Keep calm and carry on: Tips for managing stress
You’re pregnant (congrats!). Half of Australia is in lockdown, you might have not been able to see family or friends in a while and who knows what’s around the corner. Stressed much?
Even at the best of times, pregnancy can be a stressful time for new mums and their partners.
You’ve got a lot of physical changes to deal with, as well as emotional changes such as mood swings, anxiety and excitement. Throw in a never-before-seen lockdown on top of that, and we’ve got ourselves the perfect recipe for stress.
But take a deep breath and relax. We’ve got a few clever tips on how to manage stress during your pregnancy.
How do I know if I’m stressed?
Sometimes we’re too busy doing life to even recognise when we’re stressed, and it might be something we don’t acknowledge until it becomes overwhelming.
The most common physical and emotional signs of stress are:
- A lot of nervous energy. You can’t sit still for long, or you’re feeling ‘jumpy’.
- Fast breathing or the feeling that your heart is beating faster than usual
- You can’t relax, or you’re not sleeping well
- Your mind is racing with too many thoughts and worries about the future
- You’re feeling generally unwell and may be experiencing headaches or other aches and pains in your body
Tips for a stress-less lifestyle
- Make it a priority to schedule a little bit of exercise every day if you can. Even if it’s just a 10min walk around the block. Being physical, getting out in the fresh air and enjoying a change of scenery from being stuck at home is fantastic for emotional wellbeing and should not be underestimated.
- Rest when you can and don’t feel bad about it. Covid has already restricted a lot of what we can do, so you don’t have to feel guilty about taking it easy. Lie on the couch, sleep in a few extra minutes and just slow down in general. After all, none of us are really going anywhere these days, so you’re not missing much!
- Try getting involved in activities that take your mind off the day to day. Reading, gardening, binging your favourite show or maybe even elevate your cooking skills. Your postpartum self will be grateful if you have easy and nourishing meals on hand or even prepared as frozen portions. After you have given birth you will want to stay at home and focus on healing and bonding with your baby, rather than thinking about what groceries to get. The first forty days or Jessica Prescott’s vegan one-pot wonders are great choices to make sure your meals are nutrient dense, full of flavour and even helpful for milk production.
- Try yoga, meditation, breathing exercises or muscle relaxation.
- Stay connected to family and friends. We all need to stay connected in times like these, and that applies even more when you’re pregnant. Even though we know it’s not the same as meeting in person, try and stay connected to the people you love via Zoom, Facetime and regular phone calls.
- Steer clear of negativity. It’s hard to avoid the news at the moment but try and restrict your time watching anything that upsets or distresses you. This is a time to really put yourself first and stay in a happy, positive state of mind.
- Seek out other expectant Mums. If you have a lot of friends who aren’t pregnant, it may be hard for them to understand what you’re feeling and experiencing. Look for online forums and chat groups where other expectant mums-to-be share their stories and join in the conversation. It might feel strange in the beginning, but you would be surprised how many expecting parents feel exactly like you & your partner. COPE.org.au offers a wonderful community like the Mama Tribe, a safe online space for mums being restricted by current lockdown circumstances. The website furthermore offers great advice for you and your partner when planning a family all the way to managing expectations of parenthood. Rainbow families and single moms not excluded 😊 They work closely with the Australian College of Midwives, Mental Health Professionals as well as many others and are devoted to reducing the impacts of emotional and mental health problems in pre- and post-natal periods. How awesome?
Make online meditation and mindfulness your friend
With many gyms and exercise classes closed, the online world has really come to the pregnancy party with a host of free and paid classes and apps to help you manage stress.
Explore Australian websites such as stretch and glow and happiest baby, which offer excellent online prenatal classes. The 28 online food and lifestyle program by Sam Wood (The Bachelor 2015 if you’re into a bit of eye candy) offers pregnancy warm-ups, Yoga and Pilates classes plus regular mindful meditation blogs, motivational tips and a host of recipe ideas for healthy eating.
For mindfulness and meditation, check out the Smiling Mind app, which is a hugely popular mindfulness app created by psychologists to help bring balance to your life.
The importance of managing stress in pregnancy
Managing stress during pregnancy is not only beneficial for your health but also for the health of your baby and can even reduce your chance of premature birth. If you can adopt relaxation techniques, mindfulness, calming meditation and healthy routines throughout your pregnancy, chances are you’ll continue them after bub is born. Entering parenthood and the fourth trimester will be profoundly beautiful, but having some mind easing practices on hand will help you relax throughout the more challenging times.