Originally posted September 18, 2018.
5 MindBody Ways to Care for Mental Health During Pregnancy
Be mindful of your mental health during pregnancy. For many women, pregnancy is the most joyous times of their lives, but for some women it can be a time of increased anxiety and depression. If you have certain risk factors, such as a personal or family history of trauma, depression, anxiety or bipolar disease, you have an increased chance of becoming depressed, anxious or having a manic episode in your perinatal time.
Stress during and after pregnancy increases the likelihood of depression or anxiety. Mindfully taking care of yourself is just as important as your doctor visits and decorating the nursery!
Here are five holistic tips to help you take care of your mental health during pregnancy:
1. Manage, don’t indulge, your emotions
It can be tempting to react to and micro-analyze your every mood and physical feeling.
But we all know hitting up Dr. Google can become a stress inducing habit that is an anxiety-producing indulgence.
It’s wise to stick to your scheduled check-ups and also judiciously calling your doctor when there is something suspicious going on. But extreme self-doubt isn’t a healthy mental habit. If you need some support in maintaining your emotional balance, don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek out and talk to a therapist.
And trust in yourself to know that being pregnant and having baby is like alot of things in life, you learn as you go and, yes, with support, you can rise to the occasion of birthing and parenting!
2. Practice Wise Mind and Incorporate Self-care
Make the effort to put yourself on the calendar! If you don’t actually schedule time to care of yourself, it probably won’t happen. Look at your calendar right now and mark out self-care time for your body and mind!
It may sound daunting, but there are many small ways to introduce mindful self-care into your day.
You don’t have to meditate for an hour. Studies show that doing some mindful relaxation or awareness practice 5 -6 times a day for about 1 -2 minutes at a time over a 6 week period reduces anxiety and depression.
Make mindfulness and gratitude a daily habit. The only way to create a new habit of reaching for a positive motion is to consciously practice new emotional habits every day.
A list of some suggestions are:
Practice Wise Mind
taking a walk to clear your head at lunchtime
Doing some easy yoga stretches safe for pregnancy at your desk
mindful mandala coloring is relaxing
talk to your baby throughout the day to enhance the attachment process
do a quick drawing of how you perceive your baby in your womb
journaling is a well-known stress reducer
Use the DBT STOP Skill to soothe your busy mind
Literally shake and dump the trash thoughts out of your head and let them go into the ground and then laugh after doing it!
Take time to consciously scan your body, noticing (not judging) how your body feels and consciously dwell on the parts that feel happy
3. Rest during the day
Rest your body and mind whenever possible.
Some people can go to the nurse’s office at their job at lunch time and take rest in her office on a couch or bed there. If this is not possible, then just get away from your work and rest at your desk or, better yet, on a park bench in the sunshine at a break.
4. Practice good sleep hygiene
To facilitate rest for your body and mind during pregnancy, practice good sleep hygiene.
Basic sleep hygiene includes:
Keep a consistent bed time
Stay away from the blue light devices that can disturb your sleep in the evening
Keep your bedroom at a cool temperature
Don’t overload your mind during the day by keeping up with all the disturbing news
Keeping your bed as a sacred pace of rest and love enhances positive feelings of rest and sleep and helps you fall asleep more easily. Don’t pollute your sacred sleep environment with TV, eating, etc. in bed.
If you find you are lying fitfully awake in bed, then get up out of bed and do something non-stimulating, such as reading a boring book, until you are sleepy again. Then get back in bed.
These suggestions are inspired by the evidence-based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia program
5. Learn to say no!
Did you ever wonder why other people seem distracted and tired at work while you are not? Functioning while pregnant or when having a newborn may bring sudden insight into this mystery!
If you are used to working at a certain capacity, you probably think you’ll still be able to function at that same capacity even when you’re pregnant or have an infant. It’s tempting to Lean In, as Sheryl Sandberg says. But she’s pretty wealthy and has a nanny and a cleaning lady, among other supports, already in place. I sure didn’t have that. I’m not saying give up on your career, but be realistic about your energy levels and respect your limits.
Try to schedule your day so that you can manage your work without exhausting yourself. Turn off the devices at home, turn off the emails.
Be mindful of this wonderful time and enjoy your pregnancy. With common sense, support, some research and love, you’ll navigate whatever comes up.
Your family and friends and supportive professionals are there to help you. Support and trust in yourself and others and reaching out when you need help will make a difference in managing your emotions during pregnancy.