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Anxiety and pregnancy

Have you ever been swimming or paddling in the sea, just getting on with things, when out of nowhere, a huge wave comes up, knocking you over or pushing you under the water? A wave strong enough to make you struggle for air while you frantically reach around for a hand to hold, for someone to pull you back to the surface.

The last couple of days, I’ve been hit with a huge wave of anxiety. Rearing its ugly head, it took me completely by surprise. I thought things had been going well. I’ve been busy with work, with wedding planning, with Freddie, and of course with Avocado Bump. I’ve been seeing friends and doing things – maybe not as often as I could, but I’m still finding I get tired more easily, so I think that’s understandable.

Sitting on a train yesterday, I felt like curling up in a ball and crying. I was on my way to meet Sam and a few friends, but I’d started thinking about a few things coming up, and the more I thought, the worse I felt. Over thinking really is the worst. I have a few weekends coming up where I’ll be by myself, and that’s something that has been making me anxious. Again, another scenario where over thinking is the worst thing I can possibly do. I’ve found that writing is still one of the best distractions for me, as well as distracting myself with things like Pinterest for wedding or nursery plans (or the new bathroom that we’re planning).

In my first midwife appointment, I explained that I suffer with anxiety, and I was told that it was usual to worry and become more anxious during pregnancy, so much is changing and those delightful hormones can cause havoc with your emotions. While you’re pregnant, it’s obviously preferable to not take medication, and so here are a few things that were suggested to me to help:

(These aren’t just for pregnant women, personally I think they apply to anyone with anxiety. However, if you are concerned about your anxiety, whether during pregnancy or not, go and speak to your GP)

  • Talking. This doesn’t work for everyone all the time, but for me it really does. Sometimes I need a little prompting, but it’s still a hard topic to open up about. Even when there is nothing that can really be done to solve what has triggered the anxiety, I find it eases a little just putting the words out there. Sharing worries can really help, and writing or keeping a diary can be a good way to help you spot patterns or triggers.
  • Relaxation techniques. Sit still, in a calm, quiet place and just focus on your breathing. Or think of a happy place with some relaxing music on. One thing I find helpful is tensing every muscle in my body, and then starting with my toes, relax every part of me. My mum once told me to do this if I couldn’t sleep and I still do it now.
  • Exercise. Standard tip, but especially in pregnancy it’s good for your baby as well as your mind. Yoga and swimming are my two go-to exercises, there is something so calming about swimming and I find it helps when I need to work through something. Plus it tires me out so much that it helps me sleep so I don’t have the chance to worry!
  • Don’t dismiss it. Ignoring things can make things worse. Work out what the trigger or cause is and go from there, in the long run it’s much better to tackle the root than try and plaster over the surface. It’s okay to ask for help – I’ve asked friends and family if they want to stay over when I’m by myself, which helps to combat the problem, and also gives me something to look forward to.

I’ve started to feel self conscious about what I look like, what I’m wearing. Then I start worrying about what I could possibly wear to a few events I have coming up and then I worry about those. It’s not a great circle. One thing I’ve previously written about when I’ve spoken about anxiety in ways to try and make things easier, was to make sure you’re wearing something you feel comfortable in. I’m currently in an awkward pregnancy stage where I have a little bump, but it’s not a fully fledged bump that I can embrace and show off. It could still be mistaken for a food baby, which makes me feel self conscious in what I’m wearing. I have maternity jeans (which are amazing, literally the comfiest things ever!) and a couple of maternity tops, but as I said, Bump really isn’t big enough to properly warrant a maternity top, they just look weird and baggy at the moment, so I’ve been wearing baggy jumpers and oversized tops, which are great when I’m lazing on the sofa, but go out for a meal with friends or birthday drinks, and they aren’t always the best thing to make you feel good about how you look. So, what can you do? I’ve been trying out new make-up and making more of an effort with accessories which may seem superficial, but it has helped. Some people have bigger bumps than others, I have no idea how big Avocado will get, but accepting that my body is changing and that it’s okay to not be able to fit into clothes I wore last summer is a big step forward.

If the wave hits unexpectedly and completely knocks you flat, don’t try and struggle to the surface by yourself. Whether you talk to a loved one, a friend or a doctor, there are ways to make things better, and then hopefully the waves will get smaller, few and far between.

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