Approximately 18% of us are reported to be diagnosed with anxiety. Anyone can be affected, regardless of background, education or religion. Even without a medical diagnosis of anxiety, anxious thoughts can rear their heads for all of us, at some point in our lives.
How do you know if you’re suffering from Anxiety?
You regularly have feelings of panic, fear & uneasiness.
You’re plagued by fears that may be irrational, but you feel you cannot shake.
You struggle to get to sleep and often wake up with a head full of worried thoughts.
It’s worth understanding that anxiety isn’t always bad. It can help us to respond to real threats and stay focused and alert. When anxiety is constant or overwhelming it can have a detrimental effect on your fertility.
It might seem odd to connect how you’re feeling emotionally with your reproductive health, when they seem so separate. In reality your beautiful human body is a complex web of interconnection. The hormones that your adrenal glands produce when you’re stressed or anxious for example, can actually “steal” from the production of progesterone. The bacteria that reside in your gut as part of your digestive system have a very important role in protecting your reproductive system from fungal infections like candida. Stress and anxiety can kill off those “good” bacteria – bad news for your fertility.
We can’t separate our body into distinct systems, rather we need to see ourselves as one big, beautiful, connected being. Figuring out how everything links together might feel like a bit of a stretch for you. I’m not suggesting that you need to understand the minutiae of how your body works, but it is worth reminding yourself every now and then of this truth – Everything is Connected.
So, how does Anxiety actually impact fertility?
Anxiety switches on your sympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight or flight response. Your body will deliberately relegate digestive and reproductive tasks way down the “to-do list” to prioritise survival. You may not notice it, but your fertility has just taken a knock.
When anxious, your food choices may suffer. You may feel that you can’t get anything right and worry about every morsel you consume. Your nervous system will respond to this “stress” and make it much harder to digest the food you do eat. This will mean your reproductive system is not getting the nourishment it needs to function optimally.
How you think about your chances of conceiving and believing that it is possible affects your reproductive hormones in a positive, balancing way. Anxiety throws that balance into disarray and undermines your belief in the possibility of having a baby.
If you think anxiety may be a problem for you, what can you do about it?
A low-tech, no cost solution – Breathe. Count slowly to 10, inhaling and exhaling through your nose. This kind of deep, slow breathing activates the diaphragm & the Vagus nerve, which in turn communicates with your brain to activate the relaxation response. A simple breathing practice I love is Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodana). This technique balances the two sides of the nervous system and very quickly calms your entire body. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch this video.
Notice how you’re feeling. You don’t have to understand it or make sense of it. Noticing how your body feels when you’re anxious is a first step. Don’t try to change it or fix it, simply observe what’s happening. It might be a sensation of tightness or heat. It might be a feeling of panic or pain. This ‘observation’ can help to slow down your instinctive response and calm your nervous system. It’s worth practicing this when you’re not feeling anxious or panicky, so that you’re ready to use it when you really need to.
Ask for help from someone who has your back and won’t ever tell you to “just calm down”. Talk to your counsellor, nutritional therapist, homeopath, acupuncturist or doctor. Drug intervention is an option, but isn’t always necessary.
Eat more of the foods that nourish your brain and your gut – avocadoes, nuts, seeds, shellfish, oily fish, grass fed or wild meat, calming herbal teas like chamomile, holy basil & fennel.
Eat less of the foods that stimulate your sympathetic nervous system and exhaust your adrenal glands – caffeine, alcohol, refined sugar, refined carbohydrates (bread, cakes, biscuits)
I want to hear from you!
First: Share below how the breathing technique has helped you, or if it hasn’t!
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