Feelings such as these are common, especially among pregnant women and mothers. When we’re entrusted with something as precious as a child, of course we will be anxious from time to time.
But what happens when these emotions stay? When they’re with us every day?
Fear can paralyze us. Doubt can steal our joy. Worry can rob us of sleep. They can also make us physically sick. Check out this list of some of the symptoms of chronic worry and stress from WedMD:
- Dry mouth
- Fast heartbeat
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle tension
- Rapid breathing
And those are only a few!
So how do we overcome worry and fear when we’re living with it daily? Here are 7 tips you can use today to help combat anxiety.
1. Focus on right now.
Did you know that there’s a verse in the Bible about living in the moment? Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Apparently this has been a problem for hundreds of years! Worrying about tomorrow doesn’t help us today. Focus on what’s happening right this minute. Stop, feel yourself breathe a few times. Give yourself realistic expectations. Give yourself grace. Be in this moment, and be thankful for it. Which leads to my next point…
2. Practice gratitude.
When you feel worry creeping up, list some things you are grateful for right now. Like breathing. Your favorite sweatshirt. A comfortable home. Don’t take for granted the simple joys in life.
3. Identify the root of your fear and write it down.
What is really bothering you; what are you really afraid of? Take time to get to the root of your fear, and then name it and write it down. Once it’s written down, you can look at it more objectively and start to plan a way to face it and defeat it.
4. Retrain your thinking.
Yes, I know this sounds a bit fishy, but it really works! I know, because I’ve retrained my thinking many times. Let’s try an experiment…
Quick, don’t think about elephants!
Whoops! Didn’t you just think about an elephant? Didn’t you just picture one in your mind’s eye? It’s nearly impossible to stop thinking about something. We need to replace it with something else. So, if you don’t want to think about elephants, start thinking about kitties, or sugar gliders, or reticulated pythons (my son’s favorite).
The same goes with our worries and fears. You can’t *stop* thinking about them; you need to replace those thoughts. Whenever they start to push their way into your mind, have a plan of what you will think about instead. Replace it with your thankfulness list, a Bible verse, or something else meaningful and encouraging to you. But whatever it is, have it ready.
5. Pray about it.
I’m a Christian, so I pray about my anxieties and doubts. Here are some good Bible verses to memorize and meditate on:
Psalm 56:3, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you Lord.”
I Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
Proverbs 12:25, “Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
6. Consider your diet.
An article from Mayo Clinic suggests eating more protein and decreasing sugary foods and drinks. Also, limit or avoid caffeine and alcohol, which is just good advice anyway if you’re pregnant. So when you’re worried or anxious, grabbing that latte or Ben & Jerry’s may actually be harmful. Instead, reach for something healthy, like these baked apple slices or this peanut butter skinny chocolate shake.
7. If you’re pregnant, hire a doula!
Even though your doula can’t take away your fear, she will hopefully help! I routinely discuss fears, worries, and doubts with my clients. Your doula can help you process your fears; and then she’ll be there with you at your birth to remind you of your personal coping measures. And sometimes just her presence there with you can have a calming effect. Check out what my client Brittany had to say about having me at her birth:
“Sarah came over to our house and I instantly felt like everything was going to be okay. During each contraction she talked to me in a calm and collected voice which calmed my nerves. She reminded me that I was going to meet my baby soon, which made me more excited than anxious. I remember at times, looking up at Sarah and she still had that same calm expression on her face and that helped me realize that I was going to be fine.”
Take time today to try one or two of these ideas. Let’s start beating our fear!