If you struggle with anxiety you know how unpleasant that feeling is. The racing heart, the shallow breaths, the sweaty palms, insomnia, the mind that won’t stop spinning. It is awful.
Anxiety is designed to make you do something about it to make it go away.
In the case of a high-risk pregnancy, however, there’s often very little that you can do to make your pregnancy complications go away and focusing on that helplessnes only adds to your existing anxiety.
You may feel like you should be able to cope better than you are coping.
You think of examples of people who you believe have been through much more difficult circumstances and who seem to be handling it better than you feel you're handling your situation.
In efforts to try to control your thoughts and your anxious feelings you get caught up in the cycle that shouldn't be struggling so much, which only makes you feel worse.
So you start to believe that there must be something wrong with you if you can't handle being on bed rest, having weekly appointments or being diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
The problem with the blame game and why self-compassion is so much better
Other than it being unfair to you, criticizing yourself for feeling anxious only adds more stress to what you're already feeling due to your circumstances.
These judgmental attitudes actually hinder our ability to access one of the most powerful coping mechanisms when we’re dealing with stress: the ability to comfort yourself when you’re hurting and in need of care. (Tweet that!)
Self-compassion, not only feels good but has far-reaching positive effects that are essential for getting through a high-risk pregnancy.
Greater self-compassion is linked to less anxiety, less rumination, and less depressive symptoms. (Handbook of individual differences in social behavior, 2009)
Additionally, developing a habit of self-compassion is closely tied to being able to cope more effectively with stress. (Psychological Science, 2012)
It allows you to be more flexible in how you think about your pregnancy complications and prognosis and not get stuck in the cycle of the same thoughts over and over.
This is crucial for moms like you who are struggling with the not knowing what’s going to happen during your pregnancy.
Overall, self-compassion makes you feel safer and reduces feelings of isolation so that you can achieve greater emotional balance during the ups and downs of your high-risk pregnancy.
How to practice self-compassion during your high-risk pregnancy to lower anxiety
To do this properly, first understand that self-compassion doesn’t mean avoiding or pushing away your negative feelings.
On the contrary, suppressing your anxiety is only going to make it come back more strongly and more frequently until you address it.
What you do instead is acknowledge your experience.
Recognize when you’re feeling anxious and accept that feeling without any judgment. (Tweet that!)
Remove the “should” and “should not” from your vocabulary. Replace them with thoughts of acceptance.
I am anxious. I’m feeling really worried.
Then, think about what the facts are.
What’s happening right now that’s causing you to feel this way? Avoid judgments here too of overstating or minimizing the situation. Just state the facts.
My doctors just told me my cervix has shortened by 1cm since my last cervical check.
Imagine what you would say to your best friend or relative if she had just told you how she’s feeling because of what’s going on.
Hold your hands or put your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and tell yourself exactly what you’d say to your friend.
“I know you’re feeling anxious. I’m here for you. You’re not alone.”
Instead of berating yourself and telling yourself you’ve failed or you’re not handling this well enough, show yourself the same compassion you show to others.
Instead of trying to go into problem-solving mode and ignoring how you’re feeling, show yourself the warmth you show your loved ones.
By doing this, you’ll much more likely to calm your anxiety as you ride the rollercoaster of your high-risk pregnancy.
How do you practice self-compassion? Leave a comment below I would love to hear from you!