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Pampering Your Soul

You're about to enter your final trimester--yikes! Don't be surprised if your stress level ratchets up a notch. There's still so much to do, from finishing up projects at work to stocking the nursery. And you may be feeling a new level of anxiety about delivery and new motherhood.

This is the perfect time to invest in beauty treatments for your soul. Find ways to unwind whether you're the sort of person who relaxes best from the outside in--exercising your body first to slow down your mind--or whether your path to inner peace is to focus inward and stay in the moment.

Breathing. If you're planning on going to childbirth class, you'll probably learn breathing exercises designed to ease labor pain. But this focused, controlled breathing isn't just for labor. Buy an audio book or take a class that teaches you deep breathing techniques you can do for short periods every day. You might also want to try transcendental meditation, which usually requires sitting upright, adopting a passive attitude, and chanting a simple word or phrase like "om" for at least 15 minutes a day. This is a technique that first came to the attention of the American medical community in the late 1960s, when researchers showed that meditation could reduce blood pressure. It's a common relaxation technique today.

Body work. If you're the sort of person who needs external stimulation to relax, consider hands-on treatments like massage and acupressure. Experienced practitioners can help your muscles relax and calm your nervous system with just the right touch. A massage therapist experienced in working with pregnant women will have a table with a cutout that accommodates your abdomen or pillows to support you in a comfortable reclining position. She will also know not to massage your uterus in a way that might stimulate contractions.

Music. You can also take a step beyond just listening to music through sound or music therapy. This technique depends on sound waves of different frequencies to elicit slower breathing rates.

Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.

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