Stressful times call for great stress relief measures! Being pregnant in a pandemic takes things to a whole new level of stress, but there are things you can do to help.
By MMF Ambassador Leslie Horowitz
Stress is real. Very real. Especially during times like these – a worldwide pandemic, new ways of learning for our kids (my kids are 100% remote!), job changes for many and an overall sense of “what happens next?!” If you’re pregnant, or have just had a baby, your stress levels may (understandably) be even greater.
I personally found the weeks immediately after the birth of each of my daughters to be exceptionally lonely and stressful – even with my family around to help and friends popping by to meet the babies, bring food, offer assistance, etc. In our current situation, being stuck inside, with limited activities available (thanks, COVID-19) it’s likely that you have multiple layers of stress and fewer offers of help.
There are numerous things you can do for yourself to help reduce your stress levels though, and my absolute favorite is (no surprise!) movement!
Why Movement Works
Cortisol is the hormone released when your body is under stress. The body’s built-in alarm system, if you will. It works with certain parts of your brain to control your mood, motivation and fear. If you’re under constant stress, you may experience various health concerns including anxiety and/or depression, headaches, heart disease, trouble sleeping, and weight gain.
Your body perceives exercise as a form of stress and, subsequently, releases cortisol. This may seem counterproductive, but the more you exercise, the better your body can deal with physical stress and it starts to release less cortisol (either during exercise or, more importantly, during emotional or psychological stress).
How Should I Move?
Going for walks is a number one great way to incorporate movement into your pre or postpartum life. You’ll benefit not only from moving your body, but you’ll also get fresh air and much needed Vitamin D. All of which help lower your stress levels and boost your immunity while you're at it!
Using resistance bands is another option that is low intensity, low impact, but tremendously beneficial. You can work your muscles without putting an overload of strain on them. Focus on the muscles in your posterior chain (all the muscles on the back of your body), especially the back muscles and glutes. As your pregnant belly gets larger, these muscles have extra work to do to help your posture and keep you in good alignment. Being proactive about strengthening them will help ease some of the aches and pains that typically go along with pregnancy which will, in turn, help with the physical feelings of stress.
Specifically, this means practice rows and pulls of various kinds, and glute bridges and side-lying clams (these can be even be done in bed once you no longer want to be getting up and down off the floor).
Other Stress Relief Measures
There are many other ways to control your cortisol production/release as well. These include getting adequate sleep, eating a healthy diet and avoiding unhealthy habits. Make sure to eat meals complete with nutrient-dense whole foods as well as fruits and vegetables. Limit your caffeine intake and lower the amount of sugar you eat. Breathe deeply when you feel under pressure, ask for help and accept help when offered (I cannot stress this one enough!).
Pregnancy and postnatal periods are stressful. Add in a pandemic, restrictions on activities and uncertainties in the future and it’s possible to feel like it’s hard to breath! Keep in mind that there are many ways to help relieve stress and enjoy these moments. You and your baby need a happy, healthy you!
Leslie Horowitz is a trainer, coach, nutritionist, and MMF Ambassador. Find her on Facebook or Instagram @lesliehfitness.