Your life has always been busy. The responsibilities of your career, relationships and home force you to compartmentalize as best you can. Now, you’re just a few months away from adding a new life to the mix, and you can feel stress—which you’re usually pretty adept at containing—starting to bubble over.
Everyday stress can be formidable. Add seesawing hormones, the discomforts of pregnancy and worries about being a parent, and it’s no wonder many soon-to-be mothers feel overwhelmed. Allowing stress to consume you, however, can negatively affect you and your baby in many ways. It can rob you of sleep and appetite and cause headaches. Stress can also cause high blood pressure, which raises your risk for giving birth early or having an underweight baby. Those things, in turn, may lead to problems with health and development in childhood.
The first and best way you can care for your baby before he or she arrives is to care for yourself by minimizing stress.
Stamping out stress may be too much to ask, but managing it is definitely doable. These steps can help:
- Be honest with yourself. You can’t address stress if you’re in denial about feeling overloaded and how it’s affecting your life.
- Spot your stressors. Another key part of managing stress is identifying the factors in your life that cause it. Once you know what they are, you can mitigate or avoid them.
- Think like a CEO. The most effective leaders know when and how to delegate. Take a page from their playbook and ask your spouse, parents and close friends to help with certain tasks, such as housework and shopping.
- Know who’s on your team. It doesn’t just take a village to raise a child—it also takes one to help with the journey of bringing him or her into the world. Identify whom you can turn to for emotional and logistical support. Regular get-togethers with friends can help you feel happy, connected and less stressed.
- Prioritize your health. Get the nutrition, exercise and sleep you need. Everything else comes second.
- Make a plan. Uncertainty can breed stress. Address some of the unmade decisions you’ve been fretting over, such as how to decorate the nursery or which pediatrician to use for your baby.
- Pamper yourself every day. You can do this in ways big and small, from taking an impromptu weekend getaway with your partner to spending 15 extra minutes in the morning reading a novel.
- Speak up. If you’re feeling stressed, the important people in your life—including your primary care physician—need to know. He or she may refer you to a behavioral health provider if stress threatens to lead to anxiety or depression.