I saw a woman, Robin (not her real name), for a counseling session this week who wanted to feel less anxious during infertility treatment. She had been trying to get pregnant for over two years, and had seen three infertility specialists. She recently had a miscarriage, and she had been feeling increasing more anxious about being able to get pregnant.
I helped her understand that anxiety is based in fear of the unknown. She was actually afraid she may never be able to get pregnant, stay pregnant, and be a mother. In her mind, she created hundreds of fears and worries about a future without a child in her life.
The solution to decreasing her anxiety is to help her learn to stay in the present moment. I asked her to close her eyes, and we practiced taking many slow and deep breaths together. Her exhalation was shorter than her inhalation, so I asked her to softly say “ma” as she exhaled. At first she was self conscious and uncomfortable using sound during her exhalation, so we did it together.
Using sound as you exhale helps extend your exhalation, and this helps you feel calmer. As she practiced breathing in this way, I watched her shoulders and face relax. Then the rest of her body relaxed. Once her breathing was steady, I asked her to continue this breath pattern for at least 5 more breaths.
She slowly opened her eyes and said she was surprised by how calm she felt. In that moment, she was only aware of her body feeling relaxed and calm. Her mind was clear of worries and fears.
Staying in the present moment takes awareness and practice. When you feel anxious, bring your attention back to your breath and this moment. It’s really all you have, and there is no need to worry about a future that may never come to pass.