At a recent All in the Family Counselling parenting workshop, one mum asked “Did I do my child harm because I had a few ‘breakdowns’ while I was pregnant?” Another mum asked, “How do I know if I’m too stressed when I’m pregnant?‘ Yes, feeling stressed before, during and after pregnant is a common worry for many women (ironic as it may seem). It’s good to remember that certain amounts of stress are normal and not always bad for us. Stress is part of the human condition and managing our stress in healthy ways will make us feel productive, happy and independent.
Women often place this unrealistic expectation upon themselves that being pregnant is supposed to be a time of bliss. Realistically, being pregnant can be a time of great change, discomfort, and uncertainty. Pregnant women also still have to deal with the usual daily challenges of relationships, family and work.
The term ‘stress’ is used to describe hundreds of problems and conflicts we experience in our day to day lives. Yet, stress can be a very personalized sensation, unique in its severity to each individual. The term ‘stress’ has become a catch-all word to describe anything that feels less than ideal. So, how do you know when to seek help for stress? Let’s take a look at the definitions and differences of these three terms: stress, worry, and anxiety.
Stress is an event/situation/experiences, which creates mental and/or physical tension. A stressful situation has a wide range of possibilities.
a) General annoyance (sore back, late to a doctor appointment, the cable goes out)
b) Hardship and adversity (persistent health problems, not having enough money, or relationship issues)
c) Traumatic event (threats of harm, victim of violence, loss, or crime).
Tension from stress is usually experienced as a physical change in appetite, sleep, body temperature, and increased heart rate. It is also experienced as an emotional change in making decisions, anger, fear, sadness, or helplessness. However, the severity of these physical and emotional reactions depends on how an individual has learned to interpret and then cope with stressful situations.
A stressful event will trigger worry. Worry is a series of persistent thoughts that process the information related to a stressful event. Worry is a way that individuals may try to problem-solve to get rid of stress. Worry can become problematic if the thoughts can’t be turned off or when the thoughts feel out of control.
This is an overall sense of a loss of control, general feelings of being threatened or having a deep concern about the future. What distinguishes anxiety from worry is that anxiety can also exist without a precipitating stressful event. Anxiety has very similar physical and emotional responses as stress but often results in limiting a person’s ability to function at home, work or in social situations.
Stress, worry and anxiety may become more prominent when pregnant, especially if the woman is predisposed to anxiety and worry. A professionally trained counsellor can help give you the skills to manage your anxiety and have a more relaxed and enjoyable pregnancy.
⇒ Related Read: How you can manage stress during pregnancy
Written by Tammy M. Fontana, MS, NCC Lead Therapist, All in the Family Counselling.
Tammy Fontana, MS, NCC CTRT Sex Therapist (USA) is the founder and mental health therapist for both All in the Family Counselling and Babysleepfairy.com. She has been providing professional counselling and sleep services in Singapore for over 8 years. She has her Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counselling (USA) and is a USA National Counsellor Counsellor (NCC) and Certified Choice Therapy Reality Therapist (CTRT). She is also a US trained certified Sex Therapist. She provides evidenced and practiced based solutions to parents, individuals and couples.
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