With the self-help movement growing like wildfire, thousands of books, apps and websites have popped up teaching people quick hacks to bring down their stress.
From exercises on how to breathe deeply, guided visualizations and symptom checklists, these tools are meant to provide support at your fingertips, with the goal of getting you to feel calmer as quickly as possible.
I’m a huge fan of helping people learn simple but powerful strategies to lower stress.
You don’t always need to dig up your childhood to find relief for your anxiety.
As a clinically trained therapist, I believe this is especially important to avoid when you have pregnancy complications, because you are living a trauma every second of every day.
At a time when you’re unsure about your health and the safety of your baby, the last thing you need is additional stress and anxiety by opening up past wounds. (Tweet that!)
What you need are proven strategies on how to get through today to get to tomorrow so you can continue to protect your baby.
As a pregnant woman with complications, there’s a tremendous load on your shoulders.
You feel solely responsible for the life inside of you, and you are fiercely determined to do everything in your power to protect your little baby.
Yet, so many women decide to manage their stress levels by themselves, relying on these self-help tools instead of bringing another professional onto their prenatal care team.
Self-help tools may be great when you have the time to explore new strategies, see which ones work best for you and give them a few weeks to understand the effects.
When your baby's life is in your hands, you don't have the luxury of time for exploration.
Here are my top 4 reasons why you shouldn't try to manage your stress by yourself during a high-risk pregnancy.
1. Generic support can only take you so far.
As convenient as they are, self-help tools offer generic advice. They don’t address any of the specific factors that women with high-risk pregnancies face that make your stress unique and different than anyone else who is feeling highly stressed.
For example, most people’s anxiety comes from a fear of something scary or dangerous that could happen in the future, like a fear of heights could be related to fear falling down to the ground and getting gravely injured.
This fear may be rooted in a past experience that they’re worried will happen again or an anticipation of something that may not be likely to happen realistically.
On the contrary, as a woman with a high-risk pregnancy, your fear is based in the present, about a reality that something scary is already happening due to your pregnancy complications.
Past experiences may exacerbate how you cope with your anxiety but there's a very real danger happening right now.
Apps and workbooks don’t take this vast difference into account. Thus, they offer you suggestions on how to control your anxiety as if it were based on a fear of the future and not a fear rooted in the present.
Let’s be honest. Can we expect someone who has a fear spiders and someone who is afraid for her baby because her water broke at 25+4 to benefit from the same tools?
2. A high-risk pregnancy is a dynamic process that requires dynamic support.
Your pregnancy is changing every second. You are growing a life inside of you that is developing and causing your body to change daily.
When you have pregnancy complications on top of that, things could shift any time. You could land in the hospital, start a new medication or need a new treatment that wasn’t on your radar even two hours prior.
However, the support you receive from self-help tools are set in stone, unable to adapt to what you are going through. (Tweet that!)
Additionally, these tools don’t take into account the fact that every single individual has unique triggers that are specific to them. So while you may learn strategies that can help bring your anxiety down to a more tolerable level while you’re at home on bed rest, when the situation changes, such as needing to be rushed to the ER, the effects of using these tools are not long lasting.
The question remains: why would you want a static support system, instead of a dynamic support system, when you are in an ever-changing situation?
3. You are already doing enough on your own. A high-risk pregnancy is a medical crisis that lasts for weeks or months, leaving you feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and not at your best.
Even if you have friends, family and loved ones supporting you deeply, the burden of your baby’s survival rests on your shoulders. Only you feel the twinges and pulls in the middle of the night. Only you can tell when your baby moves less than usual. You are the first to see blood when you go to the bathroom.
Though you may be doing a great job now of meditating every morning and journaling every evening, the minute you have a scare that lands you in L&D or a day where you feel so burned out by the never ending bed rest, meditation and journaling will be the last things on your mind.
You're less likely to stick with self-paced stress management strategies as rigorously as if you had someone to hold you accountable. (Tweet that!)
Considering how critical stress management is to your baby’s health and survival, it’s imperative to ensure you have a system in place that will allow you to always engage in stress management strategies no matter what you are going through or wherever you are.
4. Self-help tools can increase anxiety.
The last thing you need is one more thing to worry about.
You are already anxious about what could happen to your baby. But if you don’t see any improvement to your anxiety by trying self-help stress management strategies, you might worry that something even bigger is wrong. Or you may worry that your stress has reached critically high levels and be scared about what it is doing to your baby.
These tools also create a sense of reliance or a false sense of security. (Tweet that!)
You might think, “As long as I have my app I’ll be ok”. But what happens when you lose cell signal or your phone battery dies? You may be left feeling completely helpless, which you just don’t need when you’re already feeling helpless at protecting your baby.
What you need is to learn strategies that are going to stay with you, help you and apply to you no matter where you are or what you’re going through.
This isn’t a my personal opinion or a wellness fad that will disappear in time. It is a fact.
Lowering your stress is critical to your health, your pregnancy health and the health of your baby. (Tweet that!)
Stress impacts the health and length of your pregnancy as well as affects how your baby grows and develops in utero.
The good news is that stress is one of the most manageable risk factors for pregnancy complications and preterm birth.
Staying calm gives your baby a fighting chance at a healthy start to life.
If you’re ready to do everything in your power to protect your baby from your stress, anxiety and overwhelm, let’s talk.
There’s no digging into your childhood and no static, generic pieces of advice. You get personalized support and answers to your questions, no matter what you are going through, to help you be in charge of your pregnancy and have a healthier baby.
You can try to get through this on your own.
Or you can work with someone who’s professionally trained and has been there to help you make the right decision for you and your baby every single time.
Have you tried to manage your stress and anxiety by yourself? How has that worked for you? What do you like about self-help tools?
Leave your comment below. I would love to hear from you!