Footprints on the Heart

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When you have lost a baby the grief can seem like a very private thing. People don’t want to mention it in case they upset you and it can sometimes seem like the world has forgotten or dismissed what has happened. I still find it therapeutic to discuss our loss and the baby we were never able to have. Recently I came across an organisation called Footprints on the Heart, whose aim is to provide hope and healing to those who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss. They organise a 5K Run and Memorial Balloon Release to provide families an opportunity to honour their loved ones. Events like this show how meaningful it is to mark the life of the babies that were lost and openly share their memory with the world.

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When To Go Back To Work

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After we lost our baby I did not want to face the world and resume real life for some time. I wanted to hide away and shut out everything that represented normality. That included work. I deliberated about whether it would be best to go back so that I could take my mind off our loss or whether I needed time to return to my usual self. At the time those around me kept insisting I went back. I felt a lot of pressure. It resulted in me going back too soon and having to postpone my return for a while. I learned that you have to trust your own instincts and that other peoples advice, while well-meaning, is not always right. When I did go back I found it to be a very positive distraction, but I had to be strong enough to manage it. I was extremely fortunate as my boss and all my colleagues (many of which I consider friends) were endlessly supportive and understanding. Their kindness made all the difference.

During this pregnancy, which has been fraught with worry, work has been the best thing. The summer break I had from work was awful as I was bored and had too much time to think about everything. Having a busy, productive day is far better than letting the situation consume me. I like to be busy and feel like I have a purpose to my day. Who knew work could be such good therapy!

De-stress

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20 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Ease Stress

The road to motherhood can be unbelievably stressful. With that in mind, here are 20 ways, backed up by good scientific evidence, to keep your stress in check:

1. Go For A 10 Minute Walk

While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins, green spaces, can put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.

2. Breathe Deeply

Any yogi knows that the breath — known as pranayama or “life force” — plays an important role in nourishing the body. Breathing exercises – or even just taking a few deep breaths – can help reduce tension and relieve stress, thanks to an extra boost of oxygen.

3. Visualize

Simply make yourself comfortable and then try to picture a relaxing scene.

4. Eat A Snack

Stress-eating doesn’t have to be bad. Pick a snack that will fill you up — say, half an avocado, a handful of nuts or a hard boiled egg — because nothing is more stressful to the brain than feeling like you’ve run out of nourishment. Focus on your food: its texture, the way it tastes, how it makes you feel. Now you’ve turned your snack into a meditation.

5. Buy Yourself A Plant

Houseplants can actually help you calm down. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relaxation response.

6. Step Away From The Screen

Uninterrupted computer use has been associated with stress, lost sleep and depression in women. Make sure to take frequent breaks during your day of computer use — and try to shut offline at least an hour before bedtime.

7. Pucker Up

Kissing relieves stress by helping your brain to release endorphins.

8. Try This Naam Yoga Hand Trick

Applying pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers) can help to create a sense of instant calm.

9. Hang Up, Then Turn Off Your Phone

Mobile phones stress you out. Talking can even raise your blood pressure.

10. Put On Some Music

While classical music has a particularly soothing effect — it slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and even decreases levels of stress hormones — any music that you love will flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine.

11. Treat Yourself!

Eating or drinking something sweet is soothing because it stems the production of the stress hormone, glucocorticoid.

12. Or, On The Other Hand, Plug In

Yes, screens can stress you out. But used in the right way, there’s no reason you can’t turn to the Internet to get a little stress relief such as web-based stress management programs.

13. Chew A Piece Of Gum

Chewing gum doesn’t just make your breath better — it can relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress during episodes of multitasking.

14. Watch A Viral Video

A good laugh is a fine relaxation technique. What’s more, even if you don’t find the viral video your uncle Joe sent you to be that funny, just the anticipation that it might be will actually boost endorphins.

15. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Start with your toes and work your way up: tighten your foot muscles as much as you can, then relax them. Make your way up, tightening and relaxing each muscle until you’ve finished with your face. It may seem silly, but this practice can help reduce anxiety and stress.

16. Seriously, Turn Off Your Phone

Smartphones, in particular, are linked to increased stress, as more and more people feel pressure to respond to messages at all times.

17. See Your BFF

Friends aren’t just fun — your very closest ones can actually reduce your production of cortisol.

18. Eat A Banana (Or A Potato!)

Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure, which rises during times of stress.

19. Try Eagle Pose

Many yoga poses are known stress relievers, as they open the shoulders, relieve neck tension and do away with many of the physical symptoms of stress. Eagle pose is a prime example of how a brief asana can target back and neck tension. Learn how to do the pose here.

20. Craft

Repetitive motions — like the fine motor skills used to knit– can soothe anxiety.

Try one today!

Get Some Headspace

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Over the last few months my husband and I have been embracing our inner hippy by using a series of meditation and mindfulness podcasts to reduce stress. Like anything else it is a skill that needs learning. The series of short exercises, initially just 10 minutes a day, from Headspace shows you how you can  master this invaluable skill. Andy Puddicombe, with his reassuing and calming voice, teaches you useful techniques that have assisted the management of our worries and anxiety during the IVF process. Many times I have fallen asleep mid-podcast, that’s just how calming it is! It leads to some much needed peace of mind and well-being.

Check it out at http://www.headspace.com

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Paint Your Troubles Away

 

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Painting is such a relaxing distraction from the anxiety and sadness of IVF and pregnancy loss. It doesn’t matter what the finished piece is, just get those paints out and enjoy some creative therapy. It will take your mind off all your worries. Express yourself. Here are two of my creations!

Therapy Is Not For Everyone

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When we lost the baby everyone was insistent that we, particularly me, should go see a psychologist or therapist to deal with the trauma and loss. Previously I had never had any desire or reason to do such a thing. In fact I felt it was a fairly self-indulgent past-time for the LA celebrity kids and the real crazies of the world. However I also realised that it couldn’t hurt and it would reassure my worrier of a Dad. I decided to be open-minded.

I began weekly sessions with a lovely woman. Never one to be the ‘feelingsy’ type I found it surprisingly easy to talk about everything. I had a lot to say. However, in retrospect, I don’t think I ever got emotional. I don’t like to cry in front of others or show vulnerability. She listened and told me reassuring things which I constantly challenged. I didn’t want to hear clichés. She told me all my emotions and the way I was coping was entirely normal considering the emotional roller coaster. We agreed that my depression, anxiety and fears were a direct result of the circumstances, rather than due to a pre-existing disposition for mental health issues. We eventually agreed that I didn’t need to continue to see her as I basically had something shit happen which I was dealing with. And that was that.

The thing is I am so lucky to have the very best of friends, and husband, who I got better therapy from. One of them is an actual psychologist! They know me, they are available when I need them, they feel emotionally connected to me and they don’t charge! Who needs a therapist when you are blessed with such great friends! I hope I never need to be there for them in this way, but if I do I will stand beside them like they have for me. Never will I take for granted the support, kindness and love they have given me.

Good for the Soul

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Gardening is good for the soul. Maybe it’s the fresh air. Maybe it’s the feel of the earth between your fingers. Maybe it’s the pleasure of seeing things grow. Either way we have been spending lots of time in the garden and it’s been great. I even painted some pretty colours on our ordinary terracotta pots to use as a herb garden.

Some find yoga and massages relaxing. I do not. I find it far more relaxing to keep busy and active. I don’t like having too much time to obsess think about everything.