By Amanda Polster, LMSW
As wonderful as pregnancy is, it is still a major life change. The energy pregnancy requires can often be overlooked. Whether you are currently pregnant or supporting a pregnant loved one, mindfulness can help you cope with the stress and overwhelm during this stage in life.
Mindfulness is a healthy and accessible way to increase compassion and reduce distress during pregnancy. Although it can be scary to look inward for relief, mindfulness offers many tools to cope with anxiety, and can even support in gaining a closer bond with your baby. Research shows that mindfulness improves decision making and self regulation while conversely reducing stress levels and symptoms of depression. The foundational definition of mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 2005). Many hundreds of studies prove that people who incorporate mindfulness into their daily routine have greater emotional balance in life (Neff, 2011).
Mindfulness in Daily Life
Bringing conscious awareness to your pregnancy each day can help sharpen your skills of building your mindfulness muscle. The benefits of mindfulness support all emotional distress through encouraging and welcoming all experiences that occur as normal human encounters (i.e. anger, excitement, frustration, hope, worry, etc). Practicing mindfulness techniques can be a preventative tool during pregnancy, and support in more stressful circumstances, like going to the doctors for test results on the health of your baby (Neff, 2011).
Affirmations are Key
Being validated during pregnancy (and at any stage of life) is a normal human desire and impacts our connection with others. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs portrays the way esteem and love/belonging are essential components of human motivation in the pursuit towards self actualization and gratification (Neff, 2011). Although receiving affirmations from others is important, it is not always as accessible as we would like. Self-affirmations and self-validation become all the more important during times when we are challenged with stressful life decisions and transitions, like pregnancy. Since mindfulness is one of the core components of self-compassion, “when we improve our mindfulness skills, we automatically increase our ability to be self compassionate” (Neff, 2011).
Mindful Body Sensation Exercises
Acknowledging our bodies as resilient is an empowering mindfulness practice. Our bodies are the foundation of mindfulness training. We live in our bodies, “so to appreciate the fullness of life we need to experience the body fully” (Germer, 2009). Practicing mindful body movements and awareness not only supports general physical and mental health, but can also support the overall health of your child; research has indicated that mindfulness may prevent premature birth and can provide healthy development during each trimester of pregnancy (Newman, 2016).
Because mindfulness has become mainstream, there are many free resources online to access mindful body practices. The link below offers a variety of different guided body movement and awareness practices, ranging from body scans to affectionate breathing meditations.
If you are interested in seeking additional guidance during your pregnancy, we would love to support you during this special and intimate experience. Our practice offers therapy sessions grounded in evidence based research models such as mindfulness based stress reduction, yoga, and greater mind-body exercises. If you are interested in learning more about our services, please visit our website at www.ruschellekhanna.com or contact us at 347.994.9301.
Germer, Christopher K. The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. The Guilford Press. 2009.
Kabat-Zinn, John. Wherever You Go There You Are: Mindfulness Mediation in Everyday Life. Hatchette Books. 2005.
Keng SL, Smoski MJ, Robins CJ. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical Psychology Review. 31(6): 1041–1056.
Neff, Kristin. Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself. Kristin Neff. 2011.
Newman, Kira M. Four Reasons to Practice Mindfulness During Pregnancy. Mind & Body. 2016.