The holiday season is here, which means family, lots of yummy food, and fun……right? Well, if you’re dealing with infertility, the holidays can be a little stressful. Family and friends asking when you’re going to “pop one out!” or start your family. And you might not be in a place where you want to discuss ANY of that, especially around the holidays.
Even without the burden of infertility, the holidays can be stressful. While you buy all those gifts for other people, it’s important to gift something to yourself as well. The gift of good mental health. We all deserve it, but often we all feel like we “don’t have the time”. And my honest answer to clients when I hear this is “you have to make time”. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. But when I say making time, it doesn’t automatically mean that you have to square away 10, 15, or even 20 minutes. It can be something that is built in to your activities of daily living.
“So you mean I don’t have to carve any EXTRA time to get the benefits of better mental health?”
That’s right! There are many things you can do WHILE doing other things throughout your day to help lower cortisol (our stress hormone) levels and improve mental health. Insert mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present or aware of what you’re doing or what’s going on around you.
There are several different ways to be mindful but today, I’m going to introduce you to three of my favorite techniques for lowering anxiety that you can start practicing for FREE this holiday season and continue on through the new year.
Benefits of Mindfulness for PCOS and Fertility
Mindfulness has shown to be helpful for both the PCOS and infertility populations. A 2015 study looking at the effect of an 8-week mindfulness stress management program on women with PCOS showed a reduction in the stress hormone, cortisol, as well as lowering stress, depressive and anxious symptoms while improving quality of life.
In terms of fertility, the benefits of using mindfulness programs to reduce stress, improve quality of life and the ability to cope with infertility, and better emotion regulation has been demonstrated specifically among women with recurrent pregnancy loss, undergoing IVF, and infertility.
Now let’s talk about some easy ways to try out mindfulness in everyday life.
My Top 3 Techniques for Lowering Anxiety
1. Body Scan
This exercise brings attention to different parts of your body starting with your feet and moving up to the face. Take a moment to close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and as you move up your body, notice your bodily sensations, such as position, weight, heat, cold, pressure, tension, or even pain.
Start with your feet and work through the legs, back, stomach, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, jaw, and face.
By bringing attention to these areas, you have the ability to reduce pain, stress, and notice areas that may need additional care and attention.
Duration: 5 minutes
2. Mindful Seeing
Mindful seeing can be done a couple different ways. You can either focus on many different things in your environment or one specific object, such as a leaf, bird, wallpaper, toy, you name it.
The key here is to bring attention to patterns, textures, lines, colors, or the way the object(s) moves in the wind, and so on.
I find this to be particularly helpful in slowing down my heartrate when I’m feeling anxious or stressed
Duration: 5-15 minutes
3. Five Senses
I love this one if you only have a minute or two available, which is perfect for the busy holiday season! It brings you to a mindful state quickly by using your five senses: see, feel, hear, smell, and taste.
Counting down from five, take a moment to notice 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and one thing you taste.
Duration: 1 minute+
While actively using these practices can be super beneficial, mindfulness does not have to be perfect. You can practice it in small moments by focusing on exactly what you’re doing in that moment and avoiding your mind to wander from what is right in front of you. I like to practice this while doing dishes, folding laundry, washing my face, brushing my teeth, etc. These are often times where our minds might be running amok with the crazy list of things we need to do that day, but I urge you to instead, bring attention to exactly what you’re doing in that moment to help lower stress levels. Again, encourage yourself to notice your breath, textures, patterns, bodily sensations, colors, and so on.
These small acts of mindfulness can make a huge impact on stress levels in everyday life and don’t require you to set additional time aside to complete.
Cheers to one less thing on our to-do list that will help lower our stress levels for better health!