How to deal with challenges more positively
By Dominique Antiglio, Sophrologist, Author and BeSophro Founder
Research has found that relaxation techniques can help reduce stress in couples trying to conceive. Couples who have been trying for a baby for a while may experience all sorts of worries, tension and even anxiety. Remaining hopeful and positive can really be a challenge when there is so much pressure going on, added to physical challenges for women going through IVF for example. So, how can we support couples in keeping their stress levels down and maintaining emotional balance throughout the journey?
With both natural and assisted fertility it is advisable to learn relaxation, breathing, yoga or mindfulness techniques so body and mind are positively connecting. The aim is to create a nurturing environment for the growth of a baby and to reduce stress, which is the most important step in this process. It allows checking in regularly and being aware of how we feel (even if we are overwhelmed with emotions), letting go of tensions, understanding what we need and reflecting on how to best move forward.
There are many types of body and mind techniques available that it can be difficult to know where to start. Sophrology can be an excellent option. The Observer magazine came up with a nice description of Sophrology when talking about it in relation to mindfulness: “It’s the dynamic young cousin”. If you haven’t heard about Sophrology yet, it is a dynamic relaxation using breathing, simple movement and positive visualisation. It was created by neuropsychiatrist Professor Alfonso Caycedo in 1960 to improve the quality of life of mental health patients. Professor Caycedo then developed the technique further over the years to combine elements of Eastern philosophies and practices, and Western medicine. Sophrology is a popular technique in Europe, notably for stress management, burn out, sleep problem, IVF support or birth preparation. Nurses and midwives are often also qualified in Sophrology to give women better support before and after birth.
Medical interventions and hormone therapy for fertility can be tasking for a woman both physically and emotionally, and it can be challenging for a couple. Fertility drugs can have side effects like nausea and headaches. Waiting for the results of assisted fertility interventions can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety, wondering if there will be a positive outcome.
Relaxation may not be the first thing that springs to mind when trying to conceive, however, it can be an essential tool to face any type of challenge with a sense of calm. Learning a few techniques that you can draw upon when needed can make a huge difference to your wellbeing. If our life is hectic, we may need to learn to slow down and become more aware of our body and its needs. Overworking, for example, can put a strain on the body, so we need to re-prioritise our work schedule to ensure we get enough downtime. Achieving a sense of balance can have a positive effect on the body’s biochemistry: we produce fewer stress hormones and we give the body the opportunity to optimise the production of fertility hormones. Conscious resting is therefore a great help.
In Sophrology, techniques like the body scan or simple visualisation techniques allow to control our level of stress throughout the day and take conscious pause, even for five minutes as we commute or wait for someone. During the body scan exercise, we focus on each body part and use our breathing to relax and notice any area of tension, with the aim of letting go.
In Sophrology, breathing is used not only to oxygenate the body but also to consciously release body tensions and held emotions. The simplest exercise you can do is to place one hand on your belly and breathe in, checking that you are expanding your abdomen instead of breathing from your chest (shallow breathing). After you breathe in from your belly, pause for four seconds, then breathe out fully. Repeat at least three times.
The main difference between chest breathing and tummy breathing is that tummy breathing induces a sense of relaxation and is, overall, more nurturing. Think about when people hyperventilate: they are breathing from the chest very quickly, without giving themselves enough time to expand their lungs. We want to be using our belly to get as much fresh oxygen in as possible, and send a wave of relaxation through our entire body.
In Sophrology we combine relaxation and breathing with gentle movement to optimise the mind/body connection. A good exercise to do when we feel anxious is to breathe in and raise our arms in front of us, clenching our fists as a way to acknowledge the tension or anxious moment we are in. Hold for four seconds, and then, as we breathe out, we release our hands and arms down. Take a few seconds to notice sensation in your arms as they are relaxing again.
These exercises help to shift our focus from worry or anything that makes us feel anxious to the present moment. As we concentrate on the body and its sensations, we can no longer be so much in the mind. We are learning to be more present and replace fear and anxiety by a sense of relaxation and empowerment. The more we practise, the quicker we can access a sense of calm and balance. Being able to recall this state of relaxation at any time we need it can have a positive effect in our daily life, as the sense of calm stays with us.
We can harness the power of our minds to create a better future. When we enter a state of relaxation, our minds become more malleable and open to suggestions. We can then start imagining a positive outcome of the fertility treatment, a better way to manage our daily life or simply learn to change our focus to more positive thoughts. Setting our intention will help us focus on what we want to achieve.
Once we have learned a few dynamic relaxation techniques, we will see challenges as events in our lives and not stumbling blocks. By accessing a sense of calm through relaxation techniques, we can think of ways to solve problems and we become more resourceful. You can learn more about Sophrology in The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology and on the BeSophro website.
FOR FURTHER ADVICE, CONTACT:
Dominique Antiglio Sophrologist, Author, and BeSophro Founder, www.be-sophro.co.uk
Words copyright BeSophro