Pregnancy is an exciting time that is often full of joy, but it can also cause additional stress for expecting mothers. Life can seem to change rapidly during pregnancy and this can easily become overwhelming. It is important to find time to relax in order to enjoy a happy, healthy pregnancy. In fact, proper relaxation techniques can result in better sleep, increased immune system function, increased serotonin levels, improved concentration and an overall increase in energy and positive feelings. Listed below are a few helpful tools that can be used to prioritize your mental health and reduce stress during pregnancy.
Meditation is a tried and true method of relaxation that has proven health benefits. The goal of meditation is to quiet the mind as a way to calm the body. The first step for effective meditation is to get into a comfortable position. Pregnancy can be strenuous on the body, so it is important to find a position where your focus cannot be easily diverted to bodily discomforts. Next you draw your attention to your breath. Breathe in deeply, giving your full attention to the expanding and contracting of your lungs. The goal is to clear your mind completely, but it is normal to get distracted by involuntary thoughts. Acknowledge each thought as it comes, and let it go as you exhale. Meditation is a skill that takes practice, so start slow. Two minute sessions are standard for basic meditation, increasing the duration as your skills improve.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a very simple and typically effective form of relaxation. It begins with finding a comfortable position, usually by lying down. After achieving a comfortable position, close your eyes and focus on how your body is feeling. Starting at your toes, focus specifically on each part of your body and relax them one at a time. The goal is to feel fully relaxed by the time you get to your head, letting the bodily relaxation calm your mind.
Visualization can be a great way to manifest your relaxation through the power of your mind. This technique involves creating a soothing mental image in an attempt to transport your mind to a more peaceful place. It starts with getting comfortable and closing your eyes. Breathe deeply and visualize a happy place where you can feel at peace. Incorporate each of the five senses into your image in order to fully immerse yourself in your visualization. Focus completely on the present moment and try to let go of any stressors that may be weighing you down.
Massage is an easy way to manually relax your body and allow your mind to follow suit. There are many affordable massage parlors and spas that offer massages. You can also ask a partner or a friend for their help if you would prefer to stay at home. However, it is important to note that a full body massage is not recommended early on in pregnancy. Some places offer a specific prenatal massage, or you can ask for a head shoulder, foot or leg massage.
Lifestyle Factors: Sleep, Diet And Exercise
Pregnancy can cause a whole host of changes that may divert you from a healthy lifestyle. Cravings can distract you from a traditional healthy diet and bodily changes may make it difficult to sleep and harder to exercise. However, these changes can be dangerous as they may put additional stress on the body. It is important to prioritize getting enough sleep and eating a full nutritious diet. Exercise can be particularly important in keeping your stress in check, as it has been proven to reduce the amount of stress hormones present in the body. Strenuous exercise may not be recommended as pregnancy progresses, but even a short walk around the neighborhood can help to promote healthy stress levels.
It can be surprisingly difficult to relax when first trying some of these new techniques. You may not find that your efforts are immediately successful, and that is perfectly fine. It is important to be patient with yourself and practice in order to improve, just as you would with any other skill. Everyone is different so take some time to explore your options and find what works best for you.
“Deep Relaxation Techniques to Use During Your Pregnancy.” Byram Healthcare, breastpumps.byramhealthcare.com/blog/2018/10/31/deep-relaxation-techniques-pregnancy.
“Relaxation Techniques.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 Apr. 2020, www.cdc.gov/niosh/emres/longhourstraining/relax.html.
“Relaxation Techniques: Try These Steps to Reduce Stress.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 18 Apr. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/relaxation-technique/art-20045368.
Staff, Mindful, et al. “How to Meditate.” Mindful, 27 Mar. 2020, www.mindful.org/how-to-meditate/.
About the author
Courtney Williams is the Co-Founder and CEO of Emagine Solutions Technology. Emagine provides a new level of care for pregnant women by combining handheld ultrasound and remote patient monitoring software to improve maternal health outcomes.