Pregnancy is often a joyous time for many women, however it is also a time of many complex shifts that, when combined with hormonal fluctuations and fatigue may contribute to additional stress. From the many physical changes your body will undergo, to the emotional and relational changes of identity transformation, to the personal, professional, and social pressures of trying to “do it all” and hold ourselves to the same pre-pregnancy standards, it’s no wonder that some women are more susceptible to bouts of anxiety and depression during this most tender, transitional time – particularly if you have a history of past mental health concerns. Below are five pregnancy-specific self-care tips you may find useful as you move through these nine months and on into the postpartum period to help promote your overall well-being and stay present throughout this most wondrous time.
With the approval of your doctor or midwife, many women find that light exercise helps them take care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. It can be as simple as lacing up your sneakers for a daily walk around the block before work, on your lunch break, or after you get home, or something more structured like a prenatal fitness class. No matter which route you choose, setting aside time to move your body can help offset many pregnancy-related concerns, including swelling and edema, fatigue, mild nausea, and even some of the complex emotions that may come along with pregnancy. One key shift in mentality that many women find worthwhile is using exercise less as a means to achieve the ideal physique and more as a means to adapt to the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy. An added bonus: Exercising during pregnancy helps strengthen your awareness of and connection with your body to prepare you for labor as well as the postpartum recovery period.
Pregnancy is a time of many rapid shifts, and you may notice changes in key relationships in your life, including with your significant other, family members, friends, and colleagues. Your body is changing and hormones are fluctuating to support growing life, often contributing to more intense emotions as well, but your whole identity and experience of yourself as a relational being is also undergoing a role transition. This is especially true for first-time mothers-to-be, and you may find yourself torn between the life you once knew, which involved happy hour with friends several times a week, and wanting a slower pace with more solitude. Finding ways to stay connected with supportive people in your life in ways that prioritize your mental and emotional wellbeing can help you through this transition. Perhaps trade Thursday happy hour with friends for brunch and mani/pedis, or Friday night dinner and a movie with your significant other for a daytime stroll through the park with fresh smoothies in-hand. Use these times to share your experience with others, particularly the hard parts. Doing so can feel vulnerable, but allowing yourself to stay connected and supported will ultimately benefit you in the long run by providing a healthy outlet for various multifaceted feelings and experiences.
Prenatal Yoga and Mindfulness Meditation
It’s no secret that yoga and mindfulness meditation practice can do wonders for your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing, helping to reduce stress and anxiety, combat depression, improve focus (“pregnancy-brain” anyone?), and even reduce high blood pressure. You may consider taking a prenatal yoga class at your gym or local yoga studio, which has the added benefit of exposing you to other women who are pregnant at the same time as you, or you may find it easier to start a gentle at-home practice. No matter which option you choose, make sure to check with your healthcare provider first and seek out yoga classes or sequences designed for pregnant women since certain poses are not advised during pregnancy. Looking for something less physical and more contemplative? Mindfulness meditation may be for you, and the Expectful app (available on Android and iOS) is a great resource for brief meditation and guided imagery exercises intended specifically for pregnancy and postpartum. Together or separately, yoga and mindfulness practices can be a powerful way to weather the ups and downs of your pregnant experience and feel even more connected to your baby prior to his or her birth.
Set Appropriate Boundaries
Sometimes people – even well-meaning ones who love us very much! – put their feet in their mouths. Some treat pregnancy as open season for questioning or commentary on a woman’s body and appearance. Some offer unsolicited advice on eating and exercise habits. Some may compare your pregnancy to their own or to someone else’s. And still others view pregnancy as a time to share their pregnant experiences – the joyous ones, the horror stories, and every intimate detail in between. Some people aren’t bothered by this and take it all in stride but if you find that it bothers you, it’s okay to set some appropriate boundaries. You may consider a well-timed comment like, “It’s so amazing how everyone’s pregnancy is so different!” or a more direct approach like, “I appreciate your concern but that’s between me and my healthcare provider.” Boundaries are, in fact, an act of love for ourselves and while setting them can sometimes be challenging and may need to happen repeatedly, it’s healthy and okay to have them.
If you find yourself wrestling with complex emotions during pregnancy, whether they are related to pregnancy itself or to stressors outside of it, counseling can help and there are therapists who specialize in working with the specific concerns that may arise during this unique time in your life.
Seeking Licensed Therapist/Psychologist
The Bergen Counseling Center is growing again! We are excited to announce openings for two additional full-time licensed clinicians. We are looking for licensed therapists or psychologists who share our passion for helping others and enthusiasm for the field of psychology. We are a thriving multidisciplinary private practice providing individual, couples, and family counseling, as well as, psychological testing to clients throughout Chicago. Clinicians will practice from both our downtown Chicago Loop office and our Ravenswood locations.
We believe in supporting you as a clinician both administratively and in your growth and development as a clinician. We want you to be able to focus on providing the highest level of care to our clients while fostering growth and insight into your unique voice as a therapist. We encourage all of our therapists to grow professionally in areas that are personally meaningful. You will have the opportunity to work with individuals, couples, families on a regular basis, but also the freedom pursue group work, writing, workshops, supervision, and consulting services. We offer competitive pay and opportunities to earn additional income through incentives, bonuses, and therapy adjacent services.
Please visit our Employment Opportunities page to learn more about the available positions and to submit an application for employment. We are looking forward to hearing from you!
The Bergen Counseling Center is excited to announce the first workshop in our free 2018 workshop series. Our resident mindfulness expert Dr. Carolyn Versical will be leading a free introduction to mindfulness workshop at our Ravenswood, Chicago office location on Saturday April 7th, 2018 from 10:00AM-11:00AM. The free mindfulness workshop is open to both our current clients and the general public. No prior knowledge or experience practicing mindfulness is necessary to attend the free mindfulness workshop.
Dr. Versical will help attendees understand the basics of mindfulness and also provide practical ways to incorporate mindfulness into daily life. The practice of mindfulness has been gaining a lot of popularity recently and for good reason. Consistent practice of mindfulness has been shown to help individuals decrease anxiety, depression, improve a general sense of well-being, and even assist people develop a healthier relationship with food and eating.
A free mindfulness workshop that can help you increase your sense of well-being, decrease anxiety and depression, and help you gain a healthier perspective during daily life, so what’s the catch? Space is limited! Although the mindfulness workshop is completely free, we kindly ask that all attendees register and reserve their spot for the workshop on April 7th at 10AM. Please fill out the reservation form below to reserve your space today.
What: Free Mindfulness Workshop
Where: Bergen Counseling Center – 1945 W. Wilson Suite 6113, Chicago, IL 60640
When: Saturday, April 7th from 10am-11am
Practice founder Jeremy Bergen, MS, LCPC was recently interviewed by ABC7 Chicago for a segment on how people use social media to express grief and find bereavement support from family, friends, and even strangers. ABC 7 reporter Will Jones interviewed Jeremy to get his insight on the pros and cons of using social media to grieve, and also to understand why people are drawn to expressing their bereavement in such a public forum. Jone’s story centered on local Chicago woman, LaSandra Hutchinson, who started a youtube vlog shortly after her husband passed away leaving her a widowed mother of 4 children. LaSandra found a powerful way to connect with others through her videos on youtube while also processing her own grief over the loss of her husband. Check out the link below for the full article plus video of the news segment to learn more about LaSandra’s story and also featuring Jeremy’s insight into how people greive in the digital age.
From the Article:
Jeremy Bergen, a psychotherapist specializing in grief therapy at Bergen Counseling Center in Chicago, said social media has changed the grieving process.
“It’s impacted it in a very large way in the sense that it has provided a platform for people to share that experience,” Bergen said.
Bergen said everyone grieves differently, but getting your emotions out is most important.
For some, social media is not only a way to share experiences, but also to find encouragement.
“It removes the barriers for people who want to express sympathy or support but don’t know what exactly to say,” Bergen said. “Those face-to-face conversations can be really intimidating because we don’t know what to say because we don’t want to cause more hurt.”
Visit LaSandra’s YouTube channel “Grace & Grief” to watch her videos.
Media Inquiries/Interview requests may contact Jeremy Bergen, MS, LCPC directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (773)512-4992
One of the first questions couples counselors ask couples at the beginning of treatment is some variation of, “What issues brought you here today?” Nine out of ten couples, couples answer “communication issues!” almost in unision. Couples typically struggle much more when the couples therapist follows up by asking, “What communication issues are you experiencing?” What are communication issues? How do couples learn to communicate better in their relationships? Can you really improve communication in your relationship and learn to argue better and increase closeness?
Improving Everyday Communication in Your Relationship
It often isn’t the major fights or blowouts that leave a couple feeling detached or disconnected from each other, but a gradual decline in the quality of a couple’s ability to communicate. As time goes on, it becomes easier and easier to pay less attention to the ways in which we communication our affection or appreciation for one another because it “should be obvious” how we feel, or because we believe the other person “should know that we love him/her.” Problems in communication that don’t revolve around a specific conflict in the relationship can be difficult to pinpoint as the culprit of a couple’s trouble because they often aren’t easy problems to point to. Instead, the couple in question may feel a diffused uneasiness, disinterest, or a feeling that something is “missing.” Here are some tips that often help couples to improve their communication on an everyday basis in ways that foster connection, affection, and a feeling of closeness with one’s partner.
Avoid Distractions When Communicating with Your Partner
Here’s a simple exercise to illustrate the importance of avoiding distractions while communicating. Imagine this: a friend that you haven’t seen in awhile has just asked you about what is new in your life. As you begin to tell stories about the recent events in your life, your friend reaches into his or her pocket, pulls out a cell phone, and begins to scroll through social media. How do you feel? What do you do? Typically, this sort of interaction leaves people feeling mildly hurt, offended, rejected, or otherwise upset. The most common reaction is to feel as though what we have to say isn’t important to the person to whom we’re speaking. Given the mild nature of this offense, we might not complain overtly, but rather are more likely to disengage or shorten the story—nobody wants to share the details of their life story to someone who isn’t paying attention.
Very often, these interactions are isolated events that are made up for by other more attentive interactions. Over time, however, the feelings of unimportance can build if interactions are more and more distracted. For many couples—especially those faced with the many distractions of parenthood—this can become a major obstacle to feeling heard and valued. Putting aside the cell phone, setting down the newspaper, muting the TV, and even simply making a conscious effort to look at your significant other while they are talking can have a huge impact on that person’s experience during everyday communication.
Pay Attention and Praise the Good in Your Partner
Along those same lines, paying more attention to your partner instead of extraneous distractions provides opportunities for you to begin to notice and acknowledge your partner. Communication is a two-way street, so listening is only half the battle. Psychologist and relationship expert Dr. John Gottman has described a “magic ratio” of 5 positive interactions to compensate for each negative interaction—so for every fight, argument, or criticism, a couple that flourishes has five positive interactions in which they may compliment each other, express affection for each other, or otherwise demonstrate the the other person matters. By being intentional about paying attention to each other, you gain more opportunities to create these positive interactions. The more specifically you’re able to compliment or acknowledge your partner, the better—sometimes “you’re so smart!” is good, but “I’m so impressed you were able to come up with that solution! You’re so smart. I really appreciate that,” is even better.
Ask Yourself: Can It Wait?
Distractions come up in many ways, and may not always be external. Sometimes we may be looking at our partner, but our mind is elsewhere—distracted by thoughts of our to-do list or something else that happened earlier. To this end, our partner might say something that elicits a “that reminds me” moment that derails the otherwise attentive conversation. For example:
John: “So then what happened?”
Jane: “I had to drive all the way back to the store to return it and get the correct size!”
John: “Oh—that reminds me—did you fill up the car with gas? I have to make an early start tomorrow.”
Jane: “I… what? No, I didn’t think to…”
John: “Jane! This always happens! Now I have to leave even earlier tomorrow to get gas before I make the long drive…”
John’s request is a reasonable one, but by shifting the conversation in accordance with his own private thought process, he missed an important opportunity for a positive interaction with Jane. Let’s try again:
John: “So then what happened?”
Jane: “I had to drive all the way back to the store to return it and get the correct size!”
John: “You drove all the way to the mall and back twice in one day? Wow. I bet that was annoying. I really appreciate you doing that though—that really saves me so much time.”
John is going to have to put gas in the car tomorrow, and may still feel the need to ask Jane not to bring the car home empty, but it can wait—it doesn’t need to be said right away, much less right in the middle of Jane’s story. By letting go of this opportunity, he allows for this positive interaction to occur between them in which he acknowledges Jane’s hard work and expresses gratitude for her efforts instead of criticizing her behavior. This also allows him to address the problem later, when he isn’t as frustrated and can more calmly think about how he wants to present and address the problem.
No One Can Read Your Mind. Ask for What You Need.
As I have said above, communication is a two-way street. Sometimes we aren’t immediately equipped to communicate in a way that our loved one might need, so we must learn how to do so. Very often, one or both partners may make sincere efforts to improve communication, but may not have a clear understanding of exactly how to do so. To this end, it can often be helpful for partners to express to each other what did or did not work. In the example above, Jane might express frustration or hurt at her story being derailed by criticism, or she might express gratitude for John noticing her hard work. She might offer feedback by saying “It really hurt my feelings when you jumped my case during that story. I know it’s an inconvenience for you to fill up the car on your way out of town, and I’m sorry, but I felt like we could have waited until afterward to discuss that.” This is the beginning of a larger conversation, but this feedback alone provides important information about how John’s communication affects Jane, which John can then use to inform his approach to fostering connection between them.
Sometimes, this isn’t clear. We may not know what we need, but rather may only know that something isn’t working. To this end, meeting with a couples counselor can help to not only improve communication, but otherwise note the cyclical patterns in play that can be addressed and adjusted in order to improve a couple’s day-to-day. Bergen Counseling Center is one resource for couples counseling in Chicago where communication skills are just one of the many areas of focus, and where many couples begin to feel change takes place. If you’re interested in learning more, use the contact box on this page to reach out to a therapist for more information.