Dealing With Stress
Having a baby is a huge life-changing event, which will inevitably cause some degree of stress, even if your pregnancy is planned and your baby is much wanted. It is natural that, at some point, you will have worries, feel emotional or be overtired because of the demands of everyday life. If you feel like this for any length of time, however, you may need to look at ways of reducing your stress levels.
Emotional stress can lead to physical and behavioural symptoms. Stress has a negative effect on your body and mind, and the problem is that you often do not even recognize that you are suffering from stress.
Signs of stress
These can include:
- Reduced concentration Irritation
- Disturbed eating patterns, that is, reduced appetite or overeating
- Insomnia, fatigue
- Feeling low or anxious -Inabilityto relax
- High blood pressure -Aching muscles
There is some evidence that stress in pregnancy can cause lower birth-weight babies, as well as behavioural problems in children. Certainly we know that high blood pressure can have adverse effects on your pregnancy, including the growth of your baby, and it needs close monitoring.
Coping with stress
Whether it helps to talk about things or simply switch off for a bit, there are ways to help yourself cope, including the following ideas.
If you feel stressed you will certainly benefit from more support and you should accept offers of help gladly. If you have other children and a friend or family member offers to have them for a couple of hours, seize the opportunity. If you have to stay in hospital for a few days after the birth, you will feel better knowing that they are comfortable being with someone else when you are not around.
Talk to others about how you feel, including your midwife or doctor. As well as wanting to monitor how you are feeling they may be able to put you in touch with local women's groups.
You do not have to belong to a gym to get sufficient exercise - even taking a brisk walk in the fresh air is good for you. Exercise makes the body release endorphins, the natural'feel good'chemicals, and also makes you feel more energetic.
Make time for yourself
Treat yourself to a good book or a favourite magazine and be sure to make time for some quiet moments to yourself each day. If the prospect of an uninterrupted bath seems blissful, switch off the telephone, shut the door and relax. You could also try the relaxation detailed routine below.
Ask your partner to give you a massage (see page 60). This has the added benefit that he will know he is helping you.
Your diet can have a huge influence on how you feel. Be sure to include fresh fruits and vegetables and do not snack on high-energy foods, such as biscuits and sweets. They may provide a 'quick energy fix', making you feel better for 10 minutes, but when your blood-sugar level sharply falls afterwards, you will feel no more energetic, and perhaps even more lethargic. Yo-yoing energy levels may also make any mood swings that you are suffering worse. You may find that it helps to have several small, healthy meals a day instead of three larger ones, as this will also keep your blood-sugar levels more even. If you find your energy levels are dropping between meals, snack on raw vegetables such as carrot sticks. Eating more, smaller meals may also help reduce pregnancy sickness.
Try this routine wherever you get the opportunity.
- Lie back in a chair, or lie on your side on the bed, with pillows supporting your neck and shoulders.
- When you are comfortable, take slow, deep breaths.
- Concentrate on how your body feels with each outward breath.
- Start by tensing your feet, squeezing your toes tight, then let go. Feel the tension seeping out of your body.
- Work your way up your body, doing the same with your legs, pelvic floor, buttocks, stomach and so on in turn until you reach your forehead.
- Think about each part of your body and how it feels now.
- Your breathing should be even and slow, and you should feel relaxed