Mind/Body Medicine and Groups
What do other participants say about Resolve's Mind/Body Groups?
"A year after attending a different Mind/Body program, I decided to join the Mind/Body program led by Robin Roberts. What I discovered in the Resolve program was that I had abandoned my femininity in the baby quest and I needed to return to my center and embrace my feminine energy. I learned to do this through visualizations, meditations, drawing, journaling, and communicating with other women in my journey back to fertility and femininity." --Jane
"The Mind/Body Groups really helped me in my difficult journey towards pregnancy. After three years of struggling with infertility, I am finally pregnant. It was hard for me to believe that those words would ever come out of my mouth. With the help of the Mind/Body group, I was able to release a great deal of mental and emotional stress. The feeling of support from all the women in the group made me feel like I was not alone in this very difficult struggle." --Abbie
"The group is so well structured that it takes you on an insightful journey, allowing you to hold a mirror up to yourself and your emotions, and lets you feel them in a safe environment." --Lynsey
"I learned so much about myself through attending the group. Sharing with Robin and the other women helped relieve my depression and face all of the feelings I had experienced through my infertility. The group model is a safe, healthy and comfortable place to share, learn, and grow." --Lynn
"What I appreciate most was getting the tools to deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. Doing relaxation exercises, learning to listen to my body and tuning in with my breath, helped me get through this difficult time in my life. To this day I do my relaxation exercises religiously. I also opened up to new ways of expressing my emotions.My only regret is that I found out about the group after I did my first IVF cycle...." --Kasia
When your heart aches because your body has not conceived your dreamed-of child, mind/body techniques can heal the pain and help you feel whole again.
What is the Body? Where is the Mind?
If you were asked to point to your mind, you would most likely point to your head, thinking that's where your brain is. However, you would be wrong to think that your mind is limited to your brain alone.
The mind exists throughout the physical body, mediated by the neurons and biochemicals of the central nervous system and the hormones of the endocrine system. The mind receives its impressions of the world through the sensory system of the physical body and interprets these impressions through the brain.
Conscious thought is just one aspect of the mind, facilitated by higher brain functions. The unconscious mind exists in the lower brain functions and is expressed in dreams, conditioned responses, and physical symptoms and behaviors.
What is a Mind/Body Split?
A Mind/Body Split occurs when we feel that the body is not performing to the conscious mind's expectations or demands, such as when we are trying to conceive a child. Over time, we begin to feel out of control, helpless, and angry with our body for not producing what our mind has already conceived through imagination. In response, we may develop psychological problems, like depression and anxiety; compulsive behavior to act on our impatience and frustration; or irritability and anger at others.
A Mind/Body Split can also occur during invasive or painful medical procedures, even when they are supposed to help us. Many men and women find infertility treatments to be highly stressful and sometimes, traumatizing. Instead of seeming helpful, the procedures feel injurious, like "an insult" to our identity and body. To protect ourselves and continue treatment, some of us "numb out" in our bodies and deny our feelings. Consequently, we feel disconnected from ourselves and others.
What is Mind/Body Medicine?
Mind/Body Medicine recognizes the complex interrelationship between the mind and body, maximizing the functioning of both for their mutual benefit. It is also called "Integrative Medicine" because it heals the Mind/Body Split.
The techniques of Mind/Body Medicine focus on the role of the unconscious mind in healing. They do this by facilitating the inherent Relaxation Response in the body and creating new conditioned responses to situations. For example, instead of the body's internal alarm response going off during a procedure, the body/mind can be conditioned to elicit the Relaxation Response under the same circumstances, decreasing resistance to a treatment and enhancing its success. (See "Stress and Infertility" for more information about the Relaxation Response.)
What are some techniques of Mind/Body Medicine?
Most of the techniques of Mind/Body Medicine are not new. In fact, some of them are among the oldest healing techniques known to humans. They include:
||*Trance States & Hypnosis
|*Progressive muscle Relaxation
|*Meditation and Prayer
||*Yoga & Movement
How can I learn Mind/Body Techniques?
You can begin by taking a deep breath, inhaling through your nostrils into your belly, chest, and throat, and exhaling with a sigh. Basic deep breathing like this will slow down your respiration and lower your brain temperature by one-tenth of a degree.
Mind/Body techniques are best learned through instruction with someone who personally practices them. Reading about the techniques is helpful, but a demonstration is better, and your active participation is best. It is most helpful to have a guide who can observe your responses, correct any problems, and assist you through any challenges or blocks that you experience along the way. Also, it is best to learn these techniques over several weeks, practicing them daily, so that you create new conditioned responses in your body and incorporate them into your life. Ultimately, mind/body techniques are life skills.
How do I know that Mind/Body techniques will help me?
A study by the Harvard School of Mind/Body Medicine published in April 2000 Fertility and Sterility Journal demonstrated the benefits of emotional and psychological supports while participating in infertility treatment. Women who participated in a ten-week Mind/Body Group had a 55% conception rate within one year; women who participated in a support group had a 54% conception rate within the same period; but women who were in a control group without additional psychological support had only a 22% conception rate within the year. Since then, several studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of stress on infertility treatment as well the beneficial effects of stress reduction and psychological support.
Women who are the most distressed and depressed at the start of a group appear to be the women who benefit the most from the group. Simply put, the more you need the group, the more you benefit. To determine how well you are coping with infertility distress, take the Infertility Distress Test.
Are you just telling me, "Relax and you'll get pregnant?"
No. The body reaches the state of exhaustion and depression that impairs fertility by repeatedly triggering the internal Stress Response. Studies show that unlike taking a nap or a vacation, the regular use of relaxation techniques creates beneficial physiological changes in respiration, heart rate, brain waves, and the immune and endocrine systems. The body has to be reconditioned in this response through regular practice.
What's the connection between the Relaxation Response and healing infertility?
In coping with infertility, many women rev themselves up into overdrive: they obsessively focus on the issue and compulsively engage monthly treatment cycles. Because they are afraid that nothing will happen if they don't do it themselves, they often take over their partners and marriages with this issue. This attitude repeatedly arouses the internal alarm response in the body. In this state, women forget how to feel safe and relax within themselves.
The irony is that fertility is not fostered by feminine overactivity. Rather, the optimum feminine state for fertility is one of receptivity. Learning to safely elicit the body's inherent Relaxation Response helps women tolerate any feelings of vulnerability and anxiety that occur when they try to slow down. The Relaxation Response promotes the body's natural healing states and internal balance.
Can I use these techniques while I am doing medical treatments?
Absolutely. While Mind/Body Medicine can improve your fertility naturally, it is not meant as a substitute or alternative to medical treatment. The best time to begin the techniques, however, is before you start a treatment cycle.
When you want to access the deeper mind in your treatment and gain the support of other women, consider joining a Mind/Body Group.
HEALING INFERTILITY: MIND/BODY GROUPS
TEN WEEKS TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE!
I do my 10-week Mind/Body Groups based on the Harvard School of Mind Body Medicine Infertility Program model through RESOLVE, the National Infertility Support Organization. The fees for Resolve groups are about one third of what you would pay elsewhere, and ten percent is donated back to the organization for infertility education and outreach. Groups are small, consisting of either seven women or four couples who want to do the entire ten weeks together.
By participating in a group, you will:
- Identify and minimize the effects of stress in your life.
- Learn to elicit the Relaxation Response.
- Improve your mood and outlook.
- Develop an inner state of receptivity to treatment.
- Enhance your fertility naturally.
- Improve your decision-making and problem solving.
- Share your experience with other women or couples and develop lifelong friendships!
The skills and practices you will learn include:
||*Progressive Muscle Relaxation
|*Yoga & Movement
We begin by exploring how dealing with infertility has affected your body, self-image, emotions, and thoughts. At the same time, we are learning how to counter these effects with relaxation techniques. As the group progresses, we move to deeper layers of identity, exploring how infertility has affected you socially, in your marriage or intimate relationships, and sexually. Guided imagery tapes lead you into deeper levels of healing the feminine body and psyche.
|*Mini Relaxation Cards
||*Three Cassette Tapes for Home Use
Groups begin about every six weeks and are usually held in the evening.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE GROUP DATES:
CONTACT RESOLVE: 1-866-888-7452 or www.resolvela.org
Fees: $550 includes 10 sessions and supplies.
AN EXTENDED WOMEN'S RETREAT
This is a six-week Mind/Body Group for women who have completed the ten-week group and want to continue to practice their mind/body techniques in a group setting and receive additional support for upcoming or concurrent treatment procedures.
We begin by identifying some central question or intention that we want to explore, such as "How can I accept this challenging path to motherhood with a lighter heart?" Or "How can I feel more supported by my body?" Or "How can I feel more connected with other people?" Each woman's intention is uniquely her own.
Over the course of six weeks, we follow the structure of a retreat, each week focusing on a different aspect of inquiry with our mind/body techniques of: breath work, meditation, guided visualization, art and journaling.
- The Call to Retreat & Defining an Intention
- Creating Emotional Containers for our Experience
- Focusing in Sacred Space in our Lives
- Integration & Re-Entry