Fertility and Stress: What’s the link?
6th November 2018
Juggling work, family and a social life is often stressful, and this stress can affect your health. Trying to conceive can be an additional stress, and one that can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing.
While it might be difficult to establish precisely what impact stress has on fertility, we know that physical and emotional health are linked. For some women, feeling stressed can affect their menstrual cycle, stopping periods altogether or making them more painful. This in turn could have an impact on how long it takes to conceive.
It is, therefore, important to look after your emotional wellbeing. There are many lifestyle changes you can make to help you with this. Here are number of things we would recommend:
Managing stress is not just about trying to avoid stressful situations. It’s about building up healthy habits so you feel you have the resilience you need to handle stressful situations when they happen.
There are plenty of science-based strategies out there to help boost your emotional health, including mindfulness and self-care. It’s important to find out what works for you, so spend some time on each to see what you find the most helpful.
Mindfulness is a widely used technique that has been shown to improve both emotional and physical health. It works by helping people better manage their thoughts and feelings, and increasing their own self awareness.
To practice mindfulness you do not need to be religious or hold any particular beliefs. It can be practiced by anyone and in a variety of ways depending on what suits you best.
Mindfulness exercises are all about supporting you in:
- Approaching things with a freshness of mind
- Being in the moment
- Noticing when your mind is wandering and bringing it back to the present.
- Getting in touch with bodily feelings and emotions.
- Fostering kindness and compassion to the self.
- Focusing on something without judgement.
- Noticing and accepting thoughts, feelings or sensations.
Mindfulness can help you feel more present, stopping you from being caught up in those thoughts, worries and pressures that can consume daily life.
That’s not to say that mindfulness is a tool for you just to completely relax and ‘switch off.’ These exercises are built to help you be more focused in your current state and have awareness of physical sensations, thoughts, images and feelings.
What are the benefits?
Mindfulness techniques not only benefit your wellbeing but have been found to positively impact pregnancy stress, managing labour pains, later parenting and early child development. It’s a fantastic skill to practice and can benefit you in all stages of your life.
Here are some ideas on how mindfulness can help you feel more focused, calm and productive.
- Mindful eating. A lot of us eat on the go, or eat while doing something else – whether that’s working at your desk or watching the television. The next time you’re eating, try doing it mindfully. This involves paying attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat. Mindful eating can help us better appreciate our food, and feel fuller quicker!
- Active listening – We’d all like to think we’re good listeners, but there’s a huge difference between nodding as you wait for your turn to talk and actually being present and mindful of what others are saying. Often people find that their mind wanders or other thoughts pop into their mind that distract them from fully listening. As well as helping you live more mindfully, active listening can improve your communication and personal relationships.
- Mindful walking or running: The next time you are walking or running, instead of looking at your phone or listening to that podcast notice the feeling of your body moving and the environment around you – this might include sights, sounds and smells.
- Mindful moments:
- As soon as you wake up in the morning, rather than jumping out of bed, pause long enough for 3 whole breaths.
- Take the time to sit and have your first drink in the morning – whether that’s tea, coffee, juice or water. Be aware of the smell, the taste, the temperature and everything else. Appreciate the moment and notice when the mind has wandered.
- On your commute to work, make the beginning and end of every journey another mindful moment and be present for 3 breathes.
- Take a moment before going to bed to appreciate something good which has happened in the day.
An important part of taking care of your emotional health is self-care. Self-care is simply the act of of taking care of our mental, emotional and physical with a deliberate set of activities or exercises.
This can come in many forms. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Get enough sleep. Adults usually need 7-8 hours each night.
- Have a healthy, nutritious diet.
- Exercise regularly
- Go to yoga
- Use relaxation exercises
- Practice meditation
- Spend time with your family and friends
- Take time away from work – turn off those emails on the weekend!
- Do at least one relaxing activity every day
- Do at least one fun activity every day
Just like practicing mindfulness, self-care can help you build up resilience so you can cope when times are tougher. If you are feeling stressed, tired and overwhelmed taking some time to yourself can be exactly what you need to unwind and relax.
Sometimes, we can feel guilty for taking the time to do something for ourselves. This is a normal feeling to have. However, investing in yourself and making sure you are in a good place means that you are in a better place to support others.
Our work at Adia
At Adia, we are dedicated to understanding and utilising the science behind the mind body connection to better support women with their reproductive health. It’s an area that has been neglected for a long time, but the emerging evidence suggests can have a big impact.
Alongside leading experts we have designed mindfulness meditations and educational program to help you relax and get a complete understanding of your emotional health. Sign up for early access here.