Does the thought of Christmas leave you feeling more ‘bah-humbug’ than ‘ho ho ho’? If so, you’re not alone. One U.K. survey found that Christmas is the sixth most stressful life event – right up there with divorce and changing jobs. Another survey shows that the holiday season is particularly hard on women, who are often expected to do much of the legwork when it comes to gifts, meals, and holiday preparations. Add in those crazy pregnancy hormones, and you’ve got the ultimate recipe for stress.
While stress is unhealthy in general, it’s especially bad for pregnant women. High levels of the stress hormone cortisol are associated with miscarriage in early pregnancy, inhibited fetal brain development, and slower rates of development in young children. Don’t panic – take a deep breath. You don’t have to be a slave to stress. These holiday tips will help you retain your sanity so it’s actually the most wonderful time of the year.
When you’re tired and cranky, the last thing you want to do is jump on a treadmill or go for a swim. But if you want to feel better, it’s just what the doctor ordered. Exercise can help you cope with stress, decrease anxiety, and fight off depression. While almost any exercise is good for you (within reason – after all, you’re pregnant!), swimming and prenatal yoga are two great ways for expectant moms to squeeze in some workout time. Check out your local YMCA, for classes or a pool you can use.
Just Say No
The holidays are rife with expectations and pressure, both from ourselves and from others. This season, be okay with saying no. Your house may not have synchronized Christmas lights; you might not choreograph your child’s holiday pageant; perhaps you’ll forego the neighborhood cookie exchange. (Six dozen cookies?! Really?) Don’t commit to something you don’t have to do, especially if you don’t enjoy it. Between buying gifts, writing cards, and hosting family members, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy without adding more to your plate. And there’s always next year.
The Sleep Foundation found that 78% of women had more disturbed sleep during pregnancy than at other times. You may need a few naps or extra hours in the morning when you’re pregnant. After all, you’re growing a whole new person! Stress and a kicking baby can make it tough to fall asleep, so we suggest you develop a calming bedtime ritual. Buy some good books and read a few chapters while you’re in bed. Many used bookstores have a great selection of lighter reading materials, and it’s less expensive than buying new. Try taking a relaxing bath; if you’re in your second or third trimester, you can add calming essential oils like lavender or ylang ylang. One major way to sleep better? Put down your phone and turn off the television at least a half hour before your bedtime. Many studies show that using electronics before bed can inhibit a good night’s rest, so snuggle up and tune out.
Shop One and Done
Running errands when you’re pregnant isn’t always easy. If you’re in your first trimester, the smells wafting from the candle store at the mall may have you feeling queasy (and we all know that finding a bathroom at the mall is harder than getting lipstick off your teeth). That’s especially tough for women in their third trimester, when baby meets bladder and you’ve got to go every ten minutes. Instead of taking a bunch of trips (or driving across town to get to different shops), go to a plaza where you can get it all done at once. Look for a good mix of local stores and major retailers so you can check holiday gift shopping off your list in just one day rather than several.
Whether your biggest holiday stressor is the in-laws, money woes, or baking the perfect dinner, remember that the holiday season doesn’t last forever. Don’t take on more than you have to, and set aside some time each day for yourself. Communicate with your significant other so that you’re on the same page and no one is disappointed. Remember, this will pass. And next year, you’ll be celebrating again – with a special new family member!