Posts Tagged ‘relaxation’

Breastfeeding can reduce your stress

Monday, April 18th, 2016

2012d032_0483It’s true, breastfeeding releases hormones that help you feel more relaxed.

Oxytocin is one of the hormones your body makes to produce breast milk. Oxytocin is responsible for your milk letdown and also helps your uterus contract to the way it was before you became pregnant. But there’s even more that oxytocin does for moms; it helps you reduce your stress.

Oxytocin is often referred to as the “anti-stress” or “love” hormone and for good reason. Oxytocin is part of a complex interaction in your body that reduces stress and helps you bond with your baby. How does oxytocin do this? The hormone is associated with a decrease in blood pressure and cortisol levels (the hormone released in response to stress).  Oxytocin also increases relaxation, sleepiness, blood flow, digestion and healing. Studies have shown that moms who breastfeed also have a lower response to stress and pain.

So go ahead and take advantage of the benefits of breastfeeding. The deep relaxation may make you feel ready for a nap, so put your feet up while you nurse and take this time to refocus. After you put your baby back in her basinet or crib, take a cat nap to feel reenergized.

For even more benefits of breastfeeding, read our post.

Have questions? Email or text us at AskUS@marchofdimes.org.

Need to catch up on your zzzz’s?

Monday, November 30th, 2015

sleepingYour baby hasn’t arrived yet, so why is it so hard to get enough sleep? Getting up to go to the bathroom, heartburn and having to adjust pillows to find a comfortable sleep position are just a few of the discomforts of pregnancy.

If you’re like me, you may have spent most of your life sleeping on your back. But now that you’re pregnant, you need to adjust to sleeping on your side. The issue with lying on your back during pregnancy is that the weight of your uterus can flatten a major blood vessel that carries blood between your lower body and heart. It is better to lie on your side, especially the left side, which will promote circulation and help reduce swelling in your feet.

So how can you catch up on your sleep?

  • Reduce your stress before bedtime – try breathing deeply, closing your eyes or relaxing in your favorite armchair before bed. You can take a warm shower or bath before bedtime too.
  • Use pillows: between your legs, to support your back and abdomen, and to lift up your upper body if you suffer from shortness of breath.
  • Use your bed only for sleep- don’t watch TV or use your iPad while in bed. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature and try using a noise machine to block out other sounds.
  • Go to bed earlier – you need as much rest as possible.
  • Avoid drinking fluids right before bedtime. If you suffer from heartburn, try to eat your last meal a few hours before going to sleep.
  • Exercising during the day can help you get a better night’s sleep, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime or it may make it hard for you to fall asleep. Read about our tips to stay active.

Your baby will be here before you know it. Take this time to grab a few extra zzzz’s whenever possible.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Stop. Rest. Relax…Repeat.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

things to do I am not one who can easily relax. Usually, I need a brick wall in front of me to make me stop (or a cliff will do fine, too). Adrenaline runs through my veins. I am continually creating and updating my to-do lists (or as I call them, my must-do lists) and the I-don’t-have-time-to-relax attitude often overtakes me.

Now, I KNOW, that I need to relax, for the sake of good health and a clear mind. I KNOW I need sleep, a healthy diet and exercise. But, when the list of all that needs to be done is before my eyes, or in my hand, or on my phone, I have a very hard time turning away from it and shutting down my mind. Does this happen to anyone else out there?

As parents, we have the responsibility of providing for our children – financially, physically, emotionally and in every other way that they need. Parents of children with special needs face additional tasks to conquer, from appointments with specialists, to IEP meetings, to figuring out a system with continual twists, turns and dead ends. For pregnant women, stress related hormones may play a role in causing certain pregnancy complications. Unless we purposefully have a method or a way to shut off the engine and refuel it, we risk burn-out and ill health.

But, easier said than done.

A few years ago, I took up yoga, as I knew that it offered health benefits. Among the benefits is a curious thing called “mindfulness.” Now, I am a science geek at heart, so the touchy-feely aspect was not really something I gravitated toward. But, I gave it a try anyway. What is this thing called “mindfulness?”

Well, it is a way to help shut out the noise of everything around you (and even your own busy mind), and just…be. At first I was not able to just sit and “be.” Be what? I am a do-er. Not a be-er. But, I kept going to yoga class thinking that there must be something to this, and to just give it time.

relaxing at workEventually, (after about a year!) I got comfortable and even good at sitting down on my mat, crossing my legs, uttering OOOOOOOMMMMMMM a few times, and becoming “present in the moment.” My yoga instructor would say “you have nowhere to be, nothing to do, but to be here, present.” I would concentrate on my breathing (never did that before!), and work on blocking everything out of my mind (much harder than it sounds).

During class, I give myself permission to put the world on hold for an hour. My must-do list will be there when I am done, and my noisy world will return, but for this one hour I honor myself, I rest my mind, I invigorate my body, and I …..relax. What a concept!

When my son was in first grade, he received a writing assignment; the topic was “my favorite thing to do.” He wrote “My favorite thing to do….is to relax. I like to go home, lie on the couch, put my feet up and just watch a movie.” (His teacher was not too happy, as she expected to hear he liked to play a sport or build a Lego creation, but I found it enlightening.) His favorite thing, was letting go, relaxing….just “be”ing. Hmmmm. Kids GET this.

April is Stress Awareness Month, so, as you rush around, going from appointment to appointment, crossing off items on your must-do list, remember that you can only go so far without re-fueling. The stop-rest-relax portion of your day is as important as the go-go-go part. It does not have to be through yoga, but find something that helps you relax your body AND mind. Then, when you pick up and go again, you will be refreshed and able to handle whatever comes your way. Believe me, if I can do it, you can, too.

So, try this as your new mantra for today:  stop – rest – relax.

And tomorrow?

Repeat.

 

For more posts on how to help your child with a delay or disability, view our Table of Contents.

 

Special moms need special care

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

two women meditatingA new study published in Pediatrics shows that groups led by other moms reduced stress in mothers of children with disabilities. It helped to improve “maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex developmental, physical, and behavioral needs.” These support groups were uniquely focused on learning specialized techniques to reduce stress.

Mothers of children with developmental disabilities experience stress, anxiety and depression more often and to a greater degree than mothers who parent children without disabilities. It is thought that the chronic stress and the associated poor health that often result may impact a mom’s ability to parent effectively.

This study looked at what would happen if a program were put in place specifically for moms of children with disabilities (or what I will call “Special Moms”).  Researchers randomly assigned 243 Special Moms into two groups to attend a program led by peer mentors (eg. other Special Moms who received training to lead the groups).

One group learned Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) techniques while the other group learned Positive Adult Development (PAD) techniques. MBSR and PAD are evidence-based practices, which mean that they have been shown, through research, to be beneficial.

The MBSR group learned meditation, breathing and movement techniques and the relaxation response. The PAD group learned ways to “temper emotions such as guilt, conflict, worry and pessimism by identifying and recruiting character strengths and virtues…and by exercises involving gratitude, forgiveness, grace and optimism.” All the moms attended weekly group sessions and practiced what they learned at home on a daily basis.

What were the results?

According to the study, the moms in both groups experienced less stress, anxiety and depression, and improved sleep and life satisfaction.  After 6 months, these improvements continued. There were some differences between the two groups that related to whether they received the MBSR or PAD practice, but the important take-away from this study is that both treatments proved beneficial to the moms.

There are programs in place to help children with disabilities, but few programs exist to help their parents, especially when the stress causes mental, emotional and physical fatigue. Moms often become anxious or depressed, which does not help them as they face the intense daily challenges of parenting a child with a disability. This study shows the positive effect of proven stress reduction techniques when taught in a peer-mentored program.

The authors conclude that “future studies should be done on how trained mentors and professionals can address the mental health needs of mothers of children with developmental disabilities since doing so can improve maternal well-being and long-term caregiving for children with complex needs.”

Bottom line

If you are a Special Mom, your personal take-away message from this study is to try to include a stress reduction program into your daily life, such as meditation, yoga, or another relaxation technique. If you can do so with a group of other Special Moms, all the better!

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. While on News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” in the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input.

Yoga during pregnancy

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

 I’m giving Yoga a second shot. The first time I explored the idea was in my early-twenties. My sister dragged me to a class after I had been out the night before celebrating the fact that it was Thursday. It was almost the weekend…woo hoo! Anyway, we went to this Yoga studio where I immediately felt self-conscience and very, very warm. I wasn’t wearing trendy work-out clothes like the other women (I opted for baggy shorts and an over-sized t-shirt) and the room was set to 110 degrees. Ugh. As the lights dimmed and the instructor chanted her first “ohm”, I got a wicked case of the giggles and had to leave the class. Or was I asked to leave? Either way, I promise I’ve matured since.

I’ve attended classes 3 times a week for the past month and it’s going really well so far. This is a Korean form of Yoga that focuses on balance, flexibility and relaxation — minus the really hot room. It’s something I plan to continue for as long as I’m able. It’s low impact, soothing and the personalized attention is wonderful. My doc thinks it’s an ideal type of exercise for me. My sister thinks it’s funny, though. She never let’s me live stuff down! LOL!

Hee-hee-WHO

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Here’s the story with breathing techniques. Back in the day, complex breathing patterns were taught to correlate with the various stages of labor. Several methods of childbirth preparation emphasized breathing as the primary way to relieve pain during labor. However, unless diligently practiced with a well-trained support person, these highly structured techniques have the potential to produce hyperventilation

Breathing is a tool to provide adequate oxygenation for mom and baby and to enhance relaxation. For best results, techniques should be simple, easy to follow, paced at the mother’s own rate and may include a pattern if she desires. Her respiratory rate should never be more than double and she should never feel air hunger at the end of a contraction.

So, whether you’re rehearsing, “IN…out-out-out…IN”, or “pant-pant-BLOW” get some professional guidance so you don’t get dizzy!

Fear-tension-pain cycle

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Dr. Grantley Dick-Read is an English obstetrician who introduced his book, Childbirth Without Fear to the U.S. in the 1940s. By observing laboring women, he theorized that the fear of childbirth creates physical tension which causes increased pain by restricting blood flow to the uterine muscles and any other muscles involved. He refers to this chain of events as the fear-tension-pain cycle. He explains that the cycle can be interrupted through prenatal education, relaxation methods, physical conditioning and abdominal breathing.

Relaxation techniques may help to decrease anxiety and fear. As the body becomes relaxed, the mind is able to decrease its awareness of pain as well as endure pain longer. Go to your local book store, library, search online, talk to your childbirth educator or doula about the various childbirth education techniques that are out there. Find one that is right for you and start practicing! It takes several weeks to learn a technique so be patient, give yourself plenty of time and get your partner involved for support.