A follower of the blog wrote to me asking for some help.....She is on a journey to creating her own family and is currently finding IVF a very challenging experience to go through. She asked 'what advise do you have for me? A chronic worrier with feelings of anxiety'. She went onto explain that she finds it hard to 'make' her own happiness due to the 'let down' of nature and her reliance on Science which is also quite unpredictable.............I wrote back to her.........
Worrying is a very natural feeling that stems back to when our ancestors were hunting and gathering food. Being worried helped them avoid attacks from the saber-toothed cat lurking in the bush and other dangers within their environment. In modern times, we don’t have a need to run from predators, but we are left with an evolutionary imprint that protects us: worry.
We worry from infancy and it is at this crucial time that we can teach our children and ourselves how to effectively deal with and use worries rather than letting them affect our mood, health and lives.
How to Make your worry effective not affecting................
Have you ever felt so anxious or worried that you can physically feel it in your body? A friend may say to you.......'It will be fine, it will all work out for the best', Why does this reassurance fall on deaf ears? It’s actually not out ears causing the issue but our brain.
During periods of anxiety, there is a rapid dump of chemicals and mental transitions in your body (fight or flight evolutionary imprint). This creates prefrontal cortex/logical part of the brain — to hit the pause button. While the automated emotional brain takes over making it hard to think clearly and rationally.
What should you do before trying to rationalize a worry away? Try something I call the FEET method...it helps to keep your feet on the ground rather than getting swept away with a worry:
Freeze— pause and take some deep breaths. Deep breathing can help reverse the nervous system response.
Evaluate— once your calm, it’s time to figure out exactly what you are worried about.
Encourage- now you know the core of your worry encourage yourself to think about how you can challenge it.
Tell -tell someone you trust and talk through the worry and what your solution idea is. If you don't want to talk you can write a letter.
Getting your worry out
As you probably know, ignoring anxiety doesn’t help. But bringing worry to life and talking about it can help.
With children I would create a worry character for example ‘Wimmy the Worrier’. Sometimes Wimmygets a little out of control and when that happens, we have to talk some sense into Wimmy (Wimmy lives in the old brain that is responsible for protecting us when we’re in danger). You can use this same idea but instead as if you are writing a letter rather than talking to a cuddly toy.
Getting your worry out has multiple benefits;
It can help demystify your worry enabling you to pin point the main crux of your anxieties.
It can reactivate the logical brain, allowing you to see past the worry
You can use this tool any time if you do not have someone to talk to right away or you want to take time to clarify your feelings and work through them.
Writing your worry letter
Remember, worry is the brain’s natural way of protecting us from danger. To make sure we’re really paying attention, the mind often exaggerates the object of the worry (e.g., mistaking a stick for a snake). You may have heard that teaching your children to think more positively could calm their worries. But the best remedy for distorted thinking is not positive thinking; it’s accurate thinking. Try a method called the 4Cs:
Catch your thoughts: Imagine every thought you have floats above your head in a bubble. give each thought or worry their own bubble and select one of these to focus on.
Collect evidence: Next, collect evidence to support or negate this thought. Remember feelings are not facts.
Challenge your thoughts: The best (and most entertaining) way to do this is to have a debate with yourself much as you would if you were writing an essay or report.
Conclusion: end your letter with a promise of action to yourself. An example of this might be; I promise to focus on positive images and plans for/of my future family (not focusing on pregnancy but focusing on the goal which is to have a family). Or it might be to research something or to give your self more mind space time.
IVF is an uncertainty and acceptance of this and your own limitations in controlling its outcome is key. Acceptance means noticing that uncertainty exists and letting go and focusing on the things that you can control, enjoy, or appreciate.
Look at whether your worry is productive or unproductive. A productive worry is one that you can do something about right now. For example, "I am going on holiday and need to organise travel arrangements.... ," This is a productive worry because I can take action now and solve it.
By contrast, an unproductive worry is one which you can't do anything about. "It is more of a proliferation of 'what ifs,' over which you have no control and there is no productive action that will lead to a solution.
It's natural to be anxious about if the IVF will or will not work BUT you CAN take control of the worry, anxiety, situation and outcome. The end goal for you is to have a family of your own. To hear little footsteps in your beautiful home, to have giggling voices in the garden during a summers water fight. How you get to the goal may or may not be as a result of IVF but the main goal to focus your energy and positive thoughts on is the family that you WILL have. This is a productive line of thought and will help you to find your happiness. You need to try as hard as you can to look past the 'right now' and look into your wonderful future. How many children do you see? What will their bedrooms be like etc etc.....
Join the Private Members Club and learn the what, why and how of positive visualisation.