TTC: When you’re stressed do you notice that you’re thinking negatively, or has it become so routine to think this way, that you don’t even notice? It’s easy to miss what’s in front of you when you’re focused on your fertility issues. Half the time we’re not even aware that we’re missing anything, we just trying to get by, each day, the best that we can. Can you relate? If you can, there is no judgment in this – I have done this too. Many times. Fertility challenges are consuming. We spend so much time thinking about what’s not going as we would wish, what didn’t go well, and what will happen if it never works. It’s exhausting.

I was chatting to a group of women this week about how much of their day they spend thinking about their fertility issues. The majority said between 80-100% of the time. This rings true for me too. When you’re in the middle of the struggle it’s like you’re on autopilot, it’s hard to think about anything else. I heard a story this week which describes this tunnel vision beautifully.

What you miss when you’re distracted

A few years ago, one cold January morning, a social experiment took place in a Washington DC train station. A man was playing the violin, busking. He played six Bach pieces which took about 45 minutes. As he played, 6 people stopped to listen, 20 gave money but carried on walking, and a handful of children stopped, but their parents hurried them on. It turned out that the man who was playing was Joshua Bell, one of the most celebrated violinists of our generation. He played on a Stradivarius violin created in 1713, worth $4m dollars, and the Bach pieces he played were some of the most intricate and difficult to play. He had played these very pieces in a concert hall in Boston the week before, where the average ticket price was $200.

Isn’t that a great story? So the question is…a) how much do we miss when we’re on autopilot, and b) how can we learn to pay attention to what is in front of us?

6 step circuit breaker

When you’re frightened and you start to go down the rabbit hole of …’How will I cope with my life without a child?’ ‘What if I have a miscarriage again?’, ‘Will my child ever have a brother or sister?’ Know that at this very moment, when you’re at your most vulnerable, it is the perfect time to pause, breathe out, and give yourself a break. Awareness stops you reacting, and allows you to respond in a different way. When you catch yourself, come into the present moment using this circuit-breaker:

  1. Close your eyes, and sigh out softly.
  2. Place your hands on your heart.
  3. Breathe into your palms, so it feels like you’re breathing in and out of your heart space. Do this 5 times.
  4. Now slow down your exhale – breathe from the belly and through the nose – inhale 2 counts and exhale for 4 counts. Make the breath smooth and slow as you release.
  5. Visualise fear, sadness, anger and frustration leaving as you breathe out.
  6. Do this 5 times, then open your eyes and notice how you feel.

Any time you feel triggered, if your mind spins off and you start to tell yourself ‘that’ story once again, see if you can catch it. Do the practice above, (you can do it anytime e.g. as you walk to your bus in the morning, on the train coming home, at your desk at work, before you go to sleep). Use it anytime you need, to bring yourself back into the present moment. This is how you stop yourself from focusing on your fears, and instead, come back to see what is going on right in front of you. There is beauty all around us, if only we are open to it.