Experiencing infertility can lead to a number of negative feelings about the process and even about ourselves. We may feel like failures, or like we are broken. It is during these difficult times when we most need to give ourselves self-compassion. But what is self compassion? And how is self-compassion especially suited to the conception journey?
What Is Self-Compassion?
Compassion is the ability to extend love, understanding and acceptance without judgement. Self-compassion is the practice of offering compassion to ourselves. In other words, practicing self-compassion means showing kindness to and acceptance of oneself, while acknowledging one’s pain and doing so without criticism or judgment. Dr. Kristin Neff, a leading researcher in the field of self-compassion, defines 3 elements of self-compassion:
Kindness (vs. Self-Judgement)
– being warm and understanding towards ourselves. Acknowledging the pain and suffering we are going through rather than ignoring it with self-criticism.
Common Humanity (vs. Isolation)
– recognizing that suffering and insufficiency are part of the shared human experience. Having an understanding that these are common human experiences, rather than thinking (or believing) that they are happening to us alone.
Mindfulness (vs. Over Identification)
– the willingness to observe our thoughts and emotions as they are, without trying to deny them, and doing this from a non-judgmental place.
Self-Compassion and Infertility
The experience of infertility (primary or secondary) brings to the surface a wide range of emotions and feelings including stress, anxiety, guilt, alienation, lowered self-worth, and anger. Women are more likely than men to assume personal responsibility for infertility, which brings with it another level of struggle and self-blame. Practicing self-compassion is an essential component of your journey to conception.
6 Reasons to Practice Self-Compassion
#1 The Impact It Has on Your Brain and Body
- When you experience infertility, your stress hormone levels can stay persistently high, mixing with negative emotions and feelings. This can create a physically and emotionally taxing state.
- When we criticize ourselves, we create an emotional attack and activate the fight-flight-freeze response in our nervous system, which leads to the release of cortisol (the stress hormone).
- High levels of cortisol are linked with emotional and physical states like anxiety, depression, sleep issues, physical aches and pains, digestive issues, weight gain, and even cognitive impairment.
- Practicing self-compassion prompts the release of “happy hormones” like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, allowing you to feel calm and safe.
#2 Self-Compassion Activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System
Practicing self-compassion is associated with activation of the parasympathetic nervous system through the vagus nerve. The parasympathetic nervous system allows the body to function properly through its physical effects, which include lowered heart rate and blood pressure, the ability to breathe more deeply, and improved function of the digestive system. The parasympathetic nervous system also plays a role in our emotional state. Once activated, it lowers our stress hormones and releases “feel good” hormones.
#3 Practicing Self-Compassion Promotes Well-Being
In many cases, women who experience infertility focus intently on one outcome, forgetting their own emotional and physical needs. By practicing self-compassion, you allow yourself to be kind to yourself and recognize and accommodate your needs beyond those directed at conceiving. As a result, you can incorporate joy and fun into your daily life, add physical activity, build relationships with loved ones, eat better, reduce stress, and more fully enjoy your life.
#4 Practicing Self-Compassion Opens the Door to Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is the foundation for happiness. Experiencing infertility can take you far from the state of happiness and allow you to feel miserable. As you practice self-compassion, you will discover the feelings and emotions that were previously denied. Along with this, you will allow yourself to feel more deeply and to open your eyes, mind, and heart to greater positive experiences. Practicing self-compassion can help you shift focus from concentrating solely on conceiving to a broader view of all the positive things you have in your life.
#5 Self-Compassion Lays the Foundation for Healing
Experiencing infertility is often associated with negative emotions of guilt, unworthiness, brokenness, shame, isolation, and more. Practicing self-compassion, its kindness without criticism and judgement, allows us to let go of negative thinking, feelings, and emotions, and instead incorporate more positive thinking, feelings, and emotions.
There are numerous studies that show a relationship between self-compassion and self-healing. Self-compassion is an essential element for life-changing and lasting healing.
#6 Because You Deserve It!
The winding journey to conception while experiencing infertility is mentally and physically exhausting. Many women who experience infertility beat themselves up emotionally while others numb their feelings as part of a protective mechanism.
Practicing self-compassion will give you an opportunity to be kinder and more loving towards yourself without ignoring your feelings and thoughts.
- You deserve to feel positive emotions.
- You deserve to feel whole and worthy.
- You deserve to feel loved just for who you are.
It might not come naturally to think differently and be kind to yourself. However, training your mind to practice self-compassion can benefit you in many ways. If you are experiencing infertility, either primary or secondary, and are used to eliciting your negative emotions and feelings, it might feel artificial and out of place to practice self-compassion.
Start by consciously showing kindness to yourself. Although it might feel forced at the beginning, keep doing it in the gentlest ways. Use words that resonate with you. Acknowledge your feelings first. Keep practicing until it comes naturally to you. You’re worth it!
Miri supports her clients who are on their journey to conception online and in her office in Vancouver, BC. She incorporates the practice of self-compassion with all her clients to help them make sustainable shifts in their lives. Through her work, Miri notices an accelerated shift and improvement with those who continue to practice self-compassion. They feel empowered in many aspects of their lives and improve their overall well-being.
For more information and to contact Miri Malkin @ Miri Malkin Hypnosis For Top Performance click below.