As I embrace my journey with my second pregnancy, a few things I now rely on (which I didn’t in my first pregnancy) are practicing mindfulness techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, unplugging from technology, daily journal writing, expressing gratitude and embracing nature. Yes, exercise is critical as well, but mental care is just as vital.
Research from various institutions such as UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center avdocate mindfulness activities as a resource for pregnant women to help decrease their levels of anxiety and depression while increasing positive emotions. Take it from me, it is easy to feel overwhelmed during pregnancy due to stress from unwarranted suggestions to balancing our career and current family situation, and then finding the time for self-care. Collectively, this is no easy task, and if one claims it is, they must have a lot of help.
One thing I was advised to do was to seek out support groups. Here’s the truth, some worked, and others didn’t work for various reasons. Ultimately, every expectant and new mom are facing similar challenges, and at times it is hard to be a backbone for someone else when we are trying to keep our own head above water. And this is where mindfulness comes into play during our pregnancy journey and beyond. Mindfulness, according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program, is paying attention to our feelings and emotions, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. Mindfulness practices stem from sitting still to relaxing music or in silence (meditation), painting or writing, walking outside, deep breathing exercises, and our positive communication with others and self. No one magic recipe will work, but rather a bit of each in a consistent manner will help ease our mind and stress which ultimately helps calm the baby in our belly and other family members.
The most efficient way to get started in the mindfulness arena is to begin daily writing. Writing has the ability to clear your mind allowing you to release your thoughts and emotions in a safe space with zero judgement. In terms of meditation, it really doesn’t need to be a fancy practice with oils and candles. Just sit on your bed, kitchen chair or a couch and close your eyes and let your mind drift. Gentle spa music or counting helps clear the mind of excess junk floating in the brain and enables the head to detox from information overload. And while you’re sitting there, slowly take five-to-seven deep inhalations and exhalations through the mouth and nose. Fortunately, there’s a multitude of meditation apps to help guide you in a meditation practice such as Simple Habit and Insight Timer.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, get out there and walk in nature. Focus on the smell of the air, the colors that surround you, the textures as you walk and developing gratitude for mother earth. Being in nature while getting exercise garners lasting positive effects for the human body and brain. And if time permits in your day or week, treat yourself to a warm bath with bubbles and spa music in the background. Your baby and muscles will thank you for it!
Remember, mindfulness activities are a practice, something you need to continually work on each day. Some moments will be easier than others, but the goal is to not give up on yourself and your baby, and to remember while pregnancy may be a challenge, the long-term benefits of having a child is the most rewarding and beautiful gift.