You\u2019re having a baby! Oh, the joy ... or not? You may be wondering why, when other expecting women seem to be glowing with happiness, you\u2019re feeling nothing but incredibly anxious. Dread, worry and all sorts of fears are overshadowing your pregnancy, and it feels awful. Is it normal? What should you do? Well, the good news is that some anxiety \u2013 especially if this is your first baby \u2013 is not abnormal at all. However, if that anxiety is consuming significant amounts of time, interfering with your ability to function normally, or seriously disrupting your sleep night after night, then you may have a full-blown anxiety disorder. While the latter may require professional help (discussed further below), there are many things you can do on your own to both manage and reduce your anxiety. They do take some effort, but taking good care of your emotional and mental health will benefit both you and your baby (not to mention the others in your family circle).\r\nChallenge the \u2018Scary Story\u2019\r\nAnxiety is almost always fueled by a \u201cscary story,\u201d and in most cases, this scary story is exaggerated and irrational. For example, someone with social anxiety tells herself that she\u2019s going to be embarrassed or make a complete fool of herself in social situations. Her \u201cscary story\u201d is that something is going to go wrong and it\u2019s going to be horrible. Similarly, you may be telling yourself a scary story (or several scary stories) related to your pregnancy. Perhaps it\u2019s that you\u2019re going to be a terrible mother, that your baby will be born with a serious health issue, or that you\u2019re going to lose the baby. You can challenge your scary story in several ways. For example, when an anxiety-provoking \u201cwhat if\u201d (what if I\u2019m a terrible mother, what if my baby has problems, etc.) keeps coming to mind, challenge it by remembering that the \u201cwhat ifs\u201d we fear very rarely actually happen. And IF they do occur, challenge that scary thought by remembering that you can and will handle it \u2013 when the time comes. Not to mention, you can\u2019t control the future, and worrying won\u2019t change that fact. Another way to challenge the scary stories is to ask yourself, \u201cWhat evidence is there to support my fear?\u201d For example, what proof do you have that you\u2019ll be a terrible mother? Has your doctor said there\u2019s a high risk of losing the baby? Much of the time, there\u2019s nothing to back up the scary story \u2013 except other scary stories.\r\nStay in the Present\r\nThe scary stories you tell yourself are always in the future tense; your anxiety is about what might or could happen. In other words, you\u2019re borrowing trouble because you don\u2019t know what the future holds \u2013 none of us do. But the more you play those stories over and over in your mind, the more you feed the anxiety. And the stress you\u2019re creating for yourself is not healthy for you or your baby. Always remember: You can\u2019t be anxious when you\u2019re truly living in the present moment. Right now there\u2019s a tiny human growing inside you; at this moment, its heart is beating, yours is beating, and all is well. Could something go wrong tomorrow, or next week, or 3 months from now? Certainly. That\u2019s life. Even if all isn\u2019t well at the moment (for example, the doctor has said there\u2019s a fair risk of XYZ happening), that doesn\u2019t mean XYZ will happen. Life is full of risks, but risks are \u201cmaybes\u201d not \u201cdefinitely wills.\u201d The present is all any of us has for certain. Focusing on that (easier said than done, of course) is one of the keys to quelling your anxiety.\r\nPractice Positive Self-Talk\r\nPeople who struggle with anxiety (and depression) often have very negative self-talk. Self-talk is that inner dialogue that goes on in your mind throughout the day.\u00a0 For example, anxiety-provoking self-talk typically includes statements such as:\r\n\r\n \tI can\u2019t do this.\r\n \tI can\u2019t handle this.\r\n \tWhat if I fail?\r\n \tWhat if something terrible happens?\r\n \tWhat if it doesn\u2019t work?\r\n\r\nIt takes a conscious effort to change your self-talk, but it can be done.\u00a0 Following are positive versions of the above statements:\r\n\r\n \tI can do this!\r\n \tI can handle whatever comes my way.\r\n \tI will succeed (or \u201cI am a success\u201d).\r\n \tIf something bad happens, I\u2019ll be able to handle it.\r\n \tEverything will work out as it should.\r\n\r\nThe second set of statements is empowering and instills a sense of confidence and hope, whereas the first set fosters anxiety and dread.\u00a0 It\u2019s a powerful difference that comes from simple changes in your self-talk.\r\nBreathe\r\nSlow, deep breathing is an excellent way to calm your nerves and quiet your mind. So simple \u2013 yet it\u2019s often the first thing people forget to do when they\u2019re really anxious. Instead, their breathing becomes increasingly rapid and shallow, which doesn\u2019t help at all. Whenever you\u2019re feeling anxious about your pregnancy, take a few moments and simply focus on your breathing. Consciously slow down the pace of your breathing. Inhale with a deep, slow breath through your nose (counting \u201c1001, 1002, 1003, 1004\u201d). Pause for a moment as you hold the air in your lungs, and then exhale slowly (using the same four counts) through your mouth. Do that for three to five minutes. By focusing on your breathing, you\u2019re taking your mind off your worries. The slow, deep breaths will help both your body and mind relax. Do this frequently throughout the day; over time, it will become a habit.\r\nLower Your Stress\r\nStress is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn\u2019t mean it needs to consume your life or be a major part of it. Finding ways to reduce your stress will also help reduce your anxiety, as the two tend to go hand in hand. You can reduce stress in multiple ways (and the more of these you do, the better):\r\n\r\n \tDelegating tasks (both at home and at work)\r\n \tPracticing the fine art of saying \u201cno\u201d\r\n \tPrioritizing\r\n \tEliminating clutter\r\n \tScheduling your day in advance\r\n \tSurrounding yourself with supportive people\r\n \tChoosing your battles wisely (with your partner, your boss, your kids, etc.)\r\n \tKeeping your goals realistic\r\n \tCutting back on your workload (e.g., going from full time to part time if possible, or not putting in overtime)\r\n \tGetting sufficient, restful sleep\r\n \tGetting regular aerobic exercise (with your doctor\u2019s OK, such as brisk walking or swimming)\r\n \tMaking time for relaxation and fun\r\n\r\nYou may find that simply by reducing your stress, much of your anxiety subsides.\r\nTake a Prenatal Yoga Class\r\nThe mental and physical benefits of yoga have been well-documented and experienced by many for centuries. The ancient practice \u2013 which combines slow, controlled movements, stretches and poses with proper breathing \u2013 is particularly beneficial for both anxiety and pregnant women.\u00a0 Before you start, be sure to get your doctor\u2019s OK, and find a prenatal yoga class with an experienced instructor. While yoga may seem simple and harmless, you need to take extra caution when you\u2019re pregnant. Some poses \u2013 such as those that put pressure on your belly - can be dangerous when you\u2019re expecting, especially the further along you are. One of the great benefits of regularly practicing yoga is improved sleep. Sleep deprivation can quickly exacerbate anxiety. When you\u2019re well-rested, you\u2019ll feel less overwhelmed and more capable of handling life\u2019s curveballs.\r\nStart Meditating\r\nMeditation is one of the most excellent \u2013 and underutilized \u2013 ways to alleviate anxiety.\u00a0 Although it does take practice, it doesn\u2019t cost anything and takes up very little of your time. It also doesn\u2019t require any special skills or props, and you can do it almost anywhere (well, anywhere that\u2019s quiet for at least a few minutes). And it\u2019s perfectly safe for pregnant women! While some people use meditation for spiritual purposes, it doesn\u2019t have to be connected to any particular beliefs. Meditation is powerful because it helps you learn to totally quiet your mind and it utilizes slow, controlled breathing which helps quell anxiety. You can purchase books, CDs and DVDs that will help you learn to meditate. However, they\u2019re not necessary. In a nutshell, the process is incredibly simple: 1)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Find a quiet spot where you\u2019ll be undisturbed for several minutes (10 to 15 is perfect when starting out). 2)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Choose a time of day that works well for you, and try to meditate at the same time each day. 3)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Sit on the floor (or chair or sofa, etc.) so that you\u2019re comfortable. 4)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Close your eyes. 5)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Allow all your thoughts to leave your mind so that you\u2019re focused only on your breathing. 6)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 Continue focusing on nothing but your breathing for several minutes. 7)\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0\u00a0 As thoughts come in (and they will, especially at first and even more so when you\u2019re anxious), don\u2019t fight them; instead, picture your mind releasing them (e.g., like an autumn leaf gently falling from a tree, or whatever imagery feels right for you). The first few (or many) times you meditate, it may feel impossible to clear your mind. That\u2019s OK.\u00a0 Don\u2019t fight it; just accept it and keep releasing the thoughts. The more you practice, the easier it will become. Many people start with 10 minutes a day and work their way up to 30 or more. There\u2019s no set rule; do what works best for you.\r\nWhen to Seek Treatment\r\nMany of the above techniques are often used by therapists to treat anxiety-ridden individuals. If you\u2019re anxiety is mild to moderate, you may do just fine practicing them on your own. However, in some cases, professional help may be warranted when it comes to managing your anxiety. If you feel your anxiety is excessive (e.g., the troubling thoughts are constantly or very frequently on your mind, or are extreme in nature), or if it\u2019s negatively impacting your sleep, appetite, concentration, energy level or any other aspect of your life, then an evaluation with a mental health professional is warranted. There are several different types of anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder, and Social Anxiety Disorder, to name a few. While medication may help reduce symptoms, it should not be the sole source of treatment for your anxiety \u2013 especially when you\u2019re pregnant. Therapy, especially when combined with many of the above tips, can be very effective without medication in many cases. Even just a few sessions with a skilled therapist can help you find healthy ways to cope and reduce (and possibly eradicate altogether) troubling symptoms of anxiety. If you\u2019re pregnant and battling anxiety, know that there is hope. If you\u2019ve tried implementing several of the suggestions listed above and they\u2019re not helping, contact a mental health professional today for an evaluation. You can also ask your ob-gyn for a referral. Working with a skilled therapist can make all the difference in the world when it comes to reducing and managing anxiety during your pregnancy, helping you and your baby.