Say hello to your fight-or-flight stress response.
It's a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival, resulting in the body having increased strength and speed in anticipation of fighting or running.
Our brains aren't actually designed to make us happy-its primary purpose is to keep us alive.
It's always looking for what's wrong and then automatically activates this emergency defense system in our bodies to help keep us safe when it senses danger.
The problem is, our brains can’t tell the difference between a real threat to our survival and a psychological one that we’ve created.
We no longer have to run from saber tooth tigers, but chronic psychological worries over money, who’s going to announce the next pregnancy, or the possibility of never having a child, all register as life threatening to our primitive brains and thus it reacts accordingly.
Being in this prolonged state of fight-or-flight starts to break down our bodies and make us feel horrible.
Most of us are already stressed out before we even start to deal with infertility. And then this huge life crisis comes along and raises our anxiety to a whole new level, often bulldozing through our capacity to cope.
Why is this biology lesson important?
Because to conquer anxiety, we must first understand it.
7 reasons why you need to get the STRESS RESPONSE UNDER CONTROL DURING INFERTILITY
- Feeling like an out-of-control, anxious mess is torturous. You deserve to feel better.
- Your mind racing with uncontrollable worse case scenarios can lead to anxiety and depression.
- Chronic stress often results in unhealthy coping behaviors in an attempt to numb the pain, which can in turn compromise conception.
- Research shows the #1 reason patients dropout out of fertility treatment prematurely is because of emotional and marital distress, not money.
- Your sex drive gets shut off during the stress response, which turns trying to conceive into a pleasureless chore you only engage in when absolutely necessary. This "means to an end" relationship with intimacy can also cause a ton of marital conflict.
- Infertility is already stressful enough, and some women are reproductively sensitive to chronic stress in how it affects hormones, disrupts ovulation, and negatively affects pregnancy rates.
- Studies have shown that women who practice mind/body stress reduction techniques in conjunction with medical treatment have significantly higher pregnancy rates than women who receive medical treatment alone.
Visit the Stress – Infertility Connection Page to learn more info on this dynamic.
The great news is you can shut down the stress response ANYTIME YOU WANT by practicing one simple skill.
THE EASY, SUREFIRE WAY TO SWITCH OFF THE STRESS RESPONSE DURING INFERTILITY
It’s called the relaxation response.
The relaxation response is a state of deep physiological rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress. It's a mentally active process that calms the central nervous system, and counteracts the toxic effects stress can have on the body.
The fight-or-flight stress response and the relaxation responses cannot both be active in your body at the same time.
All you have to do is learn how to elicit the relaxation response, take a few minutes out of your day to practice, and you will have a superpower at the ready whenever you need it.
meditation is THE SIMPLEST WAY TO ACTIVATE THE RELAXATION RESPONSE
Many people hear the word meditation and visualize some incense burning, monk-like yoga guru sitting cross-legged, chanting “oommmm.”
Mediation has been around for millennia, but it is no longer used as just a spiritual practice. It can be a practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, an object, a visualization, an emotion, or the sensations within the body.
Many within the medical field have now embraced mediation, with hundreds upon hundreds of studies proving the long list of benefits it has for the brain and body.
BENEFITS OF ELICITING THE RELAXATION RESPONSE THROUGH MEDITATION
- Decreases Anxiety
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
- Shuts down rumination area of brain
- Boosts immunity
- Reduces fatigue
- Lowers cortisol
- Improves sleep
- Increases blood flow to muscles
- Relieves Muscle tension
- Improves mood and concentration
- Normalizes Libido
- Improves Digestion
What do all the smarty pants at the Ivys know about it?
- A Harvard study shows that short daily doses of meditation can grow the gray matter in key areas of your brain having to do with and compassion and emotional regulation, and literally shrink the gray matter in the area associated with stress.
- A study out of Yale shows evidence of meditation's ability to train the brain to shut down the network that causes rumination about the past, projection into the future, and obsession about ourselves, not only during practice but also while not meditating.
- Harvard Medical School has found that people who practice eliciting the relaxation response have more disease-fighting genes switched “on” and active that protect against pain, infertility, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
Who doesn’t want all of that?!?
my favorite TYPEs OF MEDITATION
There are so many forms of meditation, and I know that you can find one or more to fit your lifestyle, personality, and schedule.
All you need is 5-10 minutes a day. Set an alarm on your phone, practice when you are feeling stressed, or better yet, both.
The 2 types that I find to be easiest and most rewarding are Breath Focused & Mindfulness Meditation.
You can do these in a private setting or out in public without looking weird. Like when your friend takes you out to dinner to tell you how she's unexpectedly pregnant and then complains that she can't get a cocktail, and her meal is making her nauseous.
In that very moment, meditation can come to the rescue to bring you back down from the tear building rage that is about to erupt. You can use both your breath and mindfulness to ground yourself by focusing on something other than the negative thoughts flooding your head. You can do versions of this at the table, in a bathroom stall, car, wherever.
2 minute video teaching how to start using simple breathing to meditate.
2 minute video that explains what mindfulness is and how to start practicing it.
There is so much that we cannot control in the experience of infertility.
I hope you now feel empowered knowing you can hack your stress response and stop anxiety in its tracks.
With just a few minutes a day, you gain the power to remind your brain that you are safe and calm, despite external triggers. All the while, giving your body the physiological break it needs for conception and pregnancy.
I encourage you to add meditation practice into your daily routine by seeing it as another essential component of your fertility treatment protocol-just like setting alarms for your shots, taking the time to track your ovulation, or going to doctor appointments.
I know you can do it, and I know you will love it!
Once you give it a go, I'd love for you to reach out to me on social media or email to let me know your experience. Click on the icons below to give me a shout.
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