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Mindfulness For Thought Wormholes

” We have more possibilities in each moment than we realize.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

study suggests we have more than 6000 thoughts a day, many of which are ‘thought worms’ – moments focused on a specific idea. 

On my own fertility journey, my thoughts were dominated by anxiety & worry about how, when or IF I would ever have a child. I felt so stuck & helpless. 

These thoughts would spiral & pull me into all-consuming thought-wormholes. 

BUT I learned that although I couldn’t stop these intrusive thoughts (imo normal, valid & inevitable with infertility), I discovered that it’s possible to change my relationship with them, so they’re not so high-jacking.

Mindfulness helped me to cultivate space to step back from the autopilot habit of narrowly hyper-focusing on unrelenting compelling negative thoughts & to widen my awareness to see what more was available to me. I discovered that not only was I more than these (often untrue!) thoughts, but that there were so many more options to choose to pay attention to instead. 

For example, I practiced shifting focus from what I didn’t have, to the many conditions of happiness that I already had. Sometimes it was a direct sensation – the sound of a breeze rustling leaves, the fragrant smell of a flower, the warmth of my mug of tea in my palms – or sometimes it was an intentional shift to something I felt deeply grateful for.

It was all moment by moment. But it made the bridge of moments between now & the uncertain future more navigable for me, with more peace, ease & acceptance.

Mindful Practice For Thought Wormholes

Do you have intrusive thoughts on your fertility journey? Share one recurring thought in the comments.

Can this thought serve as a bell of mindfulness?

So that when you notice it coming up, it can be a reminder to stop & recognize the thought as 1 of 6000 recurring autopilot events passing through the mind.

Then take a moment to see what else is available to you in the moment.

Stop and see what else you can notice through your sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste.

What else in the miraculous landscape of experience can you choose to place your attention on?

Visit mindfulnessforfertility.com for upcoming Mindfulness For Fertility program information and registration.

The next program begins January 17th.

Register by sliding scale or scholarship – nobody will be turned away for financial reasons.

References

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-17255-9

Image @fieldandsea

Stress-Free Clinic for Frontline Healthcare & Support Workers

As the holiday season unfolds, we want to take the opportunity to acknowledge, support & offer gratitude for the hard work & stress that frontline healthcare & support workers have had to endure throughout the pandemic.

On December 19th, Whole Family Health is honoured to be teaming up with the Mindfulness Institute to offer a Stress-Free Clinic Event to frontline workers.

The Mindfulness Institute, founded in 2010 by Dr. Catherine Phillips, Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the U of A, is an Edmonton-based international resource for the latest information on mindfulness, and a leader in teaching and integrating mindfulness into personal and professional settings.

See registration details below.

ABOUT THE EVENT:

WHO

All frontline healthcare and support workers who have experienced increased stress due to the pandemic are welcome. (Proof of occupation/ workplace will be required.)

WHAT

We will be offering free evidence-based stress reduction interventions to all Healthcare Workers who register:

1. Acupuncture

One relaxation acupuncture session from WFH
Studies have shown that acupuncture brings on the relaxation response and reduces physiological stress-markers associated with the fight, flight or freeze stress response.

2. Mindfulness

One mindfulness for healthcare workers webinar from the Mindfulness Institute (accessed via link)
Research shows that physicians who undertook an 8-week mindfulness training program showed less burnout, better mood and emotional stability, as well as improved physician empathy.

WHEN

Sunday, December 19th
945am – 1pm

WHERE

Whole Family Health Wellness Centre

COST

Free!
Although donations to our December Menstrual Product Drive are welcome.

REGISTRATION
Register online for your free acupuncture session HERE
We look forward to seeing you then and you will receive a link to view the mindfulness webinar on December 19th too.

WHY

Stats Canada research confirms that there has been a rise in anxiety and stress among Canadians in response to the pressures of dealing with the pandemic. Different populations have been affected in different ways, and it’s evident that healthcare and support workers along our frontlines are among the most negatively impacted.

Many Whole Family Health clients are hospital and frontline workers, so we have become acutely aware of the increased stress you have been enduring during the pandemic. We recognize the psychological & physical toll it has taken on you and your bodies, working within our strained healthcare system and putting yourselves at risk to help others.

We want to extend our support and gratitude in this small way in the hopes that you may access some evidence-based resources.

We want to treat you to some moments of reprieve!

Healthcare burnout facts

  • An epidemic of burnout and discontent was already well documented among physicians and frontline healthcare workers prior to the pandemic. Approximately 1 in 3 physicians is experiencing burnout at any given time.
  • A recent Canadian survey finds that both nurses and physicians have experienced significantly higher levels of burnout, stress, depression and anxiety than they remembered feeling before the pandemic. 
  • A recent survey’s most striking finding and barometer of distress is that amongst 119 respondents, 50% of nurses and 20% of physicians expressed intentions to quit their jobs.

We would love to treat you to a relaxation acupuncture session! Register HERE.

Acupuncture & Stress : How Does It Work?

If you’ve ever had acupuncture, you’re probably familiar with the commonly reported state of relaxation experienced after a treatment or the general feeling of calm with regular treatments.

On the other hand, if you’ve never experienced acupuncture before, you might wonder how it could possibly be relaxing to lie on a table with needles inserted all over your body. That does not sound relaxing at all!

In 1979, the WHO published an official report listing conditions & diseases shown to be treated effectively by Acupuncture. Chronic stress was among the listed conditions. While acupuncture is widely used to treat chronic stress, the mechanism of action has been mysterious.

Ongoing research points toward how acupuncture decreases physiological stress in the body:

HRV

Studies point toward a correlation between acupuncture and improved HRV. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a non-invasive autonomic measure that indicates the body’s capacity to deal with stress.

A healthy heart is not actually one that ticks perfectly evenly. On the contrary – a healthy heart beats with variation in the time interval between consecutive heartbeats. Because a healthy heart adjusts its rate in response to the environment. Its ability to do so corresponds with a higher HRV, which is associated with better overall health, including mental health.

Endorphins


Acupuncture also stimulates the release of endorphins,  which are hormones secreted by the brain & nervous system that play a role in pain regulation & the general feeling of well-being. For example, we release endorphins when we laugh or fall in love.

Neuropeptide Y (NPY)

NPY is a neuropeptide secreted by the sympathetic nervous system, that is associated with the fight, flight or freeze stress response.

A study published in the Journal of Endocrinology in 2013 was designed to monitor the effects of acupuncture on blood levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY), to help explain how acupuncture helps to reduce stress on a molecular level.

Researchers found that acupuncture significantly reduces NPY.

Because rats mount a measurable NPY stress response when exposed to cold temperatures, they were used in this research.

Electroacupuncture (EA) was also used in this study, to ensure that each animal was receiving the same treatment dose. EA was applied to acupuncture point ZuSanLi (St36), commonly used to alleviate stress among other conditions.

There were four groups of rats used:

  1. A Control group – that was not stressed and received no electroacupuncture.
  2. A Stress group – that was stressed and received no acupuncture.
  3. A Sham-EA group – that was stressed and received ‘sham’ electroacupuncture.
  4. An Experimental EA St36 group – that was stressed and received electroacupuncture.  

The Experimental EA St36 group of rats that was exposed to stress and received the electroacupuncture was measured to have similar NPY levels as the Control group.

A second experiment was conducted where the experimental group was continually stressed while acupuncture was discontinued and NPY continued to remain low, indicating a cumulative, long-term effect from the acupuncture.  

This is only a sampling of how we are beginning to unravel how acupuncture helps to reduce stress and the negative impacts on the body. Research is ongoing and as we begin to understand more and more from a Western scientific perspective how it works – the 2500+ year-old body of clinical evidence that acupuncture is an effective intervention for dealing with stress continues to grow.

Contact us to find out more about how we can support you & your body with stress.

Sign up for our newsletter to get updates about our upcoming Free Stress Clinic.

References

PMID: 33512256

PMID: 15135942

https://doi.org/10.1530/JOE-12-0404

Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month: Grief & Ritual

Guestpost for Olive Fertility

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month & studies show that this kind of reproductive trauma can lead to complex grief.

Miscarriage & stillbirth stigma can contribute to a lack of cultural infrastructure to navigate it. In my own experience of pregnancy losses, I had to learn a kind of grief literacy to face the loss.

On my first trip to Vietnam, I met my mother’s family for the 1st time & it was the anniversary of my Ba Ngoai’s (grandma’s) passing. We acknowledged this with ceremony & ritual – a container for expression of all the feelings: sadness, frustration, anger, love, gratitude, peace & even joy & happiness.

We chanted & ate & burned things & I had the privilege of standing in the doorway of our home with a beautiful bamboo cage full of tiny birds from the market & I released them all into the sky. So moving! One of the village monks explained to me that this symbolized setting the heaviness of our hearts aflight to help release my grandma from the weight of our grief.

For me, ritual offers a sense of control through otherwise disorienting life events. They create an opportunity to acknowledge & pay attention to what is arising in a transformational time. It is an opportunity to begin anew.

When I had my miscarriages, creating my own rituals offered a framework for being present with grieving & to discover what else was available to me. It didn’t make the pain go away, but it helped me to give it its own proper space.

Ritual also helped me to discover how sadness, disappointment & anger gave me the capacity to feel peace, hope & gratitude. Sometimes the whole spectrum all at the same time.

Here is a ritual that may help you in your grieving process:

  1. Write a message to the baby you lost on a piece of paper & then fold it into a paper boat.
  2. Light the top of the boat aflame & set it adrift on a lake or river.
  3. As best as you can, bring kind & open awareness to the sensations in your body, thoughts & emotions as you do this. What do you notice? Intentionally turning toward what comes up may allow you to recognize more possibilities in each moment.

For more info on Mindfulness & upcoming Mindfulness for Fertility programs go to www.mindfulnessforfertility.com

Image @susanna_bauer

Online 3-week MBSR Refresher Program

Event Description

Revitalizing the Practice: Connecting to the Heart of Experience

For MBSR Graduates

Join us for this 3-week MBSR refresher program with Mindfulness Instructors, Hannah Marsh and Dr. Alda Ngo, who are both trained MBSR Facilitators with the Centre for Mindfulness Studies.

Anyone who has completed an 8-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program is invited to join us!

This 3-week online program is intended to refresh and support your mindfulness practice. Together, we’ll revisit practices and themes from the MBSR program, including “As long as you’re breathing, there’s more right with you than wrong with you.” We’ll also introduce new practices focused on supporting ourselves amidst the challenges of practice.

Whether your practice has continued steadily or fallen away, the invitation is to begin again. Everyone is invited to come together to offer one another the support and encouragement of our presence.

Through it all, we’ll remember the “heart” in mindfulness – how heartfulness and mindfulness are one and the same. We may discover that heartful practices, like self-compassion and loving-kindness can nurture and support our mindfulness and well-being.

By the end of the program, we hope to leave you with a revitalized practice, and some new tools to help you flourish in your mindfulness practice and your daily life.

This will be a highly interactive web-based program using Zoom.


WHEN

Mondays, November 15, 22, 29
7:00-9:00pm MT


COST

Sliding scale:
$75
 + GST (partial scholarship)
$125 +GST (sustainable fee)
$175 + GST (helps to support others requiring scholarships)

*Please pay more, if you can, to help support those less able to pay.

Accessibility is important to us, scholarships are also available to those for whom cost is a barrier. All are welcome and no one will be turned away due to financial concernsPlease contact us for more information (alda@wholefamilyhealth.ca).

Registration deadline: Nov 12th

Register Here

Cancellations received prior to the registration deadline will be refunded minus a $40 processing fee. No refunds will be issued after that date.

Tracking Ovulation – The Pros & Cons

I typically get many questions regarding monitoring ovulation because there can be a lot of confusion around whether or not to do it. And if deciding to monitor, how should ovulation be tracked? I’m going to break down the pros and cons of both so that you can make a decision that best suits your needs.

The Pros and Cons of Monitoring Ovulation 

Some of the benefits of monitoring ovulation are that it can provide: 

  • a better sense of when fertility is the highest.
  • insight into whether ovulation is happening regularly or at the same time in the cycle.
  • a sense of control and empowerment when fertility challenges often lead to a feeling of having no control.
  • more self-awareness about your body and what is going on.

Some drawbacks to monitoring ovulation are that:

  • ovulation predictor kits (OPK) or higher tech devices can be pricey.
  • daily monitoring (through Basal Body Temperature (BBT) or during the follicular phase with OPK’s) can add to fertility stress.
  • potential false or unclear results can be confusing.
  • it’s not always accurate for everyone. For example for people who have PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Ways to Monitor Ovulation

OPK’s 

As mentioned above, this can be an expensive option. However, at Whole Family Health we offer basic less costly tests. We suggest using these inexpensive ones until the test line gets darker and then confirming with a more costly higher-tech one that provides a clear ‘yes’ or happy face, which is less confusing. 

These need to be used daily until you get a positive – typically starting on Cycle Day 10. However, when to test does depend on the length of your cycle or if you’re using ovulation medication.

BBT 

This is a very inexpensive option, but it has to be done every day and must be checked prior to getting out of bed in the morning.

This method only gives you an indication of when ovulation has already happened, so it only signals the fertile window after the fact. However, it can provide you with insight into when you are likely most fertile for your next cycle.

BBT chart templates can be found for free, or apps can be downloaded so the only cost is the purchase of a BBT thermometer. These can be found at most pharmacies.

Cervical Mucus Monitoring 

Cervical mucus monitoring can be done on its own but it is best done in combination with OPK and/or BBT monitoring.

This can require a bit more patience with knowing what you are looking for and how to look for cervical mucus, but it is free to do, so it is affordable.

Tech Monitoring

There are multiple tech devices on the market to aid in ovulation monitoring and some are accurate than others.

Using a basic phone calendar app can give you the wrong information. This is because it uses an algorithm based on your cycle length and what an average person’s fertile window is. Some people don’t ovulate within these guidelines. 

The more accurate higher tech devices can be really expensive but offer more accuracy and insight into your reproductive cycle. 

Some examples are: 

Not Monitoring Ovulation

If regular ovulation testing is not preferred, I typically suggest having intercourse every second day from cycle days 10-18 – providing your cycle length is between 25-32 days.

If your cycle is shorter then I recommend trying to conceive on cycle days 8-16 and if your cycle is longer, then I recommend trying to conceive on cycle days CD 12-20. 

Pros:

The pros of not monitoring are that you’re not testing daily which can otherwise lead to tunnel vision around fertility and conception. So not monitoring can ease some fertility stress. Intercourse can also then be more spontaneous and not feel like as much of a job or a chore.

Cons: 

The cons of not monitoring is that you could miss ovulation days since ovulation doesn’t always happen mid-cycle. Some people could have a short follicular phase (phase prior to ovulation) or a short luteal phase (phase after ovulation) which means varying ovulation times.

At Whole Family Health our acupuncture and TCM fertility specialists are always happy to talk things through to help navigate the nuances associated with fertility tracking and care. 

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to contact us to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Connie’s Fertility Journey

June is a month that gives me a mixture of feelings.  First, it’s a month when I finally feel that summer is here and ready to spend some good time with my family.  However, it’s also a month when my emotions get triggered more because of my past miscarriage history.  

I remember after a few years of trying to conceive, my husband and I began traveling down the frustrating road of doctor visits and infertility treatments.  Whenever doctors told us we would never get pregnant naturally, I felt like everything I had ever dreamed of was being taken away. 

I felt like I was being punished by not being able to conceive and felt like I was a failure for not being able to be a mom.  After three years of infertility treatments, heart-wrenching disappointments, and faith-filled prayers, I finally got pregnant and delivered a healthy sweet boy.  

However, since I successfully conceived the first child, I expected it would be easier to have a second child.   After my son turned two years old, I was able to get pregnant again without any fertility treatments.  Both my husband and I were very excited about the news. 

However, within just a couple of months the excitement turned to sorrow.  After three ultrasounds, the doctor told us that the baby’s heartbeat could no longer be detected, confirming it was no longer viable. It was a missed miscarriage.  He also informed us that the chances of getting pregnant again were slim.  

This miscarriage journey was dark, lonely and frustrating.  I remember questioning why I had to go through a miscarriage after I had already suffered a lot from infertility.  It felt like I had fallen into a very dark pit and could not climb out on my own. I felt hopeless and exhausted about the whole experience, and I kept all of the feelings inside. In the beginning, I did not seek any help.  

During this difficult time, I received comfort and support from my husband, friends, and my faith community.  They also encouraged me to seek professional help though.  I’m grateful that I was able to find a counselling therapist who helped guide me to share, express, and process my feelings. 

These counselling sessions gave me a safe space to reflect deeply within myself, allowing me to to be with difficult emotions and to work toward accepting and integrating them. 

I was able to recognize my fears and wounds and process feelings of guilt and shame that arose from infertility and pregnancy loss.

Counselling helped me to become aware of my limitations as well as my strengths. With counselling support, my infertility and miscarriage journey has become a huge transformational life experience.

I’m thankful that I was able to find light within the darkness of that time. I can see that in the face of that difficult situation, I had the love and support of my family and friends and I am also grateful to now have a deeper understanding of the suffering and pain associated with miscarriage and infertility. This understanding fuels my compassion to help others going through similar experiences.

Many of us may have had experiences that carry strong emotions or psychological impacts that can resurface when triggered by certain events, people or even calendar dates. Please reach out to people who love you and care about you so that you don’t have to carry the burden of the struggle on your own. It can be so therapeutic to simply share your thoughts and feelings with others who can offer you comfort and support.

Because it can often be challenging for loved ones who are also directly involved and intimate with your reproductive challenges – it can also be so beneficial to seek extra support from a professional therapist or counsellor who can help hold safe space and provide you with some tools for dealing with the challenges of infertility and pregnancy loss. It certainly helped me on my own journey!

Contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation with Connie about her fertility counselling sessions.

Image IG @nushu

Part 4: How Social Media Breaks Can Reduce Fertility Stress

Social Media Breaks 

When experiencing difficulties trying to conceive, it can be really hard on the psyche seeing pregnancy and baby announcements taking place on social media. It can cause more stress to an already stressful situation. 

That’s why I suggest taking breaks from social media from time to time. I know in this day and age, especially during a pandemic it might be hard to do this because this is a way that we stay connected to some people. Therefore, if you don’t want to take a break there are ways to navigate the system. 

Facebook has a setting where you can unfollow people (this will not notify that person that you have unfollowed them). This is a way to hide some people’s posts without unfriending them. This way, if you do want to see what is going on in their life you have the option to go to their page when you choose to.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image: @debbyillustration

Part 3: How Exercise Can Reduce Fertility Stress

Exercise 

Exercise is a great stress management tool. However, when trying to conceive there should be a healthy balance. This means that exercise should be done in moderation because on the flip side, too much exercise can actually hinder pregnancy attempts. 

Generally, it is best to exercise 3-5x/ week no longer than 1 hour each day.

If you would like to see more specific guidelines, please visit my recent blogs on exercise and conception and what types of exercise are safe when undergoing ART.

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Image: @chloealexisham

Part 2: How Mindfulness Can Decrease Fertility Stress

Mindfulness

Mindfulness supports the cultivation of awareness of difficult psychological states while normalizing and accepting them, thereby increasing the capacity to respond to stress with resilience.

A study published in Fertility and Sterility shows that Mindfulness-Based Programs for Infertility are an effective psychological intervention for those experiencing infertility, increasing resiliency and decreasing psychological distress (4).  

Whole Family Health and Elements of Health have teamed up to provide Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs for fertility. By taking part in a program geared towards fertility with people who might have a similar experience to yours, your experience is validated and your ability to cope increases, helping to navigate challenging circumstances.

For more information on Mindfulness for fertility and upcoming events click on this link: https://mindfulnessforfertility.com/

If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, please feel free to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.

Resources

PMID: 23809500

Image: @fieldandsea

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