I spent much of the last 5 years worried about my fertility. After coming off the birth control pill, my body had a hard time adjusting to the sudden drop in synthetic hormones and didn’t kick in to their own for over a year. During that year, I was diagnosed with PCOS and elevated androgen levels by an endocrinologist. When my periods eventually came back, their length was variable, sometimes skipping entire months at a time. I constantly had this dreaded feeling that I was going to have difficulty getting pregnant someday. How could this be? I was a healthy woman, I ate well, I exercised, I took all my supplements, but I had this impending doom that it wasn’t enough. I believed I was going to be childless.
Once I let go of the negative beliefs holding me back, my hormones began flowing and I emotionally felt at ease. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had developed anxiety around my hormones and “infertility”. The anxiety was causing my body to feel in “fight or flight” mode all the time, leading my hormones to prioritize survival over the natural ebb and flow of a regular period. My stress levels were further contributing to my hormonal imbalance. Stress coping mechanisms and getting into the right mindset were a big part of my healing journey.
We are all creatures of habit, finding ourselves in the same patterns day in and day out. The same goes for our thoughts. Negative thought patterns, the assumptions that we make about ourselves and our future, the idea that something bad must always follow something good, are coping mechanisms we develop from a young age. Every time you came home from school excited about a good grade and your parent comments “Well couldn’t you have done better?”. Your efforts at piano lessons or on the soccer team never being enough for your coach or teacher. The joy you experienced after spending the day with your dad being met by disapproval from your mom who went through a difficult divorce. These patterns happen to us time and time again and we begin to believe that nothing good can happen to us. Or that everything good must be accompanied with something bad. That we are just not good enough.
These thoughts follow us into adulthood and lead us down a road of depression, anxiety, stress or constantly feeling in “fight or flight” survival mode. This can impact your hormones and fertility by ramping up your cortisol and adrenaline levels which prioritize survival over healthy flowing hormones and making a baby. This can also plant seeds of doubt in your mind over whether your treatments, diet changes, supplements, medications or fertility procedures will work.
Well I’m here to tell you today that where the mind goes, the energy flows! A part of creating the ideal body for baby is getting into the right mindset. We want all aspects of your health, both physically and emotionally, to be tuned in to the possibilities ahead of you. And your beliefs, daily thought patterns and stress levels must be aligned.
Step 1: Recognize the Thoughts and Feelings
The first and most important key in making the shift out of a pattern of pain, stress and worry is to recognize the feeling of being in “fight or flight” survival mode – these are feelings of fear, overwhelm, and anxiety. You may notice that your breathing is shallow or restricted, your heart flutters constantly, your back, neck, or shoulders feel tight, you feel butterflies in your stomach or abdomen, or you have a headache, dizziness, or nausea. When you become conscious of the actual feelings that you’re having in your body, and the fearful thoughts that accompany these feelings, you can give it a name – Survival Mode. That’s all it is. The thoughts are just thoughts, not truths. The fears don’t mean anything horrible is about to happen. Rather than letting that emotion or that thought run away like a thief in the night, recognize these are just thoughts and these are just emotions, but they’re not truths. Right now in this minute you’re not in danger. Disrupt the pattern by saying to yourself, “This is a thought. This is an emotion. This is not truth.”
Step 2: Now Breathe
It is common when in survival mode to give in to the instincts of your sympathetic nervous system. This commonly creates a freeze response in which your breathing shortens and your body tightens. You quickly become deprived of oxygen. The best thing to do in these circumstances is to focus intently on your breathing. Close your eyes, place your hand on your belly and take deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Bringing extra oxygen into the body has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and brain and helps to transition yourself out of Survival Mode. You can also repeat a mantra or affirmation in your head at the same time such as “In Flow, Let Go”, “I am calm, I am relaxed, I am peaceful, like a lake with no ripples” or “I am safe, I am at peace”.
Step 3: Shift and Reframe
Whether you have been trying to get pregnant for over a year or have been trying for a few months, it can be stressful and disheartening nonetheless. Each negative pregnancy test or failed IUI or IVF can take its toll on your optimism. The best thing to do when you feel yourself getting down is to create a new trail or coping mechanism to get you through. For me, I love going to a hot yoga class when I am feeling stressed, sad or overwhelmed. Focusing on the poses and my breath never ceases to calm me down, even for a short hour or two. I also use the time on my mat to say positive affirmations to myself such as “I love and respect my body and my fertility. I am beautiful”. Other ways to shift your body and thoughts from Debbie Downer mode include taking a hot bath, going for a massage, taking a meditation class, seeing a counsellor, getting together with a great girlfriend or going for a hike in the forest.
Continue doing activities that nourish your soul and allow you to embrace your womanhood. You are on a journey and this is your path right now. Have faith you are exactly where you are meant to be and that someday, these challenges will have meaning that you may not be able to see right now. Have faith in your treatments, believe that your doctors and health team are doing their best for you, and spend time picturing your future family. Where the mind goes, the energy flows remember! Be joyful in your interactions with babies and children. Be mindful of your thoughts and breathe deeply through the worry and anxiety. Move through your life mindfully, noticing every detail and every interaction. Mindfulness helps to quiet any worries about the future. All you have is now; this moment. So embrace it and go live your amazing life you beautiful goddess!