7 Holistic Ways To Deal With Anxiety During Pregnancy
Elizabeth Stone once said, "Making the decision to have a child—it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body."
She's right. The longest three months of my entire life was the first trimester of my recent pregnancy. Not only was I nauseous (so nauseous) and exhausted (so, so exhausted), but as a highly anxious person, I found it incredibly challenging to simply be present in the moment. Instead of feeling joy for this amazing blessing, I was caught in a constant game of worry whack-a-mole, wondering, "What is that pain?" "Is the baby OK?" "What is that smell?" "Where is my bed?"
The uncertainty of the first trimester can make it an anxiety-provoking time for many, but this pregnancy was especially tough for me. Just two months before our positive test, my husband and I had suffered a miscarriage, and I was struggling to separate the two experiences. Every day I would wonder if the baby was OK, fearful it would happen again.
I prayed for a magic pill to make my worrying go away. I prayed it would just get easier as time went on. But the more I tried to fight or deny my anxiety, the worse I felt. I knew it was time to try a different approach.
To begin, I found compassion for what I was feeling. Of course, I was scared. We had suffered a traumatic loss that was fresh. I had to acknowledge that I was still healing. Next, I began to recognize that a lot of my worries are normal, whether one has lost a baby before or not. In a way they are a natural byproduct of becoming a parent—a biological programming deeply ingrained in us to do everything we can to save our children, including and especially worry. In fact, choosing to have a baby may be the most vulnerable thing one will ever do.
Most importantly, I recognized that I needed to shift my thought processes—to do a little reprogramming. It meant vigilance, commitment, and above all else, patience. Some tactics were more helpful than others, and there is no one fix. But through a variety of tools, I was able to make it to the other side and truly enjoy this special time.
Here are seven ways I worked with my first trimester anxiety:
1. Recite affirmations.
I quickly found trying to force anxious thoughts away was the surest way to exacerbate them. Instead, I learned to introduce positive thoughts instead. Affirmations are spoken in the present tense. They express how things are or how we hope things will be. For example, when I worry if baby is OK, I repeat the words, "My baby is healthy."
2. Talk to real people, not the internet.
We have incredible resources right at our fingertips, and no, I do not mean Google. Every parent we know is an expert whom we can refer to. In the beginning of this pregnancy, I was signed up to numerous internet groups centering on baby after miscarriage. I found my anxiety levels skyrocketing as I read about every possible thing that could happen. I unfollowed those groups and started talking to people I knew, people who have my best interest at heart. I am so grateful for the friendships that have blossomed from motherhood.
3. Communicate with your partner, a lot.
One of the greatest supports has been talking to my husband. I am very much a "go-it-alone" kind of gal. It is not easy to reach out at my most anxious, but every time I do, I feel better. Interestingly, when hearing my husband's fears, I am often able to tap into an inner place of faith that I cannot always access when managing my own anxiety. Of course, having him hold me and tell me all will be OK helps too.
4. Take it one moment at a time.
Time moved very slowly during the first trimester, probably because I was counting days and not feeling so great! People kept telling me to take it one day at a time, but a day could sometimes feel like a year. Instead, I practiced taking it one moment at a time. This meant being present and mindful with whatever task was before me and reminding myself that right now, I am pregnant, and all is well.
5. Get distracted.
Full disclosure, since our positive pregnancy test, I have watched six full seasons of Beverly Hills 90210. Don't judge! I also love listening to music or reading a good book. Rather than incessantly scrolling pregnancy websites, I Google puppies and things that make me happy. When morning sickness allowed, we would go to the movies. It was a relief to fill my brain with positivity and love.
6. Ask your doctor, a lot.
It is incredibly important to have an OB/GYN or midwife you trust and feel comfortable communicating with. I would bring all of my questions to appointments and hear from the source what should and should not be concerning. Because of the miscarriage, my doctor was open to doing earlier and more frequent screening, which has helped immensely.
7. Do a lot of yoga.
While our little one may not be able to hear our voices yet in the first trimester, they can feel our energy. I wanted to do things that calmed me. Luckily, I am a yoga teacher, so yoga is already a huge part of my life, but it became even more crucial during this period. Being in my body is a great way to get present and quiet the mind. It was a rare time during the day when I was not in constant worry.
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