This current global pandemic introduces a new kind of chaos and anxiety that most of us have never experienced in our lifetimes. It has us grappling with our deepest fears of life and death, experiencing grief at new and painful levels, and has left us completely unsure of the future.
At a daily level our lives are in upheaval. Many of us don’t leave our homes, we don’t see friends and families, we don’t go to work. Any outing is potentially fraught with anxiety. And those who are still working are on the front-lines of the pandemic, and don’t know what will happen next.
And, adding to that chaos is our uncertainty of the path forward. When will things return to “normal?” Will they ever return to normal? Will our lives and lifestyles be forever changed?
For those trying to conceive during the pandemic, there is extra stress. IVF clinics are mostly closed. Cycles have been cancelled. There is uncertainty about pregnancy during the pandemic. The nature of birth has dramatically changed (wearing masks through labor, limited in support persons, etc.).
How can we possibly hold all of this? How can we possibly navigate these waters?
Here’s the good news. Science has identified several ways to calm our bodies and our minds. Evidence backed practices that can boost our moods, soothe our spirits, and reduce our stress. I am grateful that I learned about many of them during my fertility journey, so I am able to practice them now.
I hope you will find some practices that you can start now, and enjoy for the rest of your life.
Read more on mind-body work here:
Infertility & Anxiety
When I first got my infertility diagnoses I felt out of control. My body would literally shake with fear when I went to a doctors appointment. The stress clouded my thinking. My husband talked me out of trying any kind of procedure after I broke down and sobbed when we tried to talk about financing anything. He said it wouldn’t be a good time to try if I was a wreck emotionally.
And, he was right. I was a wreck. It was a terrible time to try. I had no resources, I wasn’t doing any mind-body work, I was just living on coffee and anxiety. No wonder my FSH was so high and I had dud eggs!
We took a break and then decided to do ALL THE THINGS to try to increase my egg health and get pregnant (naturally was our hope, but we were also hoping to lower my FSH enough to be considered for IVF).
I wound up doing 79 Things that included overhauling my lifestyle and diet. We changed what we ate, we eliminated toxic products from our home, and, possibly most important, I started a life-changing mind-body practice.
This mind-body practice still guides me today. It is guiding me now during this current pandemic.
8 Science Backed Ways to Be Calmer and Happier
- Start your gratitude practice if you haven’t already. Research shows us the key to a working gratitude practice is to spend two minutes every day scanning your life for three NEW things to be grateful for. And, make those things as specific and detailed as possible. For more ideas on starting a gratitude practice– check out my post here!
- Deepen non-physical social connections. Science tells us that our happiness is largely dependent on our feeling socially connected to others. An easy, and evidence-based way to do this is to spend two minutes at the start of each day writing an email, text, or direct message, praising or thanking one person you know. And do it for a different person every day. It works because you wind up chatting with that person back and forth, and re-establishing connection. Do that with one person every day until we are released from our houses again! Social connection is the greatest predictor of long-term happiness. Don’t neglect it now!
- Dance for 15 minutes a day. Did you know that 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise is the equivalent of taking an anti-depressant for the first six months, but with a 30 percent lower relapse rate over the next to years? If you can run, run. If you can Peloton, Peloton. But as for me, I’m going to dance. For 15 minutes a day.
- Breathe. Now is the time to start your deep breathing practice. There are several studies that support deep breathing as a quick way to calm your central nervous system and feel more relaxed. Even Mayo Clinic and WebMD tell you to breathe. DO IT! I do a “calm breathing” I learned in hypnobirthing- 4 counts in, 8 counts out. There are lots of ways to do this. Whatever you do, stop doing everything else and just watch your breath go in and out. It takes two minutes of this to drop stress levels.
- Go Outside. If you can, get your butt outdoors, but for heavens sakes don’t touch things and stay six feet away from others. We are SO blessed to have a big yard and a neighborhood with trails and woods. I am spending most of my day outside with my children while my husband teleworks. Being in nature reduces psychological stress.
- Write Your Happiness. For two minutes a day, think of one positive experience that’s occurred during the past 24 hours. Bullet point each detail you can remember. It works, because the brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and actual experience. So you’ve just doubled the most meaningful experience in your brain. Do it for 21 days, your brain starts to think your life is twice as good as it is, and your feeling of happiness increases, which leads to other beneficial health outcomes. Research shows that for people with chronic pain, after six months of this they could drop pain medication by 50 percent!
- Affirmations. Every night before you go to sleep come up with an affirmation, and repeat it when you wake up. Perhaps, “Each day is easy, relaxed, and enjoyable.” Or “I enjoy moving slowly and spending time in quiet.” Or, “I am robustly healthy and alive!” Or, “With Deep Gratitude, I accept Health and Joy from the Universe.” Or whatever it is that works for YOU. Affirmations generally only work when you truly believe them. Affirmations have been show to decrease stress among other things.
- Meditate. Every damn day. Do whatever you need to to reach the “relaxation response” that is linked to many positive health outcomes, including boosted immune systems and tripling the successful pregnancy rate. The key is to hit the “relaxation response” for 15-20 minutes a day. Here are my favorite ways to meditate (because I can’t just sit down and OHMMMM or I lose my mind:
- Yoga Nidra– you can download one from Amazon. One hour a day is better, but there are 20 minute sessions.
- Circle & Bloom– My favorite fertility, pregnancy, and cancer-recovery meditation company also has programs for Stress Reduction, Happiness, Blissful Sleep, and Body Detox. Both months I got successfully pregnant I was listening daily to their Natural Fertility program. Use my code tomakeamommy for 20% off.
- Heartmath. For those science and math inclined, this is a great program that tracks your heart rhythm patterns and helps you reduce stress through achieving clinical emotional balance and coherence. You can actually see your heart rate patterns and challenge yourself to achieve greater levels of what they call “coherence.” I use the Inner Balance Tool and love it. This tool is widely used in clinical settings, especially by psychotherapists. It uses Bluetooth technology near your head, which is weird, but I do it anyway because I find it so incredibly helpful.
- Any other meditation tool or app– Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, etc.