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Pregnancy 101: Keeping Your Zen in a Stressful Work Environment
bySarah CollinsJul 29, 2014
In the first trimester, you're worried about the pregnancy sticking. In the second semester, you're worried about the baby's development. In the third trimester, you're just ready for the baby to be born already. In other words, you have enough stress during the 40—or more—weeks of pregnancy; there's no space for any extra headaches because of work. Stay Zen during the work week, not only for your sanity but also for the health of your still-growing little one.
It's not possible to cut out all stressors during your pregnancy, but there's good reason to try to reduce them. Your body goes into "fight or flight" mode when you're stressed, writes Stephanie Watson on WebMD.com, which blasts fuel to your muscles and increases your heart rate. If that continues, clinical neuropsychologist Susan Andrews tells Watson, it can trigger an inflammatory reaction -- and that can affect your fetus. Inflammation could cause a low birth weight and earlier delivery, says Dr. Ann Borders, a obstetrician/gynecologist, in WebMD. If you can adequately deal with the stress, your body will go back to normal and your baby won't be affected. Christina Kan certainly knows a thing or two about holding a stressful job—she's an immigration attorney in New York. However, during her pregnancy, she knew she had to give herself a break. "Understand that your baby's health is 100 times more important than work," she says.
Talk With HR
Much anxiety at work can come from not knowing if your job will be safe while you're on maternity leave, how you'll pay your bills while taking care of a new baby and what will happen if you go into labor or have medical problems at work. When you feel comfortable discussing your pregnancy with your employer, sit down with your supervisor, a member of the human resources department and, if necessary, someone from payroll. Discuss the company's policies, as well as your legal rights when it comes to maternity leave. Get in writing what's expected of you as you prepare for maternity leave, when you're off and, if applicable, upon your return. Talk about your benefits, salary, short-term disability insurance options and what to do if you have medical issues or go into labor before it's expected. When everyone is on the same page, you can start budgeting at home and preparing at work.
Stretch Away the Stress
If you need a short break during the middle of the day, take it. "Close your office door and take a few minutes to breathe," Kan says. "During those crazy days [while pregnant], I would close my door, shut my eyes and just clear my head for a few minutes. Thinking about my baby and her health would put everything into perspective." If you have a private place—or dwindling sense of modesty —do some stretches to help relax. Sit at the edge of your desk chair and reach your arms overhead. Stretch up through your right hand, lengthening your right side. Switch to the left side and repeat to stretch your abs and side. To stretch your back, sit near the edge of your chair and open your legs slightly wider than your hips. Lean forward and drop your torso down so your head rests between your thighs -- or as close as you can get. Hang your head and arms toward the floor.
Even if work gets hectic, you can harness a lot of Zen by letting yourself relax outside of work. Walk away from the office at a reasonable time and resist the urge to open up the laptop or check your email at home after working hours. However, don't go home and busy yourself with "work" there; ask for support from your partner, family or friends so you can cut back on chores and spend more time with your feet propped up. "Focus on the positive things that are happening right now—like the fact that you're going to have a new bundle of joy soon," Kan says. "Instead of looking over your shoulder wondering when the ax will fall, spend your time looking at your belly, contemplating a baby name and singing softly to your baby-to-be. It will soothe you, too."