Managing Stress


What is stress?

Stress is usually perceived as something negative, but some types of stress can be good for you. It’s important to know how to tell the difference between positive and negative stress.

Good stress is the kind of stress that helps to motivate and engage you to do things. It is short-term and you usually feel in control of the situation and the outcome.

Too much stress, or bad stress, can be both short-term and long-term, and brings a feeling of helplessness or overwhelm. It triggers both your mind and body into a state of emergency, which can become chronic.

How do you know if you experiencing too much stress?

People experience stress symptoms differently, but some signs are common. Look through this list of stress symptoms and see if you are experiencing any of them:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Upset stomach or nausea
  • Stiff neck or tension
  • Heart palpitations
  • Low energy
  • Avoiding others
  • Becoming irritable
  • Hearing others comment, "You aren’t yourself"
  • Unable to "turn off" worries
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Not eating enough, or eating too much
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Crying easily
  • Quick to anger
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Not enjoying things you used to enjoy

Managing stress

Although stress is an inevitable part of life, it is possible to learn ways to cope with it more effectively. By developing positive coping skills, you can feel more resilient when you are faced with stressful situations. This will help you feel stronger and calmer, and that can help your baby and whole family.


Resilience is our ability to "bounce back" from stress and other difficult experiences. Being resilient doesn’t mean that you don't feel the impact of stress. Resilience is our ability to find ways to adapt and cope to stress. We are all capable of resilience and of growing our resilience.

Important factors for building resilience include:

  • Supportive relationships
  • Realistic expectations
  • Focus on developing positive attitudes toward oneself
  • Focus on using communication skills even when it's hard
  • Practicing one's tolerance of difficult feelings

Supportive relationships

It takes a village to raise a mother. It is important to think about who might be there for you, in different types of situations. All people, especially new parents, need support. Support can be provided through physical acts, such as making dinner, cleaning the house or watching the baby while you sleep. It can also be provided through emotional support. Who is the person that you call first when you have a bad day? Who listens to you and lets you vent when you’re frustrated?

Image heart icon ACTIVITY
Write down who is in your Circle of Support.
Who will you call, and with which requests?


Realistic expectations

Where do you get your ideas about motherhood? Do they come from your family, friends, culture, religion, the media? Whatever your expectations are, remember the following:

  • The path to motherhood is hard.
  • You will make mistakes.
  • You won’t do it better than everyone else.
  • You will have fantastic days and you will have horrible days. 
  • You will not have all of the answers and neither will your friends.
  • The amount of time you think you will need will almost always be wrong.
  • You are not alone in this.
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Would you expect of somebody else what you expect of yourself?
Practice self-compassion. What did you do well today? Celebrate small victories.
Ask for and accept help. That can be a small victory. Take a break when you need it.

Positive Attitudes Towards Oneself — Soothing Activities

Finding activities that bring you pleasure and carving out even just a little time for them can go a long way. Even though they might seem like small things, they can make a big difference for a new parent.

Here are some activities that many pregnant and new moms find soothing. Do any of them work for you? Are there others not listed you could add?

  • Singing
  • Reading a book
  • Watching a movie
  • Gardening or planting a seed
  • Turning on music and dancing
  • Asking or accepting help from others
  • Praying
  • Meditating
  • Writing in a journal
  • Hanging out with a friend
  • Going for a walk
  • Taking a nap
  • Preparing and eating a tasty and nutritious meal
  • Moving
  • Exercising
  • Deep breathing
  • Calling a friend
  • Talking through the way you are feeling with someone who listens well
  • Doing something nice for someone
  • Making a cup of tea
  • Taking a bath
  • Knitting
  • Doing crafts

Communication skills

Whether you are trying to conceive, pregnant or postpartum, it is vitally important to communicate your wants and needs to your loved ones. Here are some tools you can use:

"I" Statements — This communication technique allows the speaker to focus on his/her own feelings or beliefs instead of thoughts and characteristics that the speaker attributes to the listener. For example, a person might say to his or her partner, "I feel lonely when you stay at work late," instead of demanding, "Why are you never home on time?"

Mirroring — This communication technique allows both people to confirm that they have been heard. For example, "What I hear you saying is that you are putting in overtime because you are concerned about the added expenses that the baby is going to have. Did I get that right? What did I miss? Is there anything else?"

Practicing one’s tolerance of difficult feelings

Many people prefer to pretend that their difficult or painful feelings don't exist and instead, they judge, resist and ignore them. But unless we address them, they will not go away.

One tool for increasing your tolerance of these difficult feelings it to think about them as if they were an underground tunnel. There is no way out except through. So sit with your feelings. Allow yourself to feel angry and sad. Cry it out. Yell. Do what you need to do to get through them. If the feelings don’t go away, then reach out for help.

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