While pregnancy is an exciting time, it can also bring up feelings of stress and anxiety. Worries regarding the upcoming birth, body changes, partner support, and more, often wreak havoc on the calm, enjoyable pregnancy that you once dreamed of. But there is hope! Here are 4 steps to conquer your anxiety during pregnancy.
Pinpoint the Fear
Sometimes we feel anxious, but we can’t quite pinpoint a clear reason WHY we’re anxious. You might think, “I’m scared about giving birth”. But what exactly about giving birth seems scary? For instance, are you afraid you won’t be able to handle the physical pain of labor? Or perhaps you are scared that your partner will not be as supportive during labor as you’d like? The more detailed you can get about what you are really anxious about, the easier it is to reframe your thinking in a more positive, helpful way.
Consider the Possibilities
When people feel anxious, they tend to focus on the worst-case scenario of any given situation. This single focus usually means that all other potential outcomes are not even considered. Instead of jumping to the worst-case scenario, make yourself think of at least 3 other possible outcomes besides the worst-case scenario. This creates flexibility in your thinking as your mind considers other possibilities besides the thought that is causing you so much anxiety.
Poke Some Holes
When anxiety strikes, it often feels like our brain latches onto a specific thought and just won’t let go. One way to loosen the grip of anxiety is to find evidence against your anxious thoughts. For instance, many people during pregnancy begin to think that their partners no longer find them attractive. Where is the evidence for this belief? Often, they will admit there is no evidence to support their theory- they just fear that it must be true because their body is changing. But is there evidence against their belief? Can we poke some holes in their theory? Why, yes we can! Their partners verbally praise their appearance, and their partners continue to want to physically touch and be intimate with them. Reminding your brain about the holes in your theory stops the anxiety in its tracks.
Play the Reframe Game
Now you are ready to play the “reframe game”. How can you turn your worrisome thought into something more positive and helpful? As with our previous example of fearing that your partner no longer finds you attractive, one might reframe the thought as, “Although my belly is growing and my body is changing, my partner is still attracted to me and wants to be close to me.” When those negative, anxious thoughts come up, play the reframe game to change your thinking! This in turn, will reduce your feelings of anxiety.
Try out these steps today to get relief from your anxiety! And if you continue to struggle to manage your anxiety after trying these tips, reach out to a professional for help. Anxiety is treatable and you can be on your way to feeling much better very soon.
Rachel Benson is a licensed mental health professional, (CA LCSW License # 75165) with a private practice in Tustin, CA. She has been providing therapy since 2007, and has specialized in prenatal and postpartum mental health for the last 5 years. She can be contacted at 714-468-3685 and firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.tustincounseling.com.