Pregnancy can be a stressful time in a woman's life, especially during a pandemic, but these simple steps can help, writes Suzanne Leyden of The WellNow Co
It’s very easy to tell a pregnant woman that quality sleep is a cornerstone of staying healthy and managing stress levels at this often intense and highly emotional time in a woman’s life. Practicing it can be quite difficult.
With hormone changes, physical changes, general discomfort, specific pains and the accompanying stress that can keep us wide-eyed when exhausted it really isn’t that straight forward. However, there are a number of things that can be done to help not only to improve sleep but also to reduce stress during this precious time.
Improved nutrition can have a positive impact on our overall wellbeing. This is particularly true during pregnancy. The fatigue and hormonal changes can have us reaching for packets of biscuits at a time. If we can take a pause and evaluate what we are eating we can reduce the pressure a poor diet can have on us. A balanced approach, incorporating carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats in each meal and snack is a great start. Try to have a large variety of fruit and veg to optimize the nutritional intake and fibre our bodies need. The small increase in calories that our bodies require can be got from these sources and not a bag of crisps. The effect can be that your blood sugar will be better balanced and your quality of sleep improved.
Being healthy and looking after ourselves is not all about nutrition. Addressing our stressors is also a way to clear our mind, so talking to your partner, boss, close friend will help keep your worries in perspective. Sharing your fears and insecurities will help diminish them and maybe solve them entirely. General connection with friends and family is so valuable to keeping our stress levels managed. So keep in communicating with those closest to you as much as is possible.
Gentle exercise can do wonders for your stress levels. There are so many benefits to exercising while pregnant. These include boosting your energy and mood, keeping strong in preparation for birth and post-natal recovery, and contributing to better sleep. You should always discuss your exercise plans with your healthcare provider while pregnant so you can be confident in what you are practicing. General increased movement has huge health benefits also. A simple walk with your partner or someone close to you, taking part in an antenatal yoga or Pilates class can help your body stay fit and your mind calm.
The connection with other pregnant women can be very reassuring too. During the pandemic this is not always possible to do in person but you can look at joining online pregnancy groups on social media as an alternative. A caveat to this is not to go down the social media rabbit hole scrolling for hours, making unrealistic comparisons to others and getting more stressed. Talk to your friends and ask what groups they have found helpful. Word of mouth is gold.
MEDITATION AND BREATHING EXERCISES
Meditation has become so much more popular as the benefits are being recognized by so many people now. It is an incredibly effective way to rest your body and mind, reduce stress and increase your energy. There are many apps available to get you started, and it’s definitely a practice that you can build on for life.
Breathing exercises can have an almost instant positive impact on our state. It can help with just switching off at the end of the day or bringing you down from a stressful situation. Practiced regularly can have a balancing effect on your mood. There are so many different techniques, but ‘box breathing’ is one I find easiest. Get comfortable (closing your eyes and being seated is best, but not essential) and make a mental note of how you’re feeling. Breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4, breathe out for the count of 4 and hold for the count of 4. Continue this rhythm at least 4 times, increase depending on how you feel. Notice how you feel when you stop.
OLD FASHIONED SELF-CARE
Pregnancy really is a time to mind yourself. Women are very quick to overlook their own needs, but this is definitely not a time to do that. And it’s an opportunity for you to set up good self-care practices for life. Don’t underestimate the benefits of the effects of being pampered. This can be as simple as a soak in the bath and a good book. Sometimes it really is the simple things in life that work best.
Suzanne Leyden is a Nutrition, Health and Wellness Coach at The WellNow Co. offering online wellness programmes, 1:1 coaching and workplace wellness solutions.