Take It Easy
10 ways to slow down, worry less and enjoy your pregnancy
Few events in a woman’s life are as exciting or as stressful as pregnancy. Questions nag in the middle of the night: Will I be a good mother? What will happen to my marriage? Will I ever get back into shape? // If you looked hard enough, you could find plenty of reasons to spend your entire pregnancy stressed out — exactly what too many women do. “First-time mothers, especially, are often anxious throughout their pregnancy,” says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., director of women’s health programs at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center’s division of behavioral medicine in Boston. “They read too much, think too much and worry.” That’s unfortunate, she adds, because pregnancy should be a glorious time of life.
Here are suggestions from the experts — professionals and women who’ve been there — designed to help you relax, minimize stress and celebrate your pregnancy.
1) Stop negative thoughts
“When a woman is preparing for the transition to motherhood, it’s important that she do so with a sense of mastery over her life,” says Gayle Peterson, Ph.D., M.S.S.W., a family therapist in Berkeley, Calif., and author of An Easier Childbirth (Shadow and Light Publications, 1994). Peterson suggests that you allow yourself brooding time once a day, but if your sessions are prolonged, consider mental exercises to help you change the way you think.
“The goal is to challenge the negative,” Domar says. Restructure a thought such as I’ll never be a good mother to something like I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself for motherhood. Or if you’re stuck on the I’ll never feel sexy again obsession, try substituting a statement that you know is true. For example, My hormones are completely whacked out, but I’ll feel different after I have the baby.
2) Express yourself in a journal
Make entries in a journal to help you confront your fears and doubts. Writing about emotionally powerful experiences can help you come to terms with what you are feeling while boosting your mental and even physical health, says James Pennebaker, Ph.D., author of Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions (Guilford Press, 1997). “Pregnancy brings up all kinds of issues: changes in responsibility, relationships and activities,” he says. “The very act of writing can help sort out charged events.” His advice: Set aside 20 minutes, three or four days a week, to record your thoughts.