When you are expecting a baby, you are going through so many changes both emotionally and physically. There are a zillion things to think about and get ready for, plus the vast (and sometimes unexpected) changes in your body, the extra appointments that fill your schedule, and all the hormones in play as you prepare for the little one joining your family.
I am now expecting my third child so I have been in this position before. Although I thought being pregnant my first baby was challenging, when I was caring for a young child and coping with the stresses of pregnancy it seemed really, really hard! However now having two children with one on the way, in some ways I am finding my situation a bit easier as I have “been here before” and have developed some useful strategies. In this post I will share some of my insights for navigating this stage as stress-free as possible.
But before I get to my “tips” let me first add a disclaimer that I have not had a full time job since being pregnant with my first son, and I have also had fairly straight forward pregnancies (no huge medical complications) – so I cannot speak from those angles. I am a stay-at-home mother – my oldest son just turned 6 and my youngest is 3 and a half – and, as always, I think everyone has their own unique experiences so I’m not trying to speak for everyone. These are my own personal thoughts on the subject.
My #1 Tip for Reducing Stress During Pregnancy
After reflecting on what helps me personally deal with the inevitable stress of pregnancy, I have come to realise that the most effective strategy has been putting conscious effort into taking care of my own self. Generally I tend to look outward: asking myself what the kids need, what I need to do around the house, what I should do for the baby… and I can forget to consider my own needs. Having a few specific goals in mind to make sure my own body and mind are cared for has been extremely helpful to manage my stress levels.
Over the next few weeks I will be sharing other practical ways to cope with pregnancy related challenges including household management tips and fun ideas for helping children deal with the new baby in my series Tips for Families Expecting a New Baby. Today’s article will be focused on reducing a mother’s stress from the inside by focusing on self-care.
Here are a few of the most important points on my “self-care” list:
Staying hydrated. It’s a simple one but it’s so easy to overlook. I get headaches easily so making sure I stay hydrated is very important. I try to always have a water bottle in my bag or a cup beside the bed so I can keep myself taking in liquids regularly… even when I’m too exhausted to get up and get myself a drink (please tell me I’m not the only one). In this post I shared some other tricks for staying hydrated throughout the day.
Eating regularly. Yes this seems obvious when you are pregnant, but as a busy mother with other mouths to feed I do actually forget to eat sometimes! I’ve made myself a list of favourite healthy snacks because sometimes it can be hard to be hungry all day and eat the same things over and over – especially when I am usually focused on shopping for the kids and not myself. After chowing down on apples and peanut butter for a week, I may switch to homemade granola bars, then vegetable sticks with dip… you get the idea. Basically if I look over my list and make sure some of these snacks are added into my grocery cart, I can be sure to eat small snacks throughout the day a lot more often.
Getting comfortable. I love playing on the floor with my kids, but I can only do so much of it while my belly is expanding at such a rapid pace. Moving our play to the couch and just making sure I’m in a comfy position while we’re doing the “regular” stuff like eating dinner really helps me avoid unnecessary muscular pain. Paying attention to my posture helps as well. I try to stretch and give myself little shoulder massages throughout the day (and ask my husband to help me out with a massage as well!). The physical discomfort can really get to me if I don’t get a handle on it.
Doing my best to get good sleep. I don’t know if “good sleep” has ever existed for me during pregnancy. But doing my best to get good sleep has to do with number of hours as well as quality of sleep. Even though I really wanted to watch a movie or catch up on some emails, at night time when I’m tired I force myself to stop and go to sleep. I have learned through experience that I can’t just stay up for an hour beyond my threshold and feel semi-okay the next day like I do non-pregnant. I try to avoid scheduling night time outings whenever possible as well, simply because late nights have a negative effect on me the next day. I know that every night I’m going to wake up a few times (due to discomfort or needing to visit the bathroom) so I try to give myself 8.5 hours to sleep, minimum. I find using pillows to support the side sleeping position (and to place between my legs) helps a lot as well.
Supporting my back. After my second son was born I found out my abdominal muscles had separated, a condition called Diastasis Recti. I was excited to learn about the pregnancy and postnatal recovery leggings created by SRC Health to help address this issue and provide comfort during pregnancy and afterwards. I was sent some pregnancy leggings to review, and they have been great to give me some extra pelvic plus lower back support. I’m really looking forward to using these over the next couple months especially as I know I’ll be growing a whole lot more (even though it’s hard to believe my tummy could expand beyond what it has already, yikes!). To check out the range of pregnancy-related products SRC offers, check out the list on their website.
Calming triggers. Whether it’s a certain type of music, flowers on the table, deep breaths, or the smell of freshly baked bread, I have noticed that actively giving myself “calming triggers” throughout the day helps me feel less stressed. Just taking a moment to consider “What would help me calm down right now?” is helpful.
Pursuing interests. It may appear counter productive to give myself time to unwind and enjoy my own hobbies when there are so many other things to do, but I have consistently noted that taking time to decompress and engage in a personal interest actually helps me become more productive during the day. By this I don’t mean simply watching a movie after the kids go to bed, which is more of a passive pastime, but actually doing something I enjoy such as sewing or scrapbooking. When I have these creative little projects to look forward to, it helps me stay positive and also feel like “myself” again. Giving myself time to honour my own interests allows me to express myself and feel fulfilled which naturally reduces stress.
Arranging extra childcare. This is a tough one for me personally as we have no family living nearby (or in the country, for that matter) but I have occasionally had one of my son’s friends offer to watch my older son for an hour or two and I have taken them up on the offer. Generally I like to stay on playdates so us mothers can socialise, but I have been welcoming the opportunity to have some time on my own (or with my younger son). My husband and I have also been trading “date nights” with another family once a month – one night we watch their son (sleeping) while they go out to dinner, and the next time they watch our kids so we can go out. Since we’ll likely be having fewer chances to go out once the baby is born, it’s great to take these opportunities now. Accepting these offers free of guilt has definitely contributed to my sense of well-being.
Setting realistic expectations. I simply can’t do three hours of market hopping these days, or run around in the park like I used to. I’ve learned that I should not expect too much of myself. It helps to remember that my body and life are completely different now that I have a baby (growing inside or born, the baby is still “here” now!) so I need to adjust my rhythm and activities accordingly. When I do begin to feel anxious or guilty due to the changes, I try to accept and address these negative feelings immediately. Whether it’s talking with a friend, taking time for some quiet reflection, or writing in a journal… there are many ways to become more centred and intentionally “de-stress.” Check out this post for a longer list of ideas.
When I do not take care of myself – when I don’t take my needs seriously and try to just “get on with it” instead of caring for myself – my entire household suffers. Remembering that caring for myself benefits my entire family (as well as the little one growing inside me!) helps me stop and consider what I can do to truly care for my own needs. This reduces my own stress and also helps me care for my family members more effectively.
What tips do you have to reduce stress when expecting a baby?
This post is part of my series Tips for Families Expecting a New Baby. For more ideas about getting yourself and your family ready for your new bundle of joy, check it out.
Thanks to SRC for sending me a pair of pregnancy leggings to review. All opinions in this post are my own. To read more about advertisement on my website, visit this page.