TTC: How do you manage stress as you TTC? We all have different ways to cope with what we’re going through. Some of us get out in nature – we swim in the sea, go for long beach walks, camp under the stars. Others read, journal, knit or bake.

My girlfriend who’s been TTC for three years has recently discovered, ‘No Light’s, No Lycra’ – a free form dance class in the dark. Each week she gets her boogie on and leaves her troubles behind, dancing off the stress of her week. She told me, “dancing reminds me of who I used to be, before the injections, blood tests and constant sadness. For an hour each week I get to stop worrying and feel ‘normal’, like everyone else. It’s a welcome relief.” And isn’t this the point? Finding activities that make you happy, make you feel less stressed. They remind you that your fertility issues are a slice of who you are, not the whole cherry pie.

Finding activities that make you happy couldn’t be more important, but just as critical is finding ways to access deep relaxation where your body get’s a chance to let go and heal. This is a totally different type of relaxation altogether. When you’re stressed your flight and fight response switches on. This is the sympathetic nervous system, your ‘in’ breath. Cortisol, the stress hormone moves around the body and adrenaline starts to pump. When you’re in this state, going to have a massage or getting your hair done may make you feel more relaxed, but it’s not going to switch off those adrenals – and that is what’s desperately needed. So how do you do this?

Belly Breathing – to find calm

You have a special nerve in your body called the vagus nerve. I like to call it your own super-highway to deep rest and calm. It’s the largest cranial nerve in the body, and it’s the only nerve in nervous system you can turn on manually. It starts in the brain and moves down each side of the neck, through the torso and into your belly. When you breathe from your belly your body is given the signal that you’re slowing down. Your rest and digest response switches on and, as it does, your body temperature starts to cool, your heart starts to beat a little slower and your adrenals switch off. It’s beautifully simple but effective. Here’s how:

Belly Breathing – 3 simple steps
  1. Place your hands on your belly and breathe into your palms
    • Inhale and gently press your belly to the ceiling. Exhale and allow the belly to draw back towards the spine
  2. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth
    • Soften the breath, take the effort out of it. As you breathe out make a gentle ‘haaaa’ sound and visualise fear and sadness leave the body
  3. Count the breath – inhale for 2 counts through the nose, exhale 4 counts through the mouth
    • Harness your thoughts by giving the mind something to do. Focus on the counts of the breath. Take your time, no need to rush.

Next time you’re sitting at reception waiting to give blood, or you’re about to go in for an egg pick-up or transfer and your legs are in stirrups, or you’re in a taxi on the way to a specialists appointment and you feel fearful or anxious, remember to breathe from your belly. It allows you to slow down, soften your heart and take back into control of the stressful situation that you’re in. And who doesn’t need more of that as you TTC? Bring it on.

*TTC Try To Conceive