Stress is a normal part of life, but it's important to find ways to relax for the health of your baby.
Deadlines, traffic jams, and interpersonal conflicts with family members and friends are stressors you will have to deal with during pregnancy, just as you do during other times of life. While a little stress can actually be good for you, boosting your immune response and preparing it for possible infection or injury, chronic stress can wear you down. If you're pregnant and stressed-out, your mind-set may affect your baby's development.
One study of women in their 3rd trimesters showed that those with signs of stress, such as high blood pressure, were more apt to have babies with increased heart rates than non-stressed mothers were. Researchers are also investigating the link between stress and premature births. So for your baby's health as well as your own, teach yourself to relax.
Stress-reducing techniques slow down the body and still the mind. They include meditation, breathing exercises, guided imagery, and progressive muscle imagery. All of these techniques help you focus on the mind-body connection in ways that allow you to maintain a quieter, deeper perspective on events in your life and things beyond your control.
Try this quick and easy relaxation practice:
- Set aside 15 minutes and retreat to a private place where you will not be disturbed.
- Sit or lie down comfortably.
- Close your eyes, or rest your gaze where you won't be distracted.
- Allow your awareness to rest in the center of your body as you take 10 relaxed, full breaths, counting backward from 10 to 1. Inhale deeply and slowly. Slow down your breathing if you feel light-headed.
- As you inhale, picture a calm, peaceful place. Imagine yourself taking breaths of air in that place. Visualize the place in detail, picturing your peaceful baby beside you, and allow your mind and body to relax as you visualize this scene.
- Stretch your arms and legs, take several more deep breaths, and then congratulate yourself on time well spent.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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