Entry #4

Feelings and Stress

Last month’s blog was about learning to breathe.  By allowing some space between you and your stress, you are beginning to learn that stress isn’t what happens to you, it’s your reaction to what happens to you! This can be a profound distinction for most of us.  Especially when dealing with reproductive difficulties. So if you are feeling stressed, you are not alone, this is difficult to deal with, but not insurmountable.


Most of us get caught up in the “story” of our lives and have a hard time distancing ourselves enough to see beyond the immediate crisis to the opportunity to heal our selves.  We get overwhelmed by the stress, and feel like a big rubber band about ready to snap.  We get triggered daily. The supermarket is flooded with babies in shopping carts, all of our friends are having baby showers, it seems like everyone in the world is fertile but us.  Our friends and mother’s in law just keep saying, “relax and you’ll be fine.” It’s infuriating.  Right?

The good news is, more and more people are learning that mind-body techniques like Yoga and meditation help to strengthen their ability to cope with the emotional rollercoaster and inevitable stress of trying to have a baby. The key to transforming your relationship to stress is to stop letting it. It won’t go away, but learning to manage it is important to your overall well-being and immune system as chronic stress can start to tear down the bodies defenses and create long term vulnerability to illness.

So stress is bad…now what?  What can you do to deal with it?  Observe and Breathe.

Breath itself can shift you out of stress and into a more relaxed state allowing you a moment to observe, step back and respond instead of react. (Remember Ujayii, Breath of Victory? See previous Blog if you missed it)

For instance, in any yoga class, when you start to learn to breathe into the discomfort of a pose and observe, watch and feel what is happening, you begin to learn to deal with the stress of infertility off the mat and begin to apply the same levels of breath, observation and getting in touch with your feelings in life.  Yoga teaches you to tune in to what your body is telling you and to act accordingly.  If we can distance ourselves enough to observe, watch and feel what is happening, then we have an opportunity to not react, but respond.  There is a shift in perception, you begin to notice the triggers that cause the feeling of wanting to snap, and you can begin to breathe and note that you have a choice to deal with the urgency and disappointment one moment at a time.  You can start to detect what triggers your stress, the initial spark that sets you off, and pause long enough to take a breath and consider that maybe this isn’t worth snapping the rubber band for.  Or if you have already reacted, it’s a way to calm yourself down to the point that your heart rate can calm, your blood pressure can reduce and your brain can think more clearly.  When we are stressed we aren’t thinking clearly because the hormones released into our blood clouds our ability to reason, we are flooded with adrenaline, cortisol and pure emotion which wreaks havoc on the endocrine system.

When this happens, take a moment to breathe and be with what you are feeling.

“Make it a habit to ask yourself: What’s going on inside me at this moment?  That question will point you in the right direction.  Don’t analyze, just watch.  Focus your attention within.  Feel the energy of the emotion.  If there is no emotion present, take your attention more deeply into the inner energy field of your body.  It is the doorway into Being.”

From Eckhart Tolle~ The Power of Now

The Stress of Living with Uncertainty

Studies have shown that going through infertility is the stress equivalent of being diagnosed with Aids or Cancer.

How do we deal with the stress that accompanies reproductive difficulties?  We now know how to breathe. (See previous blog’s)  We now know that we have a choice in how we respond instead of react.  So now what?  Well, the truth is, we all have moments of insecurity—moments where we really dread the unknown.  Learning to live with uncertainty is the name of the game.

No matter what you are dealing with in life, whether it is trying to have a baby or build or save a company in a shaky economy, the outcome is uncertain, and how you deal with stress is what determines your ability to succeed.  Regardless of how prepared you are, something always arises that will test your faith in your ability to rise above the challenge.  It’s in this period of uncertainty that separates those who give up, with those who understand that this is a journey worth taking.

A Zen monk takes his student on a walk to the top of a mountain. The only thing the student is focused on is how high and insurmountable the mountain seems looming before him, and he becomes exhausted and discouraged and needs to stop and rest frequently.  The master gently reminds him that a journey is made up of many steps.  In order to reach the top, he must take one step at a time. The master teaches him to notice how his feet are touching the path, the sounds around him and to absorb himself in the full essence of each step.  Before the student knows it he is at the top of the mountain and is surprised with how effortless it felt and how rich his experience was.

The infertility journey is much the same.  It can be daunting, exhausting and discouraging if we only focus on the goal.  So, how can you move effortlessly from fear and anxiety to insight and freedom?

During these moments, examine your feelings, which can lead you to a sense of comfort.  One technique is simply paying attention to the sensations and the feelings that accompany the anxiety.

For instance, start to notice the impact the feelings have on your body.  How rapid is your heart rate?  Does the feeling have a color, or texture?  What muscles are tightening in response?  By observing, being curious and breathing into the feelings that accompany the fear, instead of being hijacked- you have an opportunity to be present and have compassion for yourself.

Every time you focus on your breath, each time you relax and listen to your feelings, you open yourself to the present and take a step forward on the path up the mountain.  When you simply witness your feelings instead of reacting to them, you allow your life to unfold organically.  Most importantly, you develop your capacity to be free and present during the uncertain and difficult days on the fertility journey.