Pregnancy can be an incredibly wonderful time in your life, as well as a very scary time in your life. Your whole life – as well as your body – is going through a number of changes. These changes can be especially anxiety-provoking if this is your first pregnancy. You want everything to go perfectly, but you find yourself struggling with an array of worries and fears about every possible thing that could go wrong. And, the more you think about those things, the worse your anxiety becomes.
Fortunately, although anxiety is certainly not uncommon during pregnancy, it doesn’t have to rule your life. There are many things you can do to help alleviate those anxious thoughts and feelings while improving your coping skills during your pregnancy.
If you’ve never practised meditation, now is a great time to start. Meditation is an excellent way to calm you and alleviate anxiety in general. Meditation doesn’t have to be tied to any particular religious beliefs, nor does it require any special props, skills, or setting.
It’s effective for anxiety because it requires you to quiet your mind for a period of time. This may take some practice at first because an anxious mind is anything but quiet!
All you really need is a quiet place where no one will disturb you for 10 to 15 minutes. For some people, early in the morning before everyone is up and about is a great time to meditate. Strive to meditate every day, at the same time. Just sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on nothing but your breathing.
Avoid Scary Stories and Images
When you’re anxious, it’s a really good idea to significantly limit or avoid watching the news, reading the newspaper, or reading frightening news stories online. Filling your mind with negative images and stories will only make your anxiety worse. You especially want to avoid watching the news just before bedtime. You’ll sleep better and stay more relaxed if you make it a point to spend the last 30 minutes before you go to bed doing something relaxing, like taking a bath or listening to soft music.
Refute the “What ifs”
When you’re pregnant and anxious, your thoughts are filled with a vast number of “what ifs.” For example, “what if my baby is premature,” “what if something goes wrong during labour,” “what if I’m a terrible mother,” “what if my baby is born with a birth defect,” and so on. Thoughts of “what if” are nothing but torture, and they open the door to all sorts of unnecessary worry and fear.
When you find yourself dwelling on what might happen, stop yourself and remind yourself that:
- the vast majority of “what ifs” never happen; and
- if one does, you’ll be able to handle it and will handle it when that time comes. If you have many of the same “what ifs” over and over, write them down and then refute each one on paper. Assure yourself just as you would a close friend or loved one.
If possible, talk to someone you trust about your anxious thoughts. Talking about them to someone else can help put your fears in perspective.
When you’re feeling anxious, your breathing typically becomes faster and shallower. Spend a few minutes throughout the day to stop and focus on your breathing. Practise taking slow, deep breaths – breathing through your nose – followed by exhaling slowly. Slowing down your breathing will help you relax. By practising slow, deep breathing several times a day you’ll soon find that it becomes a habit.
Look for Ways to Reduce Your Stress
Stress always exacerbates anxiety. While some degree of stress is unavoidable, look for ways you can reduce the amount of stress in your life. Things you might consider are:
- Cutting back on the hours you work (if possible)
- Delegating tasks that will lighten your load at home and work
- Getting regular exercise – regular aerobic exercise (such as swimming or walking) helps reduce stress
- Scheduling your days in a way that will maximize your time and allow you to avoid high-stress situations (e.g. consolidating errands, shopping for groceries when the stores are less crowded, driving at times with less traffic, etc.)
Anxiety doesn’t have to cast a dark shadow over your pregnancy. By practising the suggestions above, you’ll find that you feel more relaxed and more in control of your thoughts and feelings.