If you’ve been following along with my postpartum journey, I’m sure you’re aware of some of the struggles that I experienced with anxiety throughout my pregnancy (if not, you can refer to my post on overcoming anxiety here). When we think of pregnancy, generally what comes to mind is the physical discomfort, but there can be a huge impact on mental health as well.
And it’s totally understandable.
The body is going through SO many changes, your hormones are all out of whack, AND you’re trying to mentally prepare yourself to take care of this tiny little human, which many of us have never done before.
C’mon ladies, that’s huge!
Sometimes with all of these thoughts running through your head (often accelerated by the horror stories we hear from other women), it can be difficult to focus on the positives since all of these “what if” statements tend to crop up.
What if I can’t get through these 9 months, what if something goes wrong during labour, or what if I’m a horrible mother and don’t know what I’m doing?
All of these thoughts can skew your overall outlook on life and your outlook on life inevitably affects the status of your health. According to studies collated by Empowher, optimism and pessimism definitely have physical effects on pregnant women.
For instance, one study revealed that women who self-reported the highest levels of optimism also reported having the easiest pregnancies. In another study, the least optimistic pregnant women also delivered infants that were significantly lighter in weight.
There’s no doubt that health is influenced by optimism. The immediate question now is how do you stay optimistic despite the many changes and trials that can accompany pregnancy?
Check out some key strategies for staying optimistic below!
1. Don’t Force Happiness
Some studies suggest that pessimism may be stronger than optimism – that simply not having negative thoughts or expectations may be more helpful than having positive thoughts while pregnant. So, if it’s really hard for you to be optimistic, you should at least try to avoid being pessimistic. In other words, instead of forcing yourself to be happy, it might be more helpful to just avoid being miserable. Give it a shot — there’s nothing to lose!
2. Keep Exercising
Contrary to popular belief, there are many safe ways to keep exercising – and reap the mood-elevating benefits of exercise – even through the second and third trimesters. You just need to make sure that you’re taking the necessary precautions and choosing the right types of exercises, always warming up before you begin your workout, and of course consulting your doctor before beginning or continuing any exercise program. For some further guidelines on how to keep fit throughout pregnancy, check out my full guide here.
3. Find a New Hobby
This might sound simple, but finding something you’re passionate about can work wonders when it comes to improving your outlook on life. For instance, you could try a new DIY project. Check out a prenatal yoga class. Use what little free time you have to finally learn how to draw or paint or cook. Finding a new activity or project to work on gives you a mental and physical goal that you can control better than the sometimes uncontrollable effects of pregnancy. The good news is, not only are you learning a new skill, but it can also provide a boost to your overall outlook on life.
4. Eat Healthy
What you eat will inevitably affect how you think, act, and process information. Explore healthy eating options and try out some new recipes (for inspiration, check out my recipes here). Focus on filling your body with nutrient-rich foods and watch your mood shift. There are certain foods, such as those rich in omega-3 fatty acids (think salmon, trout, walnuts and chia seeds), which have been found to directly improve your mood once consumed.
5. Voice Out Negative Thoughts
Being able to share your negative thoughts with someone who won’t make them worse can help overcome some of those negative thought patterns. Talk to a trusted and supportive friend or mentor. Find a counselor who you feel comfortable sharing your life with. Write a blog or journal about the reality of your situation like The Pregnant Pessimist. All of these strategies can be highly effective at managing a negative outlook.
6. Focus on the Present and the Future
Instead of looking back on the past, look forward to raising your little one and focus on all of the strengths and skills you possess. You’re not going to be a perfect parent – such a thing doesn’t exist. What you can do, however, is do your best for your unborn child by taking care of yourself and your mental state of being, starting today.
7. Understand that Optimism Can Be Learned
Even if you’re struggling with a pessimistic outlook now, you can still probably recall how it feels to be optimistic. Think about a time when you were really happy or over-the-moon excited about something. Remember and hold on to that feeling. Even for a moment, try to forget your negative thoughts and give in to positive thinking.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds, but if you can manage it, simply trying to be optimistic can itself foster positive thinking and expectations. In fact, if you refer to this article on ‘How to Become an Optimist in 5 Steps’, it reveals that scientists believe that optimism can be learned. Appreciating what you have, stopping yourself from complaining, and surrounding yourself with positive people are just some of the ways you can learn to be more optimistic.
8. Keep Yourself Informed
Ask your doctor to tell you every detail that you need to know with regards to your pregnancy. Keep in mind that not everything will necessarily be positive information, but by obtaining all the need-to-know information now, it can better allow you to prepare for the future. The more you know about the ins and outs of your own pregnancy, the better you can steer your thoughts and actions towards a more positive outlook.
And at the end of the day, despite all of the challenges that come along with pregnancy, it’s so important to remember WHY you’re going through all of this. Focus on keeping your eye of the prize, because once you hold your little one for the very first time, your whole world will change for the better.