“The mind and body are not separate units, but one integrated system.”
Going through the fertility journey can be extremely stressful.
Studies have shown that individuals who have difficulty getting pregnant have similar levels of depression and anxiety to those suffering from life-threatening diseases like cancer or heart disease.
Believe it or not, there is a walnut sized organ in the brain that is the instructor and master regulator of our stress response.
Its called the Amygdala.
(It’s amazing how something so tiny can have so much power.)
Stress & Worry
Stress and persistent rumination of worst case scenarios can trigger a cascade of biological responses. Even though our lives aren’t at immediate risk, the mere idea of our fertility treatment never being successful is a stressful thought that can feel threatening.
Does the term “flight or fight” ring a bell? This built-in system’s prime job is to keep us safe. If we are in danger, our fight and flight will steer us away and guide us to safety.
Scary thoughts tend to feel unsafe. Although our lives aren’t at immediate risk, persistent negative worries can create a tumultuous internal landscape. When the physical body is in a constant state of arousal over a perceived threat, the body’s relaxation response is put at bay. Similar to a battery being drained of its power.
When we experience perceived danger, we are less apt to respond to the situation. Instead we REACT. When we are overwhelmed with excessive stress, our life becomes a series of short-term medical emergencies. We lose the ability to relax and be in the moment. Our more well-thought out beliefs bypass our rational mind. In sum, We become a little ball of stress.
You may feel these cues in your body. Your adrenals are pumping epinephrine through the bloodstream moving you into more of an alert state so you can flee and get away to protect yourself.
These changes are subtle yet happen quickly. You may not even be aware of what is happening.
There is need to flee from infertility. We can slowly pivot towards it.
MINDFULNESS is the perfect antidote to stress
Mindfulness stimulates our parasympathetic nervous system creating a cascade of positive events such as the relaxation response.
The Relaxation Response
This is a state of deep physiological relaxation. This response allows us to change the way our mind and body react to stress. Mindfulness, breathing techniques, yoga and visualization are all ways we can drop deeper into a more helpful state, where we can access our wise mind. In this state, we allow ourselves to slow down and recuperate.
Neuroscience has revealed that over time a regular mindfulness practice can change our relationship with stress. We have the ability to make shifts at a molecular level. You are a scientist!
Which state do you think would be more optimal for conception to occur?
When trying to conceive it only makes sense that our mind and body are relaxed and calm. What we practice grows stronger. Regular mindfulness practice builds resilience to our stress response and it keeps us from going deeper into states of fear, anxiety depression and of course, the rabbit hole.
Amira is a Social Worker in Toronto, Ontario. She works in private practice with individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. She is also a mother of three miracles.