Mind Body Disconnect and Infertility
Part of healing the relationship with our bodies during a fertility crisis is to stop and listen to what our body is saying on the simplest of levels- that of sensation. When we are inundated with information from the outside- FSH levels, egg quality, how many follicles we have, basal body temperature, timed sex, invasive injections, doctors appointments and BMI scores- we are so focused on “fixing a problem”- that of unexplained infertility- that we often leave our bodies behind. The stress of trying to get it “right” can often be what is “wrong”.
Ever heard the phrase “running around like a chicken with its head cut off”? I know that conjures up an extreme image, but often times, that is exactly what happens to my students when they are trying to do everything they can to conceive. Their bodies are running to and from doctors offices, blood work labs, acupuncture clinics and pharmacies, and then rushing off to yoga class to try to relax- while their heads are spinning out of control with worry about everything from finances to FSH scores. They become “disconnected” where mind and body are going in two different directions, and their stress levels sky rocket. This is not to say that they shouldn’t be doing all of these things to achieve their goal, but the key is to question the “how” they are doing it, that could be counter productive to their success.
Understanding the Nature of Disconnect
Why is there a “disconnect” in the first place? The truth is that many of us are walking through life disconnected from our bodies. We either abuse our bodies verbally or physically because we aren’t thin or fit enough for our liking and so behaviors of over exercise or over eating become chronic habitual patterns. (I myself have been at either end of this pendulum swing more than once in my life- the hyper focus on the physical form in the entertainment industry can be overwhelming at times.) Or our bodies are too uncomfortable to be in so we “check out”. Oftentimes we override the messages we do get by reaching for a cup of coffee or a candy bar when what our body really needs is to rest for 5 minutes with our feet up and quiet our physical environment. Many of us are unaware of how our bodies feel at all unless it is sending us a message of pain or disease that gets our attention, and then we go running to our doctors to ask them to “fix it” as if it has nothing to do with us. With the ultra high rates of obesity in our country it is clear that we have become disconnected from our bodies as a nation. (Unfortunately, people who have higher body mass index scores can experience compromised fertility function and so the two are not unrelated topics.) Being disconnected is a by-product of the multitasking, overscheduled society that we have become.
However, for couples experiencing fertility struggles, oftentimes being disconnected from their bodies is simply out of protection from the emotional disappointment of not getting pregnant, recurrent miscarriages, or the imposition of repeated shots, tests and medical procedures they have to endure to achieve pregnancy. What can these couples do to move forward with what’s necessary without abandoning themselves? Shift their attention. From what is happening outside to what is happening inside. Learning to connect with themselves and their bodies will help them make a better connection with their partners and with their care professionals. I recently had a student come to me beaming because she became aware of anxiety building before a certain test, because her preferred doctor was out of the office and instead of panicking and going through the test against her own internal guidance, she simply rescheduled her appointment to another day to honor herself and felt extremely empowered. She learned to listen to the whispers in her body first, by feeling the tightness in her belly and following the sensation to the source of her anxiety, she was able to make a difference in her experience and manage her stress.
Reconnection and Reduction of Stress
The word yoga means “yoke” or union, the practice of breath and movement reconnects the mind to the body with ultimate awareness of the present moment. The science of Yoga has helped to heal countless health conditions from the inside out, eliciting the bodies natural healing capacity through the central nervous system, balancing hormones, increasing endorphins, while lowering stress levels. What if yoga isn’t something that feels right for you? No worries. Reconnecting to your body is as simple as being present with what is currently in your physical field.
Simple Connecting Exercise:
Close your eyes and simply scan your body. Sit evenly on a chair, feet flat on the floor, hands on your thighs, sitting tall with your chest open. Notice your feet on the floor, your sit bones on the chair, the weight of your body. Pay attention to the warmth or coolness of your skin mingling with the air around your body. Observe any currents of movement in your body. Scanning your body, notice any tension or sensation and simply breathe into it and be curious. This observation without judgment can sometimes give you insight into what is present and can begin to open up a relationship to your body that is cooperative instead of angry or resentful. When we take time out of the crazy making ‘monkey mind’-that is spinning out into the fear of the future or regrets and judgments from the past- we give ourselves a moment to actually have a relationship with our bodies that may begin the healing process we so desperately seek. Figure out where you need to take responsibility in order to make positive changes and where you need to simply let go and grieve with your body so you can move forward together.
A colleague of mine, Anna Stookey, MA, MFT, MFC, has worked with many couples experiencing infertility issues, has a program called the Body Reunion Solution. http://bodyreunion.blogspot.com One of her exercises below is helpful in the process of opening a communication line between you and your body.
“An exercise I find incredibly useful in many stages of healing the body relationship is simply to write a letter to your body. Try asking its forgiveness or offering yours. Express the things you may have been blaming it for and be honest about how you’d like to do things differently in the future. Share with it the qualities you’d like to bring to the relationship instead of blame. Then listen and see if your body responds. It almost always does–maybe not with words, but often with a quiet, grateful pulse of gratitude and connection.”
Learning to reconnect to our bodies fosters a healthy relationship, and requires what most relationships do; a willingness to listen and respond without judgment, accountability, quality time, compassion, date nights, and a willingness to show up. The best way out of any difficult situation is to go into more deeply. Good luck!
If you would like further ways to connect to yourself through awareness and positive intention, check out the AM/PM meditations.