Depending on the level of anxiety you experience, therapy techniques and dietary and lifestyle changes may be able to provide some relief.
Explore Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a therapy technique that involves evaluating your anxious or negative thought patterns and applying healthier coping mechanisms. Dr. Lasseter refers to CBT as “the most effective non-medication treatment for anxiety during pregnancy.”
Working with a licensed therapist or counselor on CBT can help you identify certain thoughts or behaviors that trigger your anxiety. From there, you can either avoid some of those triggers if possible, says Dr. Gleaton, or you can learn ways to work through them when they arise.
Employ Relaxation Techniques
Making a point to physically relax your body has been proven to reduce maternal stress, according to a small, 2021 study that analyzed stress levels in pregnant people after relaxation techniques involving music, guided imagery and rest. Other helpful practices for reducing anxiety symptoms during pregnancy include meditation, acupuncture and prenatal yoga, according to Dr. Lasseter.
Modify Your Diet
Aim for a balanced diet that’s nutrient-rich, which is proven to help with the symptoms of anxiety, says Dr. Gleaton. She recommends adding omega-3-packed foods like salmon (a type of seafood that’s low in mercury) into your meals to help support healthy brain function.
Additionally, a 2020 systematic review found a link between vitamin D deficiency and anxiety in pregnant people. Dr. Gleaton suggests adding vitamin D sources—such as eggs and sardines—to your plate, as it can help protect against drops in mood-boosting hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.
And when it comes to caffeine and sugar, practice moderation. “These can trigger or worsen feelings of stress and anxiety,” says Dr. Gleaton.
Find a Daily Release
If your OB-GYN gives you the greenlight for exercise, go for it, says Dr. Lasseter, as the hormones you release while sweating are great for stress and anxiety relief. You can also try low-impact activities to help slow down your thoughts and feel grounded in your body, like a daily walk, yoga or meditation session, adds Dr. Gleaton.
You need additional sleep when you’re anxious or stressed to help your body and brain recharge, says Dr. Gleaton, who recommends a solid eight to 10 hours during pregnancy. This can be easier said than done, though—a study in Obstetric Medicine found that 73% of pregnant people experience some form of insomnia by their third trimester.
Sleeping well can be difficult for pregnant people due to increased urine frequency, discomfort, acid reflux and restless leg syndrome, so you might need to allocate some time for a nap during the day. Dr. Gleaton also recommends sleeping with a pregnancy pillow to relieve some of the tension in your back, and a screen-free bedtime wind-down routine including habits like yoga, reading or journaling.
Find Things You Can Control
“Any activity that increases your sense of control will give you a rest from the adrenaline surges,” says Dr. Witkin. Try cleaning your desk or closet, organizing your wallet or paying some bills, she suggests, to balance out what you can’t control with things that you have control over.
Try a Rhythmic Activity
These types of activities can similarly help you ground yourself and calm your mind because you know what to expect next, says Dr. Witkin. She suggests listening to some slow jams, specifically music that is slower than your heartbeat (which is around 72 beats per minute), going for a jog or rewatching a favorite movie or series.