Being a mama is a blessing and a joy. Blah, blah, blah!
We’re all living the experience of motherhood so we know how blessed and lucky we are. We feel the surges of love, pride and awe as we watch our little people navigating their way in the world. But we also know that motherhood can bring times of stress and anxiety that our own mothers may have mentioned never goes away…
Anxiety during pregnancy is also common as it is an exciting time but full of stressful aspects like hormonal changes, body aches and pains, the worry about the growing fetus, your own health and the small issue of the birth and raising a child!
If you know you are prone to feelings of anxiety there are various ways you can help yourself control and manage these feelings.
FOODS TO ENJOY
- Fish – high in Omega-3’s and great for reducing inflammation and lifting moods. Contains tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes serotonin production, our happy hormone. Best to find well-sourced, sustainable options like mackerel, sardines and wild caught salmon.
- Seaweed – rich in nutrients, it also contains magnesium, a calming mineral in the body, and tryptophan.
- Whole grains like quinoa, whole grain oats and brown rice for their high magnesium content. Eating complex carbs like these will also help tryptophan from foods like fish, seaweed, avo, eggs, tofu and poultry be more effectively absorbed in the body for the production of serotonin.
- Asparagus for folic acid known to help regulate mood. Keep in mind it can give your pee a funky smell but no need to STRESS about it!
- Blueberries and peaches are both high in vitamins and phytonutrients but also known to be packed with antioxidants beneficial for relieving stress. A great dessert or snack with natural Greek or coconut yoghurt.
- Almonds and seeds for zinc, iron and healthy fats. Anxiety may develop with an imbalance of copper to zinc in the body (possibly due to taking birth control pills high in copper). If you enjoy oysters, they are also great to increase zinc levels too.
- Chocolate for reducing cortisol levels and improving mood. Just make sure you are enjoying a pure, dark form of chocolate not overly processed, laden with sugar and milk varieties!
- Maca Root found in powdered form or capsules in health food shops. This adaptogenic herb is actually a pleasant tasting root that is highly nutritious with more calcium than milk. It helps hormone balance, improves mood, energy and sexual appetite. Add it to meals, smoothies or desserts. (There is not a great deal of research into Maca root for pregnant women so avoid if you are pregnant).
FOODS TO AVOID
- Caffeine (or at least reduce it in times of anxiety or stress) as it releases the stress hormone cortisol.
- Diet drinks as artificial sweeteners like aspartame are known to decrease the happy hormone, serotonin. Try sparkling water with freshly squeezed lemon or lime instead.
- Fried foods/processed foods/refined carbs and sugary snacks as the trans fats used in these products have been shown to impair blood flow throughout the body and to the brain, which affects mood. Refined carbs like pasta and white bread and sugary foods also cause blood sugar spikes and crashes affecting mood too.
- Alcohol, which can provide an initial feeling of calmness but is a depressant, so over time can cause feelings of anxiety. It also can disrupt sleep patterns, which can influence how you feel throughout the day.
- MSG added to foods and listed as a number starting with ‘6’ like 621-625. MSG is added to many packaged foods and many Asian foods – even sushi rolls unfortunately! MSG increases levels of glutamate, an excitatory hormone in the brain, which in turn increases anxiety and stress.
OTHER LIFESTYLE TIPS
- Drink more good quality water
- Sip on chamomile tea throughout the day for its’ calming qualities
- Put lavender oil drops on your pillow or in the bath
- Exercise for at least 21 minutes to reliably decrease anxiety according to studies.
- Passionflower supplements can help feelings of anxiety but should only be used short term.
- Ensure you get enough sleep (or make it as good in quality as possible if you are still up with your baby or kids. See my grown up sleep routine guide).
- Get outside for sunshine and Vitamin D as most of us are deficient. Getting hot and sweating helps rid your body of toxins also.
- Walk barefoot in nature on soil, grass or sand. Also called ‘earthing’ it helps us draw electrons from the earth and has been scientifically shown to have numerous health benefits including lifting mood.
- Breathing exercises like Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing can help calm the nervous system. Exhale completely through the mouth, inhale through the nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and exhale through the mouth for a count of 8. Repeat 4 times.
Times of stress and anxiety can be very taxing so making some diet and lifestyle changes could really help you manage and cope with these periods when they appear. Of course, if your feelings are deeper and you are really not coping or concerned about your thoughts and feelings, you should reach out for the support of family, friends and your choice of heath practitioner. Don’t suffer in silence. Support is there. You just have to ask for it.