Dear Mom, What Is Your Stress Response Style?

Stress Free Pregnancy

Yes, stress is very common these days, and all future mothers have already gone through it, but we don’t often talk about the many ways a mother can respond to stress, especially if she is pregnant and with small children under her care. If you already know what stress is by reading one of my articles, you now understand that it is a very natural and strong biological response, and it is meant to be short term, but when it lasts for a long period of time it can actually harm you, your physical and mental health, and your baby. 

But what exactly is your stress style?
How do you react when your stress sensors kick in because of a crazy traffic jam, pressure at work, a very annoying colleague or just delaying the time to pick up your small children at daycare.

So what do you do? Remember that a stress response can become a habit and a habit can become a pattern that often women neglect and sometimes think that is part of their personality and there is nothing they can do about it. Well, when you understand your stress response style you'll also start acknowledging your pattern and that is halfway to start changing your behavior.

There are common ways that, in my experience, I see moms respond to stress:

1. Freeze Response
This is when you become paralyzed, overwhelmed or feel hyper-vigilant. I know a lot of moms can relate to this because pregnancy itself makes you hypersensitive to everything, so that you can protect yourself and your baby at the same time. Feeling overwhelmed and hyper-vigilant due to a dificult situation is also a stress response, and you can learn ways to release some of that tension over your mind and body.

2. Fight Response

This response relates to a sense of competitiveness, even aggression, or self-defense. You are prepared to be a warrior all the time, to “fight” and if you are pregnant you may feel you are reacting in ways you have never reacted before, sometimes over reacting and having a high fury moment, being difficult to calm down your senses.
My first pregnancy amplified this stress response on me, and in a way, I am grateful for that, because I could see how I was overreacting and not actually taking time to think and solve things out in a more calm and serene way.

3. Flight Response
A lot of moms can also relate to this because this is when you want to escape, avoid, or withdraw from the situation. On a lot of occasions, you run so many times from the situation than, when there is nothing you can really do about it, you go straight for the Fight Response. Aldo in the beginning, avoiding difficult situations can actually make the situation go away for a period of time, in the long run, you better deal with it and overcome your challenges and fears, so you can better feel prepared for motherhood. I remember in the time of my first pregnancy I always wanted to avoid talking about labor, because it would just stress me out, it was only on the last months that I really had to face what was coming ahead and I wish I reached for help earlier to help me deal with my own history and background, so I didn’t felt so vulnerable as I did on my first pregnancy.

4. Challenge Response
This is when, instead of viewing stress as a threat, you actually see it as a challenge. Moms with this type of response style, in a difficult situation, are actually able to get additional energy! Yes your heart rate rises up, and your adrenaline goes up, but it differs in a few important ways of the other styles because you become more focused instead of fearful, and you are more easily able to access your mental and physical resources. In this way your stress actually enhances your concentration, you are able to make quick and wiser decisions, and you feel more confident.

5. Social Response
This type of style helps you to seek out help and become more social. Who of us has not felt more comfortable because we shared how anxious, stressed or frightened we felt about something? Especially if the other person feels exactly the same way as we. When mothers are part of a good supporting group, they are able to increase courage and confidence, it motivates them to connect and care for their babies inside and outside, and strengthen their social relationships. So you know this is your style of stress response when you feel eager to share and talk about what you are facing in an urge to release emotional and body tension, even if you are not aware of it.

6. Baby Talk Response
This is when, in a difficult situation, your thoughts go straight to your baby. Moms in this style are perceiving their baby as an allied, as part of their support team. You may find yourself thinking: Is this really good for my baby? Should I go on a fight because of it? How would my baby deal with it? How is my baby feeling right now? You understand that besides the physical and emotional bond with your baby there is also a psychic bond, and when you find yourself under pressure or stress you rely on your inner dialog with your baby to overcome the situation.

When moms are able to think about stress in these terms and relate with their style of stress response they are also able to acknowledge their feelings, improve their body and mind awareness and are more likely to overcome their challenges, fear and concerns, and change their behavior in areas it needs to be changed to feel happier and inspired by their own lives. This is why I think it is so important to feel well prepared for what is coming ahead on your pregnancy, birth and motherhood journey. The more research based information you have, the better you will be able to make informed decisions regarding you, your body and your baby. Moms that feel more calm, relaxed and confident have less tendency for anxiety and postpartum depression, they are quicker to move through adversities, are more engaged in connecting with their babies on a deeper level, feeling freer and in balance to enjoy their pregnancy, birth and motherhood journey.

So ask yourself these questions:
What style of stress response do I identify with me the most?
What role models or life experiences, you think have influenced your stress response?
What do you like and don’t like about the way you respond to stress?
What could be improved and more beneficial for you and your baby?


Who am I?

Hi! I am Susana, I am a prenatal educator and a yoga teacher. In my daily life, if I am not with my 3 kids, I a serve and give support to the needs of new mothers and their babies. I am the founder of the Stress Free Pregnancy Program to help pregnant women better control the stress of their daily lives and deeply connect with their baby inside.  

For me conscious pregnancy, birth and motherhood involve a much deeper connection to yourself, to your body, to your emotions, to the power of your femininity, and a deeper connection and communication with your baby as you surrender to the process of life. I am also the author of the book Yoga and Motherhood (Yoga e Maternidade – released in Portuguese), a member of the APPPAH (Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health) and President of the Norwegian Association of Prenatal Education.  I have over fifteen years of experience and have taught hundreds of women worldwide. 


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