'Tis the holiday season, and for many of us, pregnant or not, it can be a very stressful season. Stress takes an extra toll on our bodies, lowers our immune response and, during pregnancy, makes us and our babies more prone to illness.
Here are some tips to help you alleviate holiday stress during pregnancy:
1. Take time out for yourself. Before holiday gatherings, and especially during them, take breaks where you get to a quiet place. If a hot bath is your thing, then work it into your routine. Out shopping? Grab a 15-minute neck massage. Traveling for the holidays? Schedule a prenatal massage during your trip.
2. Exercise. Prenatal exercise and especially prenatal yoga are important for stress reduction purposes as well as physical fitness, preparation for birth, weight control and your baby's well-being. Take yourself out for a walk and do some daily stretching and strengthening exercises.
3. Keep your calories healthy. Heavy, fatty foods, sugar-laden desserts and sweetened mocktails are going to spike your blood sugar, possibly spark heartburn and cause digestive upset. Also, they're not going to help you feel less stressed out. Keep cut fruits and vegetables nearby, along with nuts, cheese sticks, whole grain crackers and other nutrition-dense choices for snacks.
4. Minimize your holiday commitments. This may not be the year to participate in a cookie swap if the thought of making—and decorating—12 dozen cookies makes your palm sweat. Give yourself permission to pass on a party or two, and for heaven's sake, don't feel like you have to make hand-made wrapping paper or cards this year.
5. Think positive. Start and end your day with gratitude messages, saying out loud or thinking to yourself things that you're grateful for. Need help? Download positive pregnancy affirmations.
6. Picture perfect. Spend 10 minutes each day by visualizing positive, uplifting things: your healthy baby, a peaceful scene, or a happy memory.
7. Use music to make you smile and relax. If Christmas carols make you want to scream, turn them off. Create a relaxing playlist and burn it onto a CD or import it into your iPhone—keep it nearby and able to turn on, so you can tune out the 27th repetition of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland."
8. Give yourself permission to get off your feet. Make it a point each day to spend at least 30 minutes with your feet up.
9. Delegate something from your to-do list. People really do want to help you during pregnancy. So let them. Ask a neighbor to help you put lights up or hang a wreath. Ask friends and family to make bring some food to your holiday get-togethers, or hire a caterer to help.
10. Hug. A 20-second daily hug can get your oxytocin rolling, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and may be healthier for your heart, too. What better what to cope with the stress of holidays while pregnant than scheduling a nice, long hug every day?
You—and your baby—deserve a healthy, happy, more relaxed holiday season this year during your pregnancy. It's such a special, unique time for your body and heart, that I hope you enjoy celebrating this season with the people you love and who love you.
Thanks for reading,
PS: Do you have some helpful tips to beat holiday stress during pregnancy? Share! Leave your comments.