Five Quick and Effective Relaxation Techniques for Working Moms-to-Be

The relaxation techniques that you learn now will serve you all your life. Try each method a few times to find out which works best for you. Then practice relaxation for ten minutes, twice a day. Most people find that it takes a couple of weeks to become proficient. Once you've learned the techniques, you'll be able to do them in the middle of a crowd.

  1. Deep breathing—Slowly breathe in for a count of seven and exhale through pursed lips for seven counts. The exhalation should be like an audible sigh of relief. To be sure the exhalation is complete, count to yourself on thousand and one, one thousand and two—up to seven counts. Keep the breath light and soft and high in your throat.
  2. Muscle relaxation—This method, which can be easily done at your desk, involves releasing tension in different parts of your body in sequence. Choose a particular muscle, then tense and release until you feel in control of that muscle. Do this with one muscle after another. If one resists, pull it into the position of relaxation; for instance, drop your tight jaw and hold it in that position until your face relaxes. This technique is especially useful if you tend to carry a lot of tension in your forehead or shoulders. This skill will also serve you well during labor when your uterus will contract involuntarily while you will be able to relax the rest of your body.
  3. Meditation—You've relaxed your body; now it's time for your mind. Concentrate all your attention on the exercise you're doing. Deeply relax all your muscles. Breathe normally through your nose. Repeat a single word or a phrase to yourself over and over: this is called a mantra. Chant the word in rhythm with your breathing. Prevent troubling thoughts from entering your consciousness. If they do, refocus. When you're in a deeply relaxed meditative state, your blood pressure and heart rate drop, which enhances your felling of well-being.
  4. Mindfulness—Like mediation, this technique encourages moment-to-moment awareness. Focus on the present only or the job you are doing rather than letting your mind wander to what needs to be done or other worries.
  5. Guided imagery—Close your eyes and look within. Picture yourself in a relaxing situation. For example, imagine you're gliding in a canoe over the quiet blue waters of a mountain lake. Listen to the slap of the water on the boat, the sound of a bird singing, and fell the warmth of the sun. Studies have shown that blue is a particularly relaxing color for your imagined scene.

Regular use of these techniques will make you more serene and more capable of dealing with the stress of work and pregnancy. These exercises will also help you to focus your attention inward. Your body will receive the message that you're safe and secure. Your muscles will relax, your pulse rate will drop, and you'll find your anxiety has decreased. Before you begin practicing, make sure conditions are right:

  • Privacy—Its best if you can avoid being disturbed. Pick a quiet place and close the door. Take the phone off the hook, if possible.
  • Comfort—Sit in a comfortable chair, take your shoes off, loosen your clothing, and close your eyes.
  • Concentration—Don't allow anything to distract you. If your thoughts wander, refocus your attention on the technique.
  • Duration—Make sure you practice at least ten minutes every day. Take the time during the workday even if you're very busy. Once you've relaxed, you ll find your efficiency will improve, making up for lost time.

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© 2005 by Marla Schram Schwartz. Excerpted from The Working Woman's Baby Planner with permission of its publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc.

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