Now that I have bogged you all down on the deleterious effects of stress on your ability to conceive (and during pregnancy) in Part 1, let’s cheer up a bit by learning some of the many simple ways that we can have a positive impact on our stress chemistry.
1. Slow Down
This pretty much encompasses all of our techniques for altering our stress response. Our Autonomic Nervous System is split into Survive (Sympathetic) and Thrive (Parasympathetic) Divisions. These two halves must work together in harmony for us to experience optimal health and wellbeing. Most of us are hanging out too much in the fast-paced Survive mode, rushing from one task to the next, stressing and anxious about the innumerable details and tasks. We need to prioritize our habits and our lives as an expression of our true values. Is your true value to exhaust your HPA/T axis and get as much done as possible during all waking hours (and all your hours are spent awake)? Or is your core value filter to create an optimal environment for having and raising healthy children? Take an honest look at where you spend your time and money to determine whether they are congruent with your values or not. If not, something needs to change.
2. Move Your Body (Outside)
The many stress chemicals floating through your system are meant to help you act. They boost your system for an enhanced physical reaction to a threatening stimuli (like running away from a bear). Stressing while sitting in front of a computer for hours a day is possibly the worst case scenario for our body to be able to properly manage its chemistry. Give your body a constructive outlet for these action-oriented chemicals by moving your body. Exercise. Find something your enjoy, like walking, swimming, climbing, biking, or playing a sport. You just need some method getting your blood moving. Exercise is one of the most effective treatments for depression and even though it can be tough to get started, once you establish a routine, it becomes a very easy and enjoyable part of your daily life. Being active out-of-doors will enhance the positive benefits of exercise even more, as your get an extra dose of vitamin D and fresh air and all the many wonders that nature has to offer. It is well known in the zoological world that animals do not breed well in captivity. Why would we be any different? In my opinion, being active outdoors is one the best happiness habits that your can establish in your life.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Treat your body like a temple. Don’t abuse it with junk food-like substances, bad self-talk, and sedentary behaviour. Feed it nourishing foods. Take a soothing lavender bath. Go for a massage, acupuncture, or a pedicure. Prioritize your health and wellbeing and show your body that you love it. Providing your body with all the building blocks and cofactors that it needs through healthy food is so important for our chemistry. If you are running in Survive mode all the time, then you have increased certain chemical processes and require more nutrients to replenish your stores (in particular B vitamins and essential amino acids). As a general guideline, strive for a whole-food, plant-based, alkaline diet with lots of healthy fats and clean protein.
4. Support Your Nervous System
This is where chiropractic care comes in. You can do so much with your activity levels, food intake, and mindfulness habits, and that should never be underestimated. Chiropractic care will enhance all the other important things that you are doing to prepare for baby by re-establishing balance within those two divisions of the Autonomic Nervous System. It is easy to always focus on the structural aspects of chiropractic (because they are so helpful at resolving pain complaints and improving physical performance), but the true power of chiropractic care comes from the impact that it has on facilitating the function of your nervous system. Enhancing your Parasympathetic Division (which is housed in the cervical and lumbosacral regions of your spine) helps improve immune function, digestion, and fertility by shifting toward that Thrive zone.
Seriously. I’m not just saying “breath” because this is some hokey relaxation blog. Your breathe is a very important communication tool. If you are taking short, shallow, high shoulder breathes all the time, you are sending the message that this is a stressful environment and I am scared, not safe. Contrariwise, if you are taking deep, expansive breathes, the body gets the message that this is a lovely time in a lovely place and we are good the Thrive (and make babies). Proper breathing mechanics are important for core stability (which is paramount for a pain-free pregnancy), nervous system balance, blood oxygenation, and even pain complaints (especially of the neck, shoulder, and low back). If you change nothing else as a result of this blog, establishing a deliberate breathing practice could change your life and is a great starting point. If you are intimidated, start with 2 minutes a day of deep belly breathing. Commit to this for 30 days and watch how your breathing (and your life) transforms.
I’m posting this blog in mid-December. This is a really great time to evaluate and take stock of your life. Are you living your life and establishing habits based on your predetermined values filter (which likely includes starting a healthy family, if you are reading this blog), or are you following the flow of busyness, wherever it pushes and pressures you? Who’s driving the bus? Sit down with your loved ones and talk about it, as a family. The new year is a great time to establish new routines and new habits that manifest who you are and who you want to be. Make healthy stress management a new part of your values-based lifestyle. Your future babies will thank you.