• BE MINDFUL
Relax your body by practicing breathing exercises such as stretching, meditating, or engaging in mindful movements. Mindful movements include slow, intentional activity such as walking, yoga, or exercise.
Practice simple mindfulness techniques, such as a breathing exercise – for example, a technique called “4-7-8.” This technique involves sitting comfortably with good posture and counting with the “in breath” to four, holding your breath to a count of seven, and exhaling to a count of eight. Do this four times and breathe normally, practicing as needed.
Mindfulness has been found to help relieve anxiety, depression, and stress during pregnancy. Research also suggests that mindfulness during pregnancy could positively affect babies after birth by reducing maternal anxiety.
• EAT A HEALTHY DIET
Comfort foods have their place during crises. But remember to stick to a healthy diet, including fruits, vegetables, and lots of water to drink.
All pregnant women should avoid using alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. If you've struggled with substance use, the stress of the pandemic can increase cravings.
• GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Sleep resets the body and mind, supporting our immune systems and our mental health. Both are particularly important to take care of during pregnancy.
Pregnant women need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Establish a good sleep routine to help achieve this goal:
- Go to bed at a consistent time every day, even on the weekends.
- Avoid caffeine a few hours before bed.
- Shut off devices at least two hours before you go to bed.
Limiting device time reduces light stimulation, which can make falling asleep difficult. It also reduces opportunities to feed the "worry loop" – when your stress relief method ultimately causes more anxiety, as when, for example, you’re perusing Facebook for funny memes and stumble across a distressing COVID-19 story.
• PHYSICALLY ISOLATE BUT STAY SOCIAL
Human connection will help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, boredom, and loneliness. Though we can't physically be with loved ones right now, we can connect in other ways.
Consider using Skype, FaceTime, or another video chat service to visit during the pandemic. Seeing each other's faces can be reassuring and calming. Text and talk on the phone with a supportive family member or friend regularly – use the time to brighten each other's day or to share your concerns.
Virtual social groups are booming as well. You might enjoy a hobby- or fitness-focused online group that offers fun ideas to craft or work out indoors. Just be cautious of getting medical advice online. Social media influencers often are paid to endorse products and services they don't use or know enough about, which could potentially be detrimental to your pregnancy.
Managing stress is important for any pregnant patient, and that's especially true during the pandemic. Remember – you are not alone. We are here to support your mental and physical health in this challenging time.