Trying to have a baby, how many people have told you “just relax and it will happen” or “stop trying and it will just happen naturally”?
When you’re trying to conceive, exactly what does ‘just relax’ actually mean, let alone look like?
Well it isn’t lighting a candle and listening to music. It isn’t having a nice meal with friends, and it isn’t going to a movie to forget about life for a while.
We all know the stress response right? That’s the fight/flight/freeze response we feel when faced with stress or danger. You know, like when we are about to get hit by a car, or are nervous about walking down a dark street.
The stress response activates the sympathetic nervous system, releasing stress hormones into the body preparing it for action – just in case you need to fight your way out or madly run away.
The body’s response can include acceleration of heart and lung action, constriction of blood vessels, relaxation of bladder, shaking, sweating, reduction of stomach and digestive processes and a temporary slowing down of non-essential systems such as the reproductive systems.
This is a useful response and has kept humankind evolving. However, in today’s environment we are no longer running from wolves, we are ‘running’ in our heads to make deadlines, balance the demands of modern life, questioning our self-worth, being perfectionists, and the list goes on.
In his work on stress, Herbert Benson, professor of mind/body medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, identified the ‘relaxation response’, which is the opposite to the stress response.
The relaxation response calms the system down, lowering metabolism, increasing immunology and allows the body to function in a much more ‘natural’ state.
Meditation, when done in a certain way, will elicit the relaxation response keeping us calm and our bodies operating well with much less disease and illness.
Herbert Benson however, is very clear that meditation and eliciting the relaxation response, is part of the answer, not the whole answer. He uses the metaphor of a three-legged stool.
According to Benson, we shouldn’t disregard medication and surgical interventions as tools to improve our health should we need them.
Nor should we expect medication and surgery to solve all our medical problems. We also can’t expect meditation to ‘heal’ us completely if we need medical intervention.
Instead, Benson suggests we need the three legs of the stool. We need to get the appropriate medical help, AND use our own ability to heal through the power of the relaxation response.
The relaxation response is not elicited through watching TV, or lighting a candle and reading a book. It is a specific response that needs to be produced regularly - every day – to enable the healing process to take place.
In our program we teach how to elicit the relaxation response through mindfulness and meditation. We monitor how each of our participants are practicing their meditations and managing their stress, which impacts on not only their infertility, but also their ability to manage everyday demands of family, work and general living.
We are aware that teaching the relaxation response is only part of the solution, and that having someone to walk with you through this journey of infertility is another major part. That is why we are there, to ensure you don’t have to do this alone!