HOW TO RELEASE ANXIETY ON YOUR FERTILITY JOURNEY
“The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of the world, but those who fight and win battles that others do not know anything about.” -Jonathan Harnisch
I can’t breathe. My heart is pounding. The walls are caving in. I need to get out of here!
These are thoughts that ran through my mind a lot during my fertility journey. Struggling with anxiety off and on for most of my adult life has been frustrating, but during my fertility journey there were days that I could barely function. I would give anything to just be able to release my anxiety on my fertility journey.
If you have felt these overpowering anxious feelings, then you understand how debilitating it can be. You know what it is like to want to stay in your room and not face another day where someone can unknowingly ask you about when you will have baby, or have to take another pregnancy test and be desperate for that plus sign, or hear of another friends pregnancy announcement.
All of these events can create an immense level of anxiety and you can feel like you have lost all control.
I REACHED MY LIMIT
I really found the lack of emotional support during my treatment plan to be so frustrating. Fortunately, I have researched this topic a lot, and I mean A LOT, and I have found some great tools and exercises to help you release your anxiety on your fertility journey.
These tools are meant to help you gain control of your emotional state and support you while you are on your journey to mommyhood. These tools will help you stay more balanced on the emotional roller coaster that has become your reality month after month.
I know some of what I am going to share, you may have heard before, or some may even be a bit “out there” for you. But these really are beneficial and they don’t require a ton of effort. So, please keep an open mind and commit to trying at least one idea this week.
When you open your heart and mind you will be amazed at how much your daily life can change, even when you may be at your lowest and feel there is absolutely nothing that brings you joy or peace. You can discover that there really is a way to release anxiety on your fertility journey.
We will start with the simplest but most powerful way you can quickly release anxiety.…….. BREATHING. Yep, breathing can really help with anxiety.
Let’s learn a little about what happens during anxiety.
I am a nurse, so I can’t help but provide you with a little physiology behind anxiety. Did you know that when we become stressed we actually tighten our bodies and breathe a little more shallow? Shallow breathing then lowers oxygen levels in the blood and the brain picks this up as stress. It’s a crazy cycle of being stressed, breathing shallow, tightening the body and causing our brain to become more stressed and then repeating this over and over.
Miracle of Mindfulness
One of the best resources I found to help me learn to breathe and decrease my anxiety, was a book called, The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, by Thich Nhat Hanh.
I will be honest, I am not great at meditating, but what I loved about this book was that it forced me to remain in the present while deep breathing. This technique can truly help you release anxiety on your fertility journey.
Thich Nhat Hanh states that “whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again”.
This statement is actually very profound when you realize that you truly have the ability to CONTROL your thoughts and emotions. Even on your lowest days you can find a way to calm your mind by learning how to breathe in a mindful way.
THINK ABOUT YOUR BREATH
Thich Nhat Hanh has a simple way of forcing your mind and body to only concentrate on breathing. I provided a very short entry that I found most helpful and didn’t take me long to implement. If you can, find a relaxing position and begin breathing in and out slowly. As you breathe read the following:
Focus on breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in a long breath, think, ‘I am breathing in a long breath.’ Breathing out a long breath, think, ‘I am breathing out a long breath.’ Breathing in a short breath, think, ‘I am breathing in a short breath.’ Breathing out a short breath, think, ‘I am breathing out a short breath.’
IN THE MOMENT
I actually had a friend, I will call her Kathy, text me one morning. She was in a panic and said “I don’t think I can get out of bed today. My heart is racing and I am about to freak out. I am shaking and I am scared!”
I immediately called Kathy and without even saying hello, I asked her to start breathing in and out slowly. While she breathed in and out slowly, I said the statements for her. I could hear her breaths steadying. Within a minute she was in a calmer state and could begin focusing again. Kathy was able to talk to me about triggered her and we began working through solutions.
The power of combining your breath with your focused thoughts actually stimulates your brain and nervous system to create a sense of calm. It’s in this state you can begin to release anxiety on your fertility journey.
You can think of mindful breathing like sending a text over and over directly to your nervous system telling it to relax. Your nervous system can’t help but read the text (like when you see the bubble on your phone) and each time it’s received, your body gets calmer and calmer.
The more often you repeat this way of breathing, the less texts you have to send to your brain for it to get the message.
You can being practicing mindful breathing when you are calm and can be more focused. This will allow you to get into your rhythmic breathing more easily when you are stressed to the max and can’t even think. It will help you to get that text message to your brain faster and in a calmer state.
We talked about how to breathe with intention, but what if you really can’t just pause or take a minute to step away, but you need help immediately. People might starting looking at you weird if you start breathing deep in the middle of a conversation. I might know this from experience!
Well, I found something that worked like “magic” for me! I call it my “magic object”. The key for this to work is to find something that resonates with you and can be taken with you easily. You want to have this with you at all times.
It could be a rock, a small ball, candy you can chew or suck on, an oil that triggers a memory or anything that you find soothing. When your anxiety flares, you want to engage as many senses as possible to help move your brain’s focus away from the overwhelming thoughts and onto the object.
Another major bonus with this technique, like the deep breathing, is that the more you utilize your magic object, you actually train your brain to associate this with a calm feeling. So overtime, it will take less effort to decrease your anxiety. YES-you’ve found another way to release anxiety on your fertility journey!
My magic object is one I would have never thought of my own and is actually kind of odd, but it works! I have in my purse a bottle of basil essential oil that I rub onto my hands and can quickly smell when I am feeling like I am starting to get anxious.
This immediately makes me think of my husband’s cooking and takes me to my kitchen. I begin imagining all the different smells and my favorite dishes and I am able to focus on a particular moment or special dinner we shared as a family. The rubbing motion also brings my energy towards my hands and away from the anxiety.
So, for you, try to imagine what object, smells, or motions you could use to quickly bring your focus away from the anxiety towards a place of calming energy. Be sure you think of something you can have with you at all times and is meaningful.
UMBRELLA, ELLA, ELLA
Stay with me for a moment……Imagine you are walking and it starts to rain. You think you forgot your umbrella and then you start to panic, you may even start running to get out of the rain.
All of a sudden you realize that you DO have your umbrella! You take out your umbrella, open your umbrella, you can hear the rain fall around you, you enjoy the smells rain brings, you are dry and feel nice and warm.
Having your magic object is like taking a walk and always having your umbrella when it starts to rain. You will feel more confident just knowing you are prepared.
Get your body moving!
Ok, next we are going to talk about getting your body moving. Don’t worry, I am not asking you to start a full on exercise program. I promise!
However, I AM going to talk to you about how moving your body in an active way can actually help you with anxiety.
I know, I know, the thought of even walking, can feel like too much most days. However, the impact and change to your body that moving purposely causes, can seriously help you control your emotions, even during the most painful moments.
What I am about to say may seem really far fetched but the results have been proven to be effective.
The most effective way to reduce anxiety during extreme times of stress, depression or after trauma is…
Please don’t stop reading. I get it, who the heck wants to dance when you are feeling like crap and utterly defeated. I felt the exact way you are feeling right now when this was mentioned to me. You are probably thinking -“wait-what? Are you kidding me right now?”
“How can I possibly dance when my world is falling apart around me?”
But listen, during one of my worst times in my life, I mean, rock bottom times, I was able to pull myself out.
We had just lost our third baby and I really didn’t know how to move forward. I was so incredibly devastated. I was curled up in a ball as soon as my work day was over and I don’t think I moved until the next day. There had to be a way to get out of this funk.
What I learned in one of the studies I read, was that combining music with movement is what makes dance the most effective way to release anxiety on your fertility journey. It’s a double win!!
“While I dance, I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from life. I can only be joyful and whole.” – Hans Bos (an admirer of dance from India)
This is not a new concept though. Even in 1984, a team of psychologists studied the effects on dance class vs an exercise class, a music class and a math class. Leste et al. discovered that dance was the most effective at significantly reducing anxiety. Leste and Rust conducted a similar study in 1990, and concluded the same results.
For decades, this has been researched but just NOT widely discussed in the general population.
The key is that dancing helps increase your dopamine levels. You know, those feel good hormones that are depleted when you are introduced to stress and trauma repeatedly. Something many of you are unfortunately very used to.
WHAT HAVE YOU GOT TO LOSE
I chose one or two songs that I had always loved and made me feel like I HAD to move in the past. Salt-N-Pepa’s “Shoop” is my go to-I just can’t help but shake my booty when that song comes on.
You may feel super uncomfortable at first and feel a little fake. It can be really hard to dance when you are just miserable. But after about a week of doing this daily, you may surprise yourself and actually begin to look forward to it.
But I know that some of you may really think there is no way you could possibly dance, and that’s okay and understandable.
If all you can do is walk to music, you will still feel an improvement to your mood. I do recommend walking briskly if possible, to get the blood flowing and release that feel good hormone, dopamine. That is the key to helping reset your mood and to release anxiety on your fertility journey.
Take 5-10 minutes for yourself, every day. It takes practicing something every day for the benefits to last in your life. Try to do this first thing in the morning, if possible, even just for one song. It can truly help you start your day in a different emotional state.
YOU’RE WORTH IT
I know this all can seem nearly impossible, but just start with one tool I shared and build upon that change for at least one week. When you are ready, try another tool and re-evaluate how you feel. You will find that certain tools work better for specific situations.
Please remember, you are not alone and you need to just take it one day at time.
Here’s a quick recap of the tools I mentioned.
#1-Remember to breath with purpose. Use the example I provided or find a way that connects with you, so you can really feel your body calming down with each breath.
#2-Find your magic object that engages as many senses as possible, is meaningful and you can have with you at all times.
#3 Get up and get moving to music, whatever that may look like for you.
Please share any other tools that you have found helpful in your ability to release anxiety on your fertility journey. I would love to learn more ways to be helpful to others!
PS If you have been on your journey for a while now, you may also find “How to Forgive Your Broken Body: 4 Powerful Steps”, helpful in learning how to love your body again, even when you may be feeling so disappointed, and even angry.
PSS-If you had a miscarriage you may also find “Be Brave Enough to Try Again After Miscarriage” where you can find very practical and meaningful ways to help you heal during this process.