Managing Anxiety with the News You are Unexpectedly Pregnant
Written by Carolyn Lerch
Anxiety in its mildest form is an emotion we all experience from time to time. However, the level of anxiety experienced when the unexpected occurs may feel overwhelming if the body is reacting to it as though a crisis is unfolding.
The ‘Alarm System’
The human body has what is often referred to as an ‘alarm system,’ this system’s purpose is to keep us safe. It is triggered when danger is or seems to be imminent. The response to this ‘alarm system’ being triggered, in its mildest form may present as low-level anxiety, at its most severe it may present as a desperate feeling of panic.
When an unexpected pregnancy occurs, it may be received as wonderful news, or it may be seen as an imminent threat to a current way of life, or to the fulfilment of future dreams. If experienced as the latter, it can lead to feeling a desperate need to escape the threat.
When in a state of panic, physiologically our bodies prepare to keep us safe, by sending resources to our extremities to either fight, or run from the threat. Unfortunately, when this happens the thinking part of our brain receives less resources, which impacts our ability to take a moment to gather information and assess the situation fully.
Calming the ‘Alarm System’
It’s helpful when facing an unexpected pregnancy to take some time to allow the ‘alarm system’ to calm down.
Some tips for calming the ‘alarm system’:
Take deep slow breaths for 5 to 10 minutes as often as necessary, this will tell the ‘alarm system’ it’s ok to shut down; another is to remind yourself that you are safe right now, you have time, you don’t need to rush. You may need to repeat these while you take the time to consider what to do next.
When the brain is trying to process emotions, concerns, and information all at once, it can raise anxiety levels significantly. Something that helps with this is to write it all down. Dot point will do, or flowing sentences, whichever works best for you. This gives the brain a chance to relax, as it no longer needs to remember everything, which in turn lowers feelings of anxiety and stress. When these feelings are reduced the thinking part of the brain is more able to make decisions that will align with our core values.
The symptoms of anxiety can include quick shallow breathing; a fast heartbeat; an inability to think clearly; irritability; shortness of breath; shaking; feeling sick in the stomach etc. The higher the level of anxiety the more extreme these symptoms become. Once these symptoms are noticed it’s time to employ the tips mentioned earlier. Talking to someone who will listen well, who shows empathy, and will reflect your core values can be helpful too, as it will increase a felt sense of safety.
Everybody feels anxiety at some stage in their lives.
Anxiety is not something that is cured, it is managed. And it can be, with helpful coping strategies. Eva’s Place is here to be that listening ear if you find yourself feeling anxious about your unexpected pregnancy.
Van der Kolk, B., (2014), The Body Keeps the Score, Publisher: Penguin Books (US)