Let’s just start by saying that staying calm and giving yourself the gift of proper self-care is not always easy during pregnancy. I don’t even have any toddlers running around and I find it hard to fit in self-care activities on a regular basis. Whether it’s the first trimester woes of morning sickness, all-day nausea and looming anxious thoughts; or the second trimester growing belly, new aches and pains… self-care may very well come in last place.
On top of the regular stress and anxiety that pregnancy can create; being pregnant during a global pandemic, major election year, media overload… OK you get the picture – it is that much MORE stressful than normal.
I discussed ways to stay healthy during the pandemic and new work-from-home normal that many of us find ourselves in still today. (You can find that post here) However, I have had to come up with more ways to relieve anxiety and provide myself with self-care, even when the world is shut down, to look out for my growing baby!
Below are just a handful of ways that I have found super helpful in relieving tension, decreasing anxious thoughts and grounding myself during a crazy 5 months in this world.
Meditation – Free Self-Care for the Soul
For years I have tried to pick up a meditation practice, only to give it up or get distracted shortly after. Finally in the beginning of 2020, I decided to make daily meditation a habit and I can proudly say nearly 9 months later I am still going strong. This simple practice is extremely powerful and I truly believe it can change your brain and the way that your mind and body handle stressors. Some days I manage to get my 15 minutes, 2x a day meditation practice in; others, I get just one 10 minute meditation to kick off my day. Whatever it is, it’s better than nothing and it brings me back to the present each and every time. (Side note – my new habit as of 1/1 is reading my daily devotion in Jesus Calling which grounds me and helps kick off my meditation)
There are SO many resources out there to help you find the meditation practice that works best for you. Below are a few of the resources that I use (or have used) and enjoyed!
- Expectful: I decided to download this app ($) at the very beginning of my pregnancy. The first 12 weeks of pregnancy were filled with more anxiety and insomnia than I had ever imagined. Expectful is an app for Fertility, Pregnancy and Motherhood. It’s full of has specially curated meditations for each phase that you are in. This includes first trimester, week-by-week, walking meditations, sleep-inducing and meditations specific to big prenatal tests such as the big 20-week anatomy scan.
- Headspace: Another very popular meditation app; not specific to pregnancy (however, I do believe they have some pregnancy focused options). I haven’t used this App as of recent since both Headspace and Expectful are paid apps.
- Ziva Meditation (from Stress Less, Accomplish More): I went into detail about this book/Audible and strategy in my post here so I won’t go too far into the Ziva method. However, I cannot recommend this book enough. It is truly what got me started on making meditation a part of my daily self-care routine and I turn to this method regularly (especially on a plane, as a passenger on a road trip and so on).
- Melissa Woodhealth: I stumbled across Melissa Woodhealth on Instagram and really just love everything about her vibe. From her low-impact workouts to her meditation series (available on her app, website and a few on IGTV). Her voice and her vibe are both very calming and as a mama of two- I can say she is serious ‘goals’. I’ve loved her grounding meditations and her meditation for “when you are feeling anxious thoughts” so check her out yourself!
A Warm Bath + A Good Book – The Ultimate Self-Care Night In
Given the state of the world (aka living in lockdown) and the fact that we are just kicking off a new year; I wanted to focus on as many FREE self-care resources and ideas as possible. Who doesn’t want to save money while improving their mental health?
On that note, jumping into method #2. There really are not many things that cannot be fixed by a nice warm bubble bath, accompanied by a book that can whisk you away to another world. I’ve always loved bubble baths but pregnancies always evolving bodily changes, aches, back pains and more – make a bath that much better.
When I have had a stressful day or my mind is racing, I find making a bath loaded up with epsom salt, magnesium oil, bubbles and a good book make a world of a difference.
- Goodreads: Not sure how but I JUST discovered this free app recently. I read more in 2020 than I have read in years and it was wonderful. It’s not that I ever didn’t enjoy reading I just wasn’t in a good routine and ever since my 1st trimester insomnia, reading before bed has become a must. After I finish one captivating book, I am always on the search for the next best one. Goodreads is an easy way to connect with friends, record read books and find ideas for new ones along the way!
- Magnesium bath salts and oils: Self-explanatory. There are countless great options on the market. My current go-to’s are Honest Company bubble bath and Life-Flo Magnesium Lavender Bath Oil.
Ever since pre-pregnancy, I have been a huge proponent of using natural supplements to SUPPLEMENT your overall healthy lifestyle. They are exactly that.. just supplements and won’t do anything magic but I have found taking the right vitamins and herbs at the right times, makes a world of a difference.
I have continued to work with CentreSpring MD in Brookhaven and each trimester, I get blood taken along with a follow-up doctors visit to see where my various levels are at. Think thyroid, hormones, vitamin D, and so on.
I’ve highlighted two key supplements that I have found extremely useful for stress-relief (aka self-care mode!) below. However, on a daily basis I take my prenatal, a separate DHA/EPA (big fan of this one), vitamin D and probiotics. Making sure I am getting enough Vitamin D (I am regularly low in this category when I get blood work) makes a big difference in my moods.
- Magnesium Glycinate: Magnesium has been a game changer for me for the past few years and this has not changed during pregnancy. There are lots of different types of Magnesium so I recommend talking to your medical professional about which is right for you. Personally I take Magnesium Glycinate (this brand currently) as it helps with my stress/ anxiety levels and insomnia.
- L-Theanine: This one is a newbie for me. I try to limit my supplements during pregnancy just because I figure less-is-more and I try to get as many of the necessary vitamins through my diet. However, thanks to fluctuating hormones and an overall stressful world that we are all currently living in; I reached out to my doctor about something that could help lessen the severe mood swings, sadness and anxiety I was feeling. L-Theanine is a naturally found compound in both green and black tea. It’s known to help with sleep quality, stress-relief and so much more. (1000% always, always, always talk to your doctor before starting a new supplement! This is just my personal experience).
Anyone that I have ever talked to who has very invested in therapy / counseling has never regretted it. Therapy can be an imperative step in improving your mental health and dealing with anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts and so on. You get the picture.
I am a huge proponent of counseling and finding a therapist that you ‘vibe’ with (for lack of a better term). You will eventually find someone that you connect with even if it takes a few tries. (Happy to share my personal therapist rec. if you reach out!)
- NPM Referrals : Typing in a random search on Google can be overwhelming with all fo the results that pop up. If you live in the Atlanta area, I personally have found the North Point Ministries referrals website to be extremely helpful. You can search my region and specific issues you are dealing with. I’m sure that most churches have similar resources available!
Fresh Air + Nature + Walks!
Ah, this one is self-explanatory. Who doesn’t feel refreshed after a stroll outdoors? There is nothing better than getting outside and taking some deep breaths to re-connect (aka put your phone away while you’re at it – OR throw on a podcast and take some me-time). Natural Vitamin D (i.e. the Sunshine Vitamin) can do wonders so give it a try.
If you live in the Atlanta area, get out and walk at Chastain Park in Buckhead or walk along the Chattahoochee River on the border of Sandy Springs and Roswell.
Journaling – Another Way Practicing Self-Care for the Soul (and free!)
This is one method I still struggle with. I know that it has been scientifically proven to help relieve stress and tension by getting out internal thoughts, feelings and emotions onto paper. When I am going through my major up’s and down’s, it is easy to get in a short-term “habit” of journaling but as soon as I am feeling better, this habit seems to end pretty abruptly.
That being said – I strongly believe this is an awesome strategy for those who can keep it up. There are lots of companies out there these days that can make the journaling process oh-SO-easy. Check out a few ideas below and just maybe, one will click!
- Moodnotes app: An incredibly easy way to track your moods and emotions all from the comforts of your personal cell phone.
- Five Minute Journal app: If there is an app that I am going to try, this is the one. Note – there is a one-time $4.99 fee to download. This app gives you 3 different questions every morning. These questions are meant to invoke gratitude, along with a daily quote and the option to create a daily photo journal.
- Pregnancy journal – Check out one of these baby / pregnancy journals . The other two apps noted are not pregnancy specific although they would still work wonders. The one thing I have kept up with is my pregnancy journal since week 5 or 6. It was extremely helpful in documenting my anxiety and fearful thoughts during the 1st trimester and I already enjoy looking back at all of the changes noted both physically and mentally.
Restorative Yoga + Movement
With everyone spending more time at home right now (#quarantine), finding an app, youtube channel or some form of virtual workout program is key if you find working out therapeutic. I know that I feel WAY better when I get daily movement whether it’s a walk or a sculpt, yoga, or strength class.
There are countless youtube channels and prenatal workouts out on the internet. However, to make your life a little easier, I have highlighted my 3 favorite’s thus far.
- Obefitness: Obefitness has workout classes for everyone including prenatal and postnatal programs. Not only do they have prenatal friendly options but there are tons of them. I’ve been loving the sculpt ~30 minute sessions, 10 minute stretch series and all of their yoga flows.
- Alo Yoga Online: A free option! There are a few youtube videos but this 30-minute prenatal morning flow came in big time, especially during the 1st trimester when I really did not feel like working out what-so-ever.
- Melissa Woodhealth: You can sign up for Melissa Woodhealth’s program for $10/month. Although there are not a ton of prenatal options; there are several and they will make your legs and arms burn! I love how quick and low-impact they are while still making a difference. A bonus noted in the top section of this post is her meditation series which I’ve really enjoyed as well.
That is all for now! I hope that at least one of these tips or suggestions will help you release stress, anxiety and/or tension.
If you are in Atlanta, check out my post highlighting some of my very favorite restaurants to add-on to your self-care routine!