Pregnancy Anxiety? Try Guided Imagery
Lindsey's low-down on how guided imagery can reduce the stresses of pregnancy
To say your life changes when you become a parent is an understatement. For my husband, the most significant change happened the day our daughter was born, but I felt noticeably different much sooner - the moment I saw two pink lines on my pregnancy test. One day I was pouring a glass of wine (or two) to unwind after a long day, and the next I was easing onto my couch a little differently knowing there was a small human growing inside my body that I desperately wanted to protect. Those nights of drinking wine to relieve stress came to an abrupt end, and our set of wine glasses got relegated to the top shelf of our cabinet where they’d stay for nine long months. (My husband’s high ball glasses, on the other hand, remained within reach).
With alcohol out of my foreseeable future, I figured it was time to explore some other (re: healthier) stress management techniques that would help me transition into motherhood a little more gracefully. Enter Guided Imagery. Below, I’ll walk through the relaxation technique that I discovered, and offer tips to help you get started.
What is guided imagery?
Essentially, guided imagery is a deliberate kind of daydreaming where you sit comfortably (like you do when you meditate), close your eyes, and envision in great detail, a relaxing scene. In addition to relaxing your mind and body, it creates calm state of focused energy that can reduce anxiety.
To practice guided imagery, some people take classes where an instructor (or therapist) serves as a guide, speaking in a soothing, neutral tone to help direct the experience. Others choose to listen to an audio recording – via CD or download – to help set the scene and guide their practice. However, this technique is simple enough that you can easily do it on your own, like I did, from the comfort of your own home, using nothing other than your own imagination.
What are the benefits of guided imagery for moms-to-be?
Guided imagery can quiet the stress-induced thoughts that keep your body tense, and over time, it can help you better cope with the daily stressors that come your way over the course of pregnancy. Also, the focus on your relaxing scene can serve as a welcomed distraction to divert your attention away from those pesky discomforts of pregnancy. For me, it’s about taking a moment to myself at the end of the day to unwind and relax – sans alcohol. I felt it worked fast to take the edge off and I noticed I had a more positive mindset when I was finished. Since this is something you can do conveniently from anywhere and it costs nothing (or very little if you purchase a guided audio recording), it’s easy to give it a try!
Tips to get started:
1. Turn on soothing music. I like music that makes me feel like I’m at the spa getting a massage, like the “Zen Garden Radio” station on Pandora or one of the New Age playlists on Amazon Music.
2. Sit comfortably on a couch or reclined chair, or lay down (unless you think you’ll fall asleep). Close your eyes and focus on “breathing in peace and breathing out stress”.
3. Think of the most relaxing scene you can imagine and immerse yourself in all its sensory beauty.
-What does it look like?
-How does it feel?
-How does it smell and taste?
-What do you hear?
For example, if you’re picturing a beach, perhaps you imagine you’re lying on a soft lounge chair, listening to the rhythmic waves crash, sipping on a cold fruity drink while the sun warms your skin and the gentle wind blows. If you’re picturing the woods, maybe it’s snowing outside, you’re sitting by a warm crackling fire in a cozy cabin, sipping hot tea, reading a book, and covered in a knit blanket.
I like to picture a really relaxing, beautiful place, and as I look around, the scene starts to include the people I love most, including my new, healthy baby, who is lying peacefully nearby, as if I’m envisioning a perfect, relaxing moment in my future. This also gives me a boost of encouragement when pregnancy feels endless, reminding me that before too long, my baby will be with me outside my body. It’s a beautiful light at the end of the tunnel!
4. Stay in this place for a while, enjoy your surroundings and distance yourself from everything that brings you stress. When you’re ready to end your practice, count backwards from ten and tell yourself that when you get to one, you will feel refreshed and energized to enjoy the rest of your day.
If you’d prefer more structure, you can use apps to do guided meditations that help relieve stress and anxiety. Our favorites are Headspace, Simple Habit, and Calm. So next time you’re feeling stressed, get comfortable and give guided imagery a try.