to feel guilty by well-intentioned, but often incorrect, comments and claims of others.
Talk openly and honestly with those you love, especially your partner. These people — unless they are pregnant themselves – will not know exactly what you are experiencing and cannot anticipate what your wants and needs will be. Let them know — tell them how you are feeling and how they can help. At the same time you must also be sensitive to the concerns and anxieties your partner might have, especially if this is your first pregnancy.
- Don’t overdo it:
Professions like law, medicine and corporate life can make demands that are simply impossible for a pregnant woman to fulfil without serious health and mental consequences. Discuss with your partner and your boss what you can and cannot reasonably do and make adjustments accordingly. You may still be able to contribute to your organization by adjusting your work environment in minor ways rather than by following your former schedule. Don’t try to be a hero!!
- Stock up on knowledge:
Learn as much about pregnancy as you can – not only about the biology of pregnancy but about it’s emotional implications as well. Read, talk to friends, attend classes and talk to your doctor or midwife. Understanding the process makes it a lot less stressful.
Give yourself permission to relax. Make time specifically for relaxation, or doing whatever makes you feel good. Read a book, see a movie, have a massage, sleep in late when you can. Each of us has his or her own means of personal “profit-taking”. Make sure you do some, do your best to enjoy it and by no means allow yourself to feel guilty about it
- Cognitive Restructuring:
Test the origins of your emotions for validity. This process is called “cognitive restructuring”. All of us get feedback and messages from people around us. We often make negative assumptions about ourselves based on this feedback. This process of negative thinking occurs spontaneously and can be overwhelming. Try writing down each repetitive negative thought you have and what caused it. Ask yourself if what happened – a comment, a look, etc — deserves the negative response you have given it. By doing this you can start to break the cycle of automatic negative feelings sparked by common events in your life.
- Seek proffesional help:
Finally, consider the possibility of obtaining professional help if you are severely stressed or depressed. Seeing a therapist no longer automatically involves years of once a week visits to talk about your feelings. Although such “talk therapy” can be helpful, there are now many medications that are safe for pregnant women to take. Depressed moods are often caused by changes in the biochemistry of the brain and medicine can safely correct abnormal biochemistry and make you feel better and happier. If you and your healthcare provider decide that such medications would be useful for you, by all means try them. They will not cause a miscarriage or harm your baby.
Life is complex and often hard. Stress is unfortunately a part of modern life. There are, however, ways that you as a pregnant woman can go about evaluating the stress you are under and make changes in your life to better be able to deal with it. By so doing, you’ll have a healthier pregnancy and be a happier person.