12 February 2019

Tips to Manage Stress

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Written by

Sims IVF

Life in the modern word is a constant stream of timelines and places to be for many of us, therefore it is important to take time out for yourself to find inner calm.  Ongoing stress can be detrimental to our health, increasing our stress hormone cortisol, negatively impacting our hormones, reproduction and one’s fertility. Fertility treatment itself is a difficult journey, which can cause both a physical and emotional demand on patients. It is paramount to take the time to take care of our mental and emotional health.  

  • Take a deep breath, by concentrating on taking 5 deep breaths a few times a day or when you are feeling overwhelmed as helps the body and mind to concentrate on the present. Breathe in and focus on the feeling then breathe out slowly letting your breath travel all the way out.  Frequent use of such mini relation responses can help to reinforce a sense of control and choice
  • Make 8 hours sleep non-negotiable, try be in bed by 10/10.30 at latest, keep to a regular sleep routine if possible
  • Load up on vitamins B, C and magnesium rich foods like wholegrains, fruits and leafy green vegetables which support the body during times of stress 
  • Cut out alcohol, caffeine, refined salt, soft drinks and sugar 
  • Enjoy cup or two of camomile tea a day (not during pregnancy)
  • Top up the gut with beneficial bacteria, our gut microbiome has an important impact on the nervous system especially lactobacilli and bifdobacteria (1). Eat probiotic rich foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and miso.  Take supplemental probiotics if needed as advised by your nutritionist
  • Meditate daily, allocate a time each day to dedicate to your practise.  If new to meditation try sitting in silence and connect to your breath.  It is important to choose a relaxation technique which is meaningful and sustainable to you. Try headspace, MINDBODY, Calm or themindfulness app’s on your phone
  • Mindful activity, try to focus your attention solely on an activity that you enjoy, e.g. painting, baking, gardening
  • Compile a relaxation playlist of your favourite music or calming music which you may wish to listen to when undergoing procedures such as scans and transfers (include music which will have a positive effect on you, avoid sad songs if you are feeling down)
  • Hold a comforting object or favourite picture before going through a procedure
  • Plan your time wisely but don’t take it too seriously, our plans don’t’ always go as we expect.  At work make sure you have a few minutes every couple of hours to get up from the desk or what you are concentrating on and stretch/walk around the office.  Make sure to take your breaks, at least ½ hour for lunch.  Timetable things that you enjoy be that a social interaction with a friend, going to a movie, even going for a walk
  • Restorative yoga can help support a reduction in stress and an increase in self-acceptance which can be an important step in creating a more compassionate relationship to oneself during  fertility treatment , releases physical and emotional tension, can create a positive change in how you view yourself and your life
  • Have a bath with aromatherapy oils or Epsom salts which are high in magnesium (nature’s own tranquiliser)
  • Read your favourite book, good to do before bed instead of using phones/laptops
  • Increase daylight exposure with a walk in nature, or even just sitting in the garden. It has been proven that people who walk outside regularly have lower cortisol levels (2)
  • If you feel like you need to talk to someone, contact a supportive friend, or an understanding family member.  When undergoing fertility treatment you may not disclose to friends or family about undergoing treatment, do what’s best for you.  Sims provides a fertility specialised counsellor who is available for appointments if you feel that you need to talk to someone, sometimes it is needing to talk through the thoughts in your head, to gain other perspectives when over focused on one option
  • Do something nice for yourself at least once a week even if it’s just taking time for a warm bath in the evening with some therapeutic oils and bath salts
  • Book in a massage, reflexology session with a fertility specialised practitioner 
  • Put your phone on airplane mode for an hour or two during the day, switch off all technology at least an hour before bed, the blue light and electromagnetic fields can interfere with melatonin which is the hormone responsible for inducing sleep
  • Keep a journal, write down thoughts and feelings /helps to clear headspace/process emotions.  Can use a fertility thought diary to establish supportive thinking 
  • Declutter your emails and phone messages 
  • Learn to say no,  limit your responsibilities, if have had a busy or stressful day don’t feel you have to always say yes
  • Take time to engage in a hobby, what did you enjoy before you started the fertility  treatment, re-engage
  • Put legs up against a wall for 10 minutes and just breath
  • Go for an ocean swim
  • Acupuncture can be included both pre and during treatment 
  • Be careful with exercise not overdoing it, look into restorative exercise, remember rest days
  • Get some alone time each day even if just for 10 – 30 minutes, we don’t always realise how stressful it can be to be around people all the day 
  • For stressors that run deeper, such as long term grief or post-traumatic stress needing counselling, life coaching, cognitive behavioural therapy may be helpful and supportive in the long term
  • Supplements – Magnesium to relax muscles and calm nervous system, B vitamins to adapt to stress and Vitamin C to feed the adrenals.  Speak to your nutritionist about your individual needs.  The probiotic lactobacillus rhamnosus can promote the calming action of the neurotransmitter GABA and have been shown to improve stress and anxiety (3)

Our nervous system links us to the outside world, therefore by optimising our diet and lifestyle we can boost, enhance its function resulting in healthier and well supporting emotions, feeling and being.

References 

Barrett et al, 2012, J Appl Micriobiol, 113 (2) 411-417
Gladwell et al, 2013, (2) 3
Jia et al, 2008, j Neurosci, 2008,28 91) 106-15