Mindfully Managing Anxiety During Pregnancy and Beyond

By: Lena Franklin, LCSW

Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapist

 

Lets face it, pregnancy can stimulate some serious worry thoughts. Life has taken a beautiful, but drastic transformation with this baby on the way and all the mind can do is ruminate on what you should be eating, drinking or doing with your body. Additionally, worries about the baby’s health and how you’ll step into that parental role become stuck in your mind. It can become paralyzing!

Anxiety is a normal occurrence for pregnant women so it’s truly not about pushing the anxiety away, but it’s how we respond to those nerves that matters most. Mindfulness is about how we meet life’s ebbs and flows with wisdom, rather than attempting to push away what is unpleasant, while fearfully clinging to what is pleasant. Truly, a commitment to daily mindfulness practices can help us observe our thoughts as real experiences in our mind without automatically taking our thoughts as truth. We experience 60-80 thousand thoughts a day and approximately 70% of these thoughts are negative. Wowza! But mindfulness offers us powerful tools to cultivate our zen before the baby arrives so we can best step into parenthood with confident balance. Through awareness of these thoughts, we can begin to shift into more positive states of being.

Heres How:

1.) Befriend Your Breath

Much of our psychological distress stems from thoughts that are unchallenged. When you experience a negative, worry-based thought - PAUSE.  Make it a habit to stop what you’re doing and observe that thought. Our anxieties want our attention and if we repress what thoughts and feelings emerge within us, they’ll return in more maladaptive ways down the road. Remember, whatever you resist persists. Notice that invasive thought as an object within the mind. Then, after a few mindful moments of observation, turn to your breath flow. Without forcing the breath to become deep, simply notice the gentle rise and fall of the chest and belly as you inhale and exhale. You can even put your hands on your belly attuning to your baby as you cultivate this inner peace. Your breath is the most precious mindfulness tool you possess. Remember, your breath is like a trusted friend you can turn to each moment you’re alive. Mindfulness of breath eases a worried mind, bringing us back to balance.

2.) Create a Mindful Mantra

Ask yourself, how do you want to feel, moment-to-moment? Perhaps you desire to feel more at ease, peaceful, loved or compassionate. Whatever arises first when you practice this question of self-inquiry is exactly what you should begin working with. Indeed, with our thoughts, we create our realities. Through the practice of mantra (an internal affirmation or sacred statement), we can begin reprogramming our conscious and subconscious minds to connect with more positive states of being. For example, if you wish to be more peaceful, use the mantra “I am peace” as you inhale and exhale. When you inhale, repeat the words “I am” and when you exhale, repeat the word “peace.” Do this 5-10 minutes each morning before your feet hit the floor. Pregnancy can trigger fear-based thoughts but through mindful mantras, YOU possess this opportunity to harness the power of the mind and send positive energy to yourself and the precious being growing in your belly.

3.) Confide in Your Tribe

When anxiety arises, simply having a loving presence to confide in can create immediate catharsis. The simple practice of asking for what we need is transformative, so commit to this practice of interpersonal mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being present to what arises in the moment - and we can allow these mindful moments to unfold interpersonally through our communication. Whether turning to your spouse, friend or sibling, share your worry thoughts with them out loud. When we keep our anxieties inward, they can easily perpetuate themselves, particularly during pregnancy. When we open ourselves up to being truly heard and seen by a trusted loved one, that creates greater heart centered connection and intimacy with our “tribe,” making it easier to confide in them next time.

Pregnancy is a profound journey of transformation. But transformation can’t occur without hard moments. I often teach in workshops, retreats and trainings that “our strength stems from the darkness of our suffering.” In a moment of anxiety, we can either allow it to cripple us, or, we can choose to become empowered by the opportunity for great change. When we choose mindfulness, we transform ourselves and our families, expanding our capacity for love, joy and fulfillment, moment-to-moment.

 

 

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The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of your physician or licensed health care provider. You should consult your physician or licensed health care provider before engaging in any exercise activity described in this article to determine if it is right for your needs.