Here is your guide to coping with stress during a pandemic
This is undoubtedly a very difficult time for the world right now.
Because of this, there may be heightened feelings of stress and anxiety that are no good for either you or your baby.
While coping with the physical changes in pregnancy, birth and beyond, your emotional health is important too.
Here is a wellbeing guide full of helpful tips, some useful strategies and some fun exercises that will help you keep on top of your feelings.
This guide will help you think about the support you might need to look after your mental health and wellbeing and will hopefully help you gain some clarity and perspective that will encourage you to look forward to the birth of your baby, pandemic or no pandemic!
Grab your journal….
Using your journal or notebook, take a moment now to write down ALL the feelings you have right now about your birth, about your baby and specifically how this relates the pandemic….and don’t hold back!
This EXERCISE will help you to identify any negative feelings so that you can release them and let them go.
It gives you permission to feel all the feelings you have without judgement.
It is so important to honour your feelings and use some of the strategies you will learn in this guide to reframe and move on.
Getting it all out onto the page helps massively with putting some of these worrisome thoughts to bed
Then follow these simple steps….
1. Turn off social media/the news
Scrolling and consuming content that will increase your anxiety should be avoided whenever possible. The pandemic has taken over the news feeds and we are being bombarded 24/7 with updates. It’s exhausting! Try to limit your consumption by listening to a podcast instead, or go and pick up that favourite book you never got round to reading yet, or you could do another activity that you enjoy. Distraction really works!
2. Find some quiet time/prenatal bonding
Self-care during this time is even more important. Make time for you even if it’s just a couple of minutes every day. First thing in the morning when you awaken or last thing before you sleep are good times to grab your moment of peace. Get quiet and spend some time rubbing & talking to your bump and connecting with your baby. Pre-natal bonding is a hugely important part of the process of becoming a parent. Other bonding exercises include, singing (baby finds your voice reassuring), playing games (responding to baby’s kicks is fun!), and playing music (baby will remember these after they have arrived & so will help them to settle – win!)
3. Do some gentle exercise
Exercise raises the endorphin levels and ensures your body and mind are ready to give birth. How about some pregnancy yoga, or whack on your favourite tunes and have a good dance around the kitchen! Don’t forget, the government guidance states that you are allowed out for your daily walk once a day
I want you to imagine your ideal birth scenario and play it over in your mind as often as possible each and every day. Another one is to visualise actually meeting your baby – how amazing will you feel when you gaze into their eyes for the first time? Play it over and over and FEEL the sensations too if you can.
These are a structured way to practice new thoughts. It’s important to encourage positive thoughts about birthing and to lower your stress levels bought on by the pandemic. Something like ‘even though we are in the midst of a pandemic, I am feeling excited and happy that my baby is coming’. I would encourage you to set a time each day to focus on your affirmations. There are lots of great affirmations. You can make them up yourself or go to Google for some help with prompts for more
6. Write your birth story
It is so important that you use this time to focus on what you do want rather than worrying about the things you don’t want or can’t control. One of the first steps is to consider what you would like to experience and how you would like to feel when the big day comes. Give yourself some time to daydream about your calm and gentle birth as if it has already happened. Then go grab your journal and write it down! Remember to use positive language. It might take a few attempts to get clear in your mind what sort of experience you want, but once you are happy with is, use it to help with your visualisations. You need to be day dreaming about this on a regular basis!
7. Learn how to breath
This Simple yet powerful Calm Birth School breathing technique will trigger your body’s natural calming reflex. I teach this technique (and more) to my clients and it works…
This is what you need to do…
- Get into a relaxed position, either sitting or lying down
- breath in deeply through the nose for the count of four
- (fill your lungs like you are filling up a balloon)
- Breath out for the count of seven and imagine you are sending your breath down, all around your body and into the ground. It really is that simple!
Please use this technique whenever you start to feel yourself getting stressed out. It doesn’t matter where you are, just stop, focus on your in and out breath and start to feel pleasantly relaxed each and every time you practice this technique. Practice every morning when you first wake up, for at least 5 minutes – you won’t regret it 🙂
8. Educate yourself/knowledge is power
And this does not mean binge watching one Born Every Minute! You really have to feel like you have a handle on what choices you have available to you and what your rights are during this time. What are your choices for where you want to give birth? What is your local Trust/Care provider advising about this? I am biased here, but a Hypnobirthing course will definitely equip you with tons of information that will help you to navigate your way through this challenging time. There are also some great websites to get you started including Aims.org.uk and Birthrights.org.uk. both of which have some fantastic advice and guidance relating to COVID-19 and the pandemic. Write down your questions in your journal, grab your laptop and start gathering some information.
9. Identify your team early on
COVID-19 means that there are likely going to be restrictions on who you can have with you when you give birth. Although this is the case, this should not stop you from being very clear early on who you want with you when you give birth. With the restrictions, it would also be good to have a ‘back up’ person if at all possible. Do you have children already? Your team are not just the person who will attend your birth, but also any wrap around support you might need for after you get home with your baby, that person you know will come round in the early days and make dinner for you (trust me, you will want this!!)
10. Consider looking at things differently
If you are at home self-isolating, you will have more time now to prepare for your big day. Preparing for a baby is like a full-time job in itself! This is a fantastic opportunity to do things you may not have had time for before. Perhaps your partner is at home isolating with you? What can you do to together that you had no time to do before? Learn to cook a meal, identify your top ten albums that shaped you, give a new lick of paint to that room that’s been left for the longest time. What I am encouraging you to do here is what is called ‘re-framing’. It means you need to look for the silver linings – how can you take control of what you can change and let go of speculating on the rest? How many opportunities can you identify? Make a list in your journal
11. Maintain your social connections. Virtually
If, like me, you like to socialise and mix with people, being stuck at home can be especially hard. Join a local FB group, arrange a virtual meet up with some friends/family. It’s especially important to stay connected as this will reduce any feelings of isolation and help you to meet other pregnant women who you can talk to. You are not alone.
Grab your journal and take some time now to write down all the things you are grateful for right now. You need at least 100 things!
Practicing gratitude has been scientifically proven to help improve mental health and helps us to appreciate the people and things that we do have rather than focusing on the things we don’t. Giving thanks will make you feel happier and can…
- help increase your happiness and improve your mood
- help you to sleep better (especially if you practice this at bed time)
- encourage the development of patience, wisdom and courage
- lower the levels of stress hormones
so…start with, today I am grateful for….and note how it feels
I hope you find this helpful. If you would like to download the ‘lite’ version of this guide as a PDF then you can do so by clicking here.
Note: This wellbeing guide is designed to help you understand your feelings and to take steps to feel better. It is not meant to take the place of professional medical advice. If you are concerned about how you’re feeling, talk with someone you trust like your midwife or caregiver.