Expecting and stressed out? We have tips to get you well on your way to relaxation.
In our culture, the news media often focuses on negative reports which can be anxiety producing for readers and viewers. This is especially true for expecting and new moms who, by nature, feel particularly vulnerable as they try to provide a safe environment for their developing babies or newborns. You’ve seen the headlines: “BPA in Bottles May Cause Learning Disabilities in Babies,” “Pregnant Women in Second Trimester at Higher Risk for Car Accidents,” “We’re All Going to Get Cancer From Pesticides.” How can anyone feel safe, secure, and relaxed with these kinds of messages swirling around our minds?
Knowledge is good but we are over-informed and overwhelmed. Taking care of oneself and creating time and space for relaxation during pregnancy is imperative. Unplug and unwind without feeling guilty. Relaxation is not the equivalent to being lazy or overly self-indulgent. On the contrary, relaxation is a necessary part of your day to day life.
Take a Deep Breath
To keep ahead of stress, consider starting your day with deep breathing exercises. In the morning, take just 5 minutes to focus on your breath in a comfortable, seated position with your eyes closed. Focus solely on your breathing and breathe through your mouth, nose, or both – whatever is comfortable. If you choose, you can repeat a mantra in your mind with each inhalation and exhalation, such as “breathing in relaxation” and “breathing out tension.” You may also find it helpful to notice the characteristics of your breath, involving as many senses as you can. Does the inhaled air seem cooler than the exhaled breath? What does your breath sound like? – the wind, gentle waves? Notice the sensation of your breath as it enters and leaves your body. You can even picture your breath in your mind as a light mist. Taking a few minutes before the start of your day to breathe deeply and release anxiety will energize you. In addition to feeling relaxed, you may also experience a more alert and focused state of mind as you accomplish your daily work and life tasks.
If you notice that you become more tense or sluggish in the mid-afternoon, especially at work, then take a couple of minutes at your desk to for a quick progressive relaxation. Progressive relaxation typically involves relaxing every part of your body from head to toe while engaged in the breathing exercise described above. After you close your eyes and begin your deep breathing, start by releasing any tension in your face, head, and neck. Unclench your jaw, allow your eyelids to feel heavy, and unfurrow your brow. On your next exhalation, allow the shoulders to drop to extend the neck and release tightness. Continue to move down the torso and let the chest, back, and abdomen release any tension. Finally, feel your arms and legs go limp, including the elbows, ankles, and knees, as you completely surrender to the relaxation. If this bit of rest and release does not energize you then consider the opposite remedy: take a short, brisk walk to shake off any lingering tension.
Yoga & Massage Therapy
In the evenings, consider taking a prenatal yoga class 2 – 3 times per week. Stretching and strengthening exercises, in addition to the shavasana relaxation at the end of class, will help deepen your relaxation even further. Treat yourself to a weekly prenatal massage to increase the release of endorphins that will leave you with a feeling of well-being, a natural “high.” If you don’t want to shell out money for a yoga class, rent a free yoga video on demand through your cable provider or through your local library. If paying for a massage is not in your budget, see if your partner can manage that piece. Remember: to get what you need you’ll have to ask for what you want!
If you can make relaxation practice a routine during pregnancy then you will also develop the tools you need to be a calm parent. Early parenting can be an even greater source of stress for some new parents. Start your practice now and keep it up so you can reap the benefits far into the future.