If you’re struggling with infertility, you’ve no doubt heard well-meaning comments from friends, family, and health care providers such as “just relax”, “take a vacation”, “stop trying so hard.” The truth is that stress is a factor in infertility, whether it contributes to the cause of infertility or whether it develops as a result of the infertility. In part one, I explained how our hormonal system can be affected by stress.
Now let’s look at some practical ways to begin managing the stress.
Learning to engage the deep relaxation response of your body and mind can greatly reduce stress and anxiety. The relaxation response is the complete opposite of the fight or flight response, which is the physical response to danger. Unfortunately, our bodies and minds cannot tell the difference between physical danger and psychological stress; thus, we experience the fight or flight response when we are stressed in any way. The relaxation response decreases heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing, allowing us to feel less anxious and calmer.
There are a wide variety of activities that help you elicit the relaxation response.
- Progressive muscle relaxation involves contracting and then releasing your muscles slowly from head to toe.
- Deep breathing involves breathing slowly through your nose, down into your belly, and back out through your mouth.
- Meditation involves taking time out to simply be with yourself in quiet, focusing on your breath or a word or phrase as you breathe calmly.
- Imagery can involve imagining yourself in a safe place or focusing on your body.
People who regularly engage the deep relaxation response of the body report overall less stress and anxiety. Utilizing these practices can be helpful in managing stress and balancing your hormones as you deal with infertility.
Stacey Wald, LAPC, RD