babyMaternity Magazine
Creative Child

How Stress Can Harm Your Unborn Baby and Ways to Manage It

by Deborah Song

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  1. Monitor your anxiety. Anxiety is more than just a feeling. There are physiological, cognitive and behavioral changes at play. Ask yourself, how many times do you feel anxious a day? What are the most common triggers? And what physical symptoms do you experience? How does it affect your behavior? Jot down your answers and keep track of your stress. 
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  1. Make an accurate assessment. When something bad happens, we tend to one, overestimate the likelihood it will happen again and two, exaggerate the intensity of the problem. Identifying your individual fears and filtering them will help you make an accurate assessment. Make a list of what you fear the most and cross off what’s not realistic. Then make a list of coping skills or options you have.
  1. Maintain Optimism. Focusing on the present, rather than the future or past can help you remain optimistic. Expending energy anticipating negative outcomes only eats away at our sense of control and hope. Accept the unpredictability of life and stick with what’s going on right now. Being grateful and focusing on the positive in your life will also help you see the bright side of things.
  1. Assign a worry window. Consistently worrying is no good. But avoiding your problems isn’t either. It’s important to confront your problems head on, which proves to yourself that you are capable of handling it. So assign yourself a worry window, say from 9:00am to 10:00am, where you have permission to ruminate and focus on your problem. Then when the window is over, lay your problems aside.
  1. Disengage your mind from the problem. Did you know that most people believe worrying is helpful? Many believe worrying leads to better answers, provides greater insight, or offers you greater confidence in your chosen course of action. When in fact, too many negative thoughts cloud our judgment. Your mind is incapable of thinking about more than a few things at a time. No amount of worrying will give you a better outcome to a bad situation.
  1. Do something constructive that shows results. As a child, I hated cleaning. As an adult, cleaning and organizing has become an obsessive addiction because the results are seen and felt immediately. When life feels out of your control, a simple activity like cleaning or crocheting can be incredibly therapeutic and distracting.
  1. Stop blaming yourself. We often feel stress, anxiety or worry because of the responsibility or blame we place on ourselves for things we have very little control over. If, for example, you learn that you’re about to lose your job, you may find yourself dwelling on whether you could have prevented this. You may think you could have worked harder. It’s important to take responsibility for our actions, but we can’t predict and control external events. A sense of control comes at the cost of feeling regret and shame for events over which we often have no control.
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  1. Relax. Do things that physically release stress and tension. Running, walking, swimming or even getting a massage can help. Even if you’re not a big fan of exercising, build some physical activity into your day. Any physical activity that releases physical tension from body will help. One of the most effective relaxation methods is simply mindful breathing. Breathe from your abdomen rather than using shallow chest breathing. Inhale slowly while counting to five. Hold your breath and count to five again. Exhale slowly, like you are cooling a spoonful of hot soup. Repeat.
  1. Be social. Don’t withdraw. Talk with at least one person who is supportive and understanding enough to offer thoughtful reflective insights each day. These activities do more than distract us from rumination; they empower, sustain and strengthen us. They allow us to develop a clearer and deeper understanding of our lives and possible ways to address our problems.
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  1. Help someone else in need. When you’re in the throes of an existential crisis, it may seem like the least opportune time to help somebody else in need. By focusing your attention on someone else, though, you’ll take the focus off your problems and feel empowered by you ability to improve someone else’s condition.

Stress is a natural part of life. Pregnancy—whether it’s meticulously planned or completely unexpected— only adds to that. I couldn’t control every outcome in my career or my life, but with the right techniques I’m better able to embrace all of it. I hope they can help you find some peace of mind, as well.

Deborah Song is a Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based writer, who obtained her master's in journalism from New York University. She is the founder of worklifeparent.com, and is passionate about helping parents find better work-life balance and proper support through community.

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