If you’ve read this blog more than once, you’re sure to know that I struggle with anxiety. I have anxiety attacks of different forms somewhat regularly, and when my anxiety goes up, so do my tics. I’ve found during this first trimester that just like my tics have changed during pregnancy, so has my anxiety.
Generally, to keep my anxiety down, I:
- Keep a healthy, regulated diet – Low in the bad fats and processed sugars, and high in whole grains, calcium, protein, and I attempt to eat the much hated spinach multiple times a week.
- Exercise regularly – Regular exercise is not only good for the body, but it produces neurotransmitters that raise the “happy” neurochemicals and lower the “stress” neurochemicals.
- I try to manage my time between writing, working, exercising, church involvement, and being a good wifey to my best friend/husband.
Unfortunately, the last six weeks of pregnancy have not been kind. I’ve had a ton of food aversions and super weird cravings, and am so desperate to eat that I will eat nearly anything my body allows. That means if I want macaroni and cheese, I’m eating it…because I might not want anything else all day. I haven’t felt good enough to work out much. (Every time I stand up it seems I want to toss whatever strange food I’ve eaten that day.) And time management has meant managing my time between the couch and the bed.
And it’s not like pregnant women have nothing to stress over. There’s the constant thought of, “Is my baby okay?” I had a slight complication earlier in the pregnancy, so this has been on my mind a lot. Of course, there’s the cost of baby stuff. Even when you’re planning a minimalist nursery, as we are, it’s still crazy expensive! Then there’s the fact that your house might be going to crap because you never feel good enough to clean it. And it’s not like the rest of the world quits providing anxiety. With all the talks on the news of new dangers, foreign and domestic, all you want to to is keep that baby hidden sometimes. The list goes on.
The good news is that I haven’t had as many anxiety attacks as usual (probably because I was blessed to get pregnant during the summer, which means work anxiety is at a minimum). The bad news is that when anxiety attacks do strike, I can’t do much about them.So I’ve come up with a list of ways that help me manage my anxiety during this weird time, because flexibility is the key.
6 Ways Not to Raise Your Anxiety (Any More) During Pregnancy
1) Don’t read the ridiculous pregnancy articles
I’m not sure who had the bright idea of writing the article, “9 Weird Things that Can Go Wrong During Pregnancy,” and then had the gall to email to me through one of my pregnancy apps. I mean, honestly, I’m trying to make a kid here, and there are already enough things to think about. I don’t need more things to worry about, particularly when they happen in less than 1% of pregnancies.
While I definitely want to be educated, there comes a point where reading becomes distracting, and I must leave it to God. While I want to do everything in my power to love on my baby, people have reproduced for the last six to ten thousand years, and I don’t think any of them suffered by not knowing about weird pregnancy things that happened to other people.
Some great advice from my mom was to be familiar with what’s normal for your stage in pregnancy; you don’t need to obsess over labor and delivery when you’re trying to survive “morning sickness.” God will bring what is to pass to pass, and there comes a point where I’ve done all I can to be a good momma, and I just need to trust him. And believe me, you’ll be Googling more than enough for each week in pregnancy, I guarantee it. Unnecessary stress is neither good for us mommas nor out babies, so let’s work to just keep everything in perspective.
2) Know it’s okay to do less during this time.
After lamenting on Facebook that I feel so lazy right now, my pastor’s wife pulled me aside at church this week. She told me,
“Don’t feel lazy. You’re creating a pulminary system, a lymphatic system, and a nervous system and all sorts of other systems right now! Your body’s working hard. You’ll be back on your feet again, but for now, take it easy.”
As I’m the kind of person who’s generally on the go doing twelve things at once, it was hard to accept this at first. Unfortunately, I have taken on more than I should have during this time, and looking back, I wish I’d said no. I’ve thought about it, however, and for the future, I think I’ll be saying no to a lot more until I feel better again. In reality, I know most of my friends and acquaintances are more than ready to help, and those that don’t understand will just have to live with it. Again, the stress isn’t worth the cost it puts on me and my baby.
My husband is good about understanding when I need to cuddle. As the Air Force is often changing his schedule to weird hours, however, my dog has been doing a great job of substituting. While I’ve read that some women are sensitive to physical touch during their first trimester of pregnancy, if you’re like me. you crave it.
As I reported in my post, “7 Ways to Help Your Anxious Spouse Relax,” physical touch has been shown to lower anxiety. Simply holding hands or hugging can really help. My husband gives me back rubs when I’m feeling really stressed (or morning sick). The massages aren’t deep tissue, but rather, just gentle rubbing up and down. The motion is soothing, and believe it or not, it helps with feelings of nausea as well.
Loving on your pet can also do great things for your anxiety. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt sick and alone while my husband is gone to work. My dog has been an awesome comfort to me. If you haven’t heard before, there are proven mental health benefits to having pets. I’ve never had a cat (horrid allergies abound), but I know that dogs can often sense when you’re upset. They even seem sensitive sometimes of when you need some furry sweetness. I’m pretty sure my dog might have known I was pregnant before I did, from the way he was acting.
As a side note, a common question I’ve seen on discussion threads is asking whether it’s safe to have a pet during pregnancy. According to What to Expect’s article, “Pets and Pregnancy,” it’s okay to have pets during pregnancy. You’ll just want to read up on certain precautionary steps (particularly with cats) to ensure you and your baby are safe and healthy.
4) Find pregnancy-friendly scents for the house.
Studies have shown that you can use your sense of smell to lower your anxiety. For me, that’s been even more heightened during pregnancy. I think my sense of smell right now could rival my dog’s. Speaking of my dog, I feel like I can smell him everywhere, just as I can smell food the day after we’ve eaten it. Along with my already constant nausea, it does little good for my anxiety when I’m smelling more things that aggravate my body.
According to What to Expects’s article, “Heightened Sense of Smell During Pregnancy, many women enjoy the scents of mint, lemon, ginger, and other herbs. Pregnancy.org’s “Ask a Midwife” says that there are no known dangers from scented candles for pregnant mommies and their little ones.
I’ve found that lighting candles helps cancel the nauseating smells I find around the house, and they help me relax. (Two birds with one stone!) I’m a personal pumpkin candle fanatic in the fall, so I’m planning on ordering some Pink Zebra sprinkles soon to help freshen up my place. If you’re short on cash, however, they’ve got little candles for $1 at Walmart. I’ve got some of those, too, and they work! It’s a cheap way to bring a bit of happiness into the house.
That said, I would caution women to research their use of straight essential oils on the skin before using them. Ask your doctor and do some research before grabbing a new bottle of oils and applying to your skin, just to be sure.
5) Find a good friend (or three) you can ask those weird questions of.
I’m really blessed to have awesome ladies in my life. My mom is my best go to, but when she’s at work and I have immediate questions, my church ladies and Air Force friends have my back. As I said earlier, pregnant ladies have enough question that need to be answered. While the internet can be a great go-to, sometimes, you just need a real person to calm your fears, someone who won’t mind your “emergence” questions that are burning holes inside you at strange times.
I felt much better when my friends assured me that it was normal to be craving pickles, olives, and Ramen Noodles, or that lying on the couch for hours on end is acceptable. You can read online as much as you want, but there’s something extraordinarily comforting about having a real person telling you it’s going to be okay and give you a hug.
And it’s even more important to have those people present in your life when things aren’t okay.
What tips can you share to help avoid excess anxiety during pregnancy? Please share your thoughts in the Comment Box below. And don’t forget, you can sign up for my newsletter for extra resources on neurological disorders, education, and spiritual encouragement. As always, thanks for reading!