Stress can contribute to and cause pain and pelvic floor problems. And the holiday season can be a source of intense stress, especially for moms. There's the pressure of making the season magical for your kids, a long list of must haves for gifts, budgets, in-laws and families, unmet expectations, and a whirlwind of holiday plans.
In years past, I've stressed over making end of year (self-imposed) deadlines for work, dissected the past year, and made lofty goals for the new year ALL on top of family stress, gift buying, and feeling the need to do all the things to make my own holiday and my kids holiday the most sparkly, magical experience EVER. This year, I decided to just stop. I wrote down all my holiday invites for parties, the list of who to buy for, the things I wanted to do to make the season magical and SLASHED it in half. I'm skipping one holiday party, declined an invite to light up night in Pittsburgh, and decided we would only do an advent calendar and ride the train at the Greensburg mall to commemorate the advent season. It feels dull and boring, but I continue to remind myself that what my son needs the most this holiday season is a calm, present, and joyful mom.
In its place, I've taken time to watch some Netflix shows (Never Have I Ever is super cute and funny), read some books, and re-prioritized gratitude and meditation. I'm also really working on playing with my son in small chunks (I seriously love my kid, but my patience and focus sucks when playing with cars and trucks).
If you're struggling with pelvic floor problems or pain AND slowing down, know that the two are connected. Stress activates our sympathetic nervous system, which can trigger hip pain during pregnancy, sciatic pain during pregnancy, back pain during pregnancy, OR pain at any time in motherhood. It can also make incontinence (peeing your pants) worse and give you the urge to pee more!
This holiday season, try these tips to slow down and then book an appointment with us for the new year either virtually or in one of our clinics in Wexford, PA or Greensburg, PA.
Brain dump. Answer these questions:
- What are all the things I feel like I have to do this season?
- Are there any that I could change, not go to, or do less of? (Cross out all the ones you can)
- What are some things that would make me feel more joy, more connected, and calm this holiday season?
Write down as many you can think of and then pick 2 to do for the rest of the month
Stick to doing less of the have-to's. If you can't (like for certain family things), adjust expectations or set time limits on how long you'll be there.
You might feel guilty or maybe even lazy or 'not enough' for taking this step back. Acknowledge those feelings and then decide on a mantra to get you through this holiday season. Rinse and repeat.
If you’re struggling to find some ways to slow down and take care of your mental health and pelvic floor, try these two exercises. These will help start to calm your nervous system and pelvic floor.
Progressive muscle relaxation.
This is great for helping you sleep, a quick way to calm anxiety when you’re triggered or pain when you have a flare up:
This is a contract relax technique. You first tighten a muscle, then allow it to relax fully, completing this until you feel the body part get heavy. I’ll walk you through it:
Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms by your side. Hold each of these for 5 seconds, then relax completely. Repeat the exercise until the body part feels heavy. I like to do it between 1-5 times on each body part until I can feel my whole body sink into the floor or bed.
- Start at your toes. Curl your toes, tensing the muscles underneath the foot.
- Next, pull your foot upward keeping your heel on the bed.
- Move up to your knees. Tighten your thigh muscles, pressing the back of your knees into the bed.
- Move to your bum. Tighten your bum, squeezing your bum cheeks together.
- Then, focus on your pelvic floor, squeeze the muscles like you’re stopping the flow of urine.
- Move to the stomach. Tighten your stomach muscles and flatten the curve in your back.
- Next, to your hands. Make a fist and squeeze your hands.
- Move to your arms. Press the backs of your arms into the bed.
- Next, your shoulders: scrunch your shoulders up to your ears.
- Move to your neck and head. Press the back of your head into your pillow, tensing the front of the neck muscles.
- Lastly, move to your face. Scrunch up your face.
Make sure to allow each body part to relax fully and focus your attention entirely on that body part.
Diaphragmatic breathing with pelvic floor relaxation:
Lie flat on your stomach or over a big exercise ball. Breathe out all of your air to start. Empty your lungs until you think all of your air is out, then empty a bit more. Then, inhale through the nose and send the breath to your mid back where your bra line is. Feel your ribs expand where your bra sits, then feel your belly move into the surface you’re on. Do this 3x. Then, once you feel like you have this technique down, focus on your pelvic floor. Think of the space between your two sits bones, pubic bone, and tailbone. When you breathe in, you should feel this area expand or bloom like a flower. If you don’t, focus on the image of a flower blooming or opening in your vagina when you breathe in, so your brain starts to make this connection of relaxation when you breathe in.
This will help the pelvic floor relax which can ease back pain, pelvic pain, and other pelvic floor problems. It also stimulates the vagus nerve, which can help calm anxiety. I know breathing is a go-to for anxiety, but even if you’ve tried it before, try it this way. We often find that women who have tried breathing before for anxiety do better with this technique. Often, when we get instructions in a meditation app or from a therapist, we’re not getting full rib expansion which really limits vagus nerve stimulation.
These pelvic floor and anxiety hacks are my go to for stressful seasons. I hope they help calm your nervous system and pain. If you’re having pain anywhere in your body, peeing your pants, feelings of heaviness in your vagina, Diastasis Recti, hip pain during pregnancy, sciatic pain during pregnancy, or back pain during pregnancy, book a free consult virtually or in our Wexford, PA or Greensburg, PA clinics to find clarity on your issue and determine the next best step.