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Stop Stressing over Stress

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a blog by Joanne Verkuilen, Founder, Circle+Bloom, July 9, 2010

“Don't let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries.” ~Astrid Alauda

In my last post we provided an introduction of what we mean by the Brain-Fertility Connection. I hope that it has peaked your interest and desire to learn more about the possibilities of applying Psychoneuroimmunology to live the best life you can.

In this post I hope to uncover the mysteries of stress, its effects on our health and fertility and why it's important to do something about it.

Stress is something I believe we all have in some way shape or form. I believe it is built into our psyches to effectively handle the demands of our existence. The flight or fight reaction is stress induced. Researched by Hans Seyle in the 1930s, stress is still something that remains somewhat elusive, probably because of the difficulty we have in actually measuring it. It is a psychological response, and therefore different with everyone.

There are some great articles and surveys in various places that can help you better understand stress and its impact on our health:

● The American Psychological Association has a great interactive online tool that shows the parts of our body impacted by stress.
● The Mayo Clinic has an online stress assessment survey to rate your levels of stress.
● Trusty Wikipedia has a very in-depth article all about the history of stress.

It’s not surprising that women undergoing fertility difficulties have as much stress as people being threatened with diseases such as cancer or heart disease. Infertility brings into question a couple's life plans and their ability to raise a healthy and happy family. It questions our existence and future plans at its core. Infertility is invasive to our life and can create cyclical emotional roller coasters each and every month.

We have also seen studies that show that by reducing the stress in our lives, we can proactively help improve our fertility. At one end of the spectrum, when stress is at very high chronic levels, menstrual cycles may be suppressed completely. Emory University published a fascinating study about improving ovulation in women with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is essentially being more cognizant of your thought patterns — one very effective way to take control of your life and reduce stress.

As with anything, I think the first step is admitting to yourself that stress is present in your life, and most likely exacerbated by the inability to conceive. Once you have admitted this to yourself through awareness of the signs and symptoms, you can congratulate yourself that you have taken a big step toward improving your life and well-being — and maybe even your fertility.

Then start to do something about it. More to come!

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