From the book “Nine Months In ~ Nine Months Out”
Stress impacts every aspect of our lives. There are external stressors and internal stressors and honestly, stress is all in how we react to a given situation. People don’t stress us out. We let them stress us out. That guy who cut you off in traffic? He can’t hear you. You can’t change the fact that he cut you off. Ask yourself this question: Is this something I can change? If yes, then change it. If no, then let it go. (And if yes, and you’re just not ready to change it, then that’s acceptable too, just stop beating yourself up over it.)
A few ways to manage and reduce stress, other than those already mentioned (exercise, massage, and nutrition), is to key in and listen to ourselves and our babies during the pregnancy include:
- Breathing Exercises – provides numerous benefits for the body, including oxygenating the blood, which ‘wakes up’ the brain, relaxing muscles and quieting the mind. Breathing exercises are work quickly so you can de-stress in a matter of a few short breaths. Practice by sitting up straight in your chair. When breathing in, pull your navel to your spine, and fill your lungs upward, thus In and Up. When breathing out, reverse it, breathing out and down. This is a reverse breathing pattern traditionally taught in Qi Gong and Tai Chi. It requires a unique focus to keep the breath cycle going. Try this for three (3) deep breaths to start, and use the technique whenever you’re feeling stressed.
- Meditation – taking your breathing exercises one step further, when you meditate, your brain enters an area of functioning that’s similar to sleep, but carries some added benefits including the release of certain hormones that promote health. Also, the mental focus on nothingness keeps your mind from working overtime and increasing your stress level.
- Guided Imagery – It takes slightly more time to practice guided imagery, but this is a great way to leave your stress behind for a while and relax your body. Some find it easier to practice guided imagery than meditation, as lots of us find it more doable to focus on ‘something’ than on ‘nothing.’ You can play natural sounds in the background as you practice to promote a more immersive experience.
- Visualizations – Building on guided imagery, you can also visualize yourself achieving goals like becoming healthier and more relaxed, doing well at tasks, and handling conflict in better ways. Also, imagining yourself doing well on tasks you’re trying to master actually functions like physical practice, so you can improve your performance through visualizations as well!
- Self-hypnosis – Self-hypnosis incorporates some of the features of guided imagery and visualizations, with the added benefit of enabling you to communicate directly with your subconscious mind to enhance your abilities, give up bad habits more easily, feel less pain, develop healthier habits more effectively, and even find answers to questions that may not be clear to your waking mind! It takes some practice and training, but is well worth it. Learn more about using hypnosis to manage stress in your life.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation – By tensing and relaxing all the muscle groups in your body, you can relieve tension and feel much more relaxed in minutes, with no special training or equipment. Start by tensing all the muscles in your face, holding a tight grimace ten seconds, then completely relaxing for ten seconds. Repeat this with your neck, followed by your shoulders, etc. You can do this anywhere, and as you practice, you will find you can relax more quickly and easily, reducing tension as quickly as it starts!
- Music – Music therapy has shown numerous health benefits for people with mild to severe conditions ranging from stress to cancer. When dealing with stress, the right music can actually lower your blood pressure, relax your body and calm your mind.
Rather than using just one of the techniques mentioned above, it is best to combine a few aspects, giving yourself and your baby the chance to distress and relax during pregnancy and birth.
Labor Affirmations – As you move into the final few months of your pregnancy, you’ll start to feel as if you’re carrying more weight than you actually are. Hopefully, with the help of all the information in our book, you’ve found your pregnancy to be smooth and flowing. For the final few months, we’re going to add another layer into your relaxation sessions. We’re starting to prepare you for the actual process of birth.
Now, you may have chosen to take any one of the childbirth classes offered. You may be focusing on a natural birth, epidural for pain management or even a C-section. The goal of this relaxation session is to help to keep you and your baby calm regardless of what method of birth you’ve chosen to experience. We recommend you start using this relaxation around Week 34