This blog post is one that I’ve been eager to write and stumped as to where to start in equal measure. Remaining positive while facing your worst nightmare isn’t something that comes naturally to me, as all. I prefer to catastrophise and panic. But very slowly, I have learnt to take a little more control over my mindset. And the relief that I have felt from this has been immeasurable.
I read an article on the Washington Post recently (link below) and it really got my goat. I found it more than a little patronising. For those who haven’t read it the gist is that a lady spent three years trying to conceive her second child before deciding to stop TTC, she gave up hope, stopped tracking and left it all behind. Then she fell pregnant naturally, of course. She concludes that we all get roped into believing that it will happen for us if we remain hopeful and that to relinquish that thought is liberating. Now, I don’t think that anyone who has been through numerous tests, injections, handed over their savings to their clinic and had more dates with wanda than they’d care to remember would honestly say that the missing ingredient is hope. Nobody says ‘if only we could all hope a bit more it would all be ok!’ I felt that this article was akin to telling people to relax. And we all know what we think about that! What I think was missed here was that having hope and remaining positive might not help us get pregnant but it might help us deal with what we have to contend with, it might be the hope that helps us get out of bed each day, that helps us get though yet another pregnancy announcement or when faced with another setback. And surely looking after this side of our mental health, doing whatever it is we need to do is as important as the focus on the medical side of things.
Now for the sciencey bit… Barbara Frederickson (from the University of Carolina) researched what negative thoughts do to your brain. She conducted a study that showed having negative thoughts narrows your mind, shutting off alternative options. Your brain adopts a flight response and you can’t see the alternative positive actions. If you feel bad about not exercising or eating unhealthily all you think about is how little willpower you have, how lazy you are and how you don’t have any motivation. The impact of positive emotions has been shown to bring about an increased vision of options, broadening your sense of possibility and opening your mind to more options. She talks of the ‘broaden and build’ theory – positive emotions broadening your sense of possibilities which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources for other areas of your life. Abraham Lincoln once said “most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Positive thinking can aid in stress management and can play a role in overall health and well-being. Not just to look at things through rose tinted glasses but to approach challenges with a positive, proactive outlook, making the most of situations, viewing yourself in a positive light. Positive people tend to attribute good outcomes to their own credit and outside factors for negative ones and see negative events as temporary or atypical. So, find what sparks these feelings of joy and these positive emotions, what works well for you. These times of positive emotions are when you see those possibilities and pave the way for a positive future, whatever that may hold.
Remaining positive comes in so many different forms; for some it may be continuing to make healthy choices about food and exercise, mantras, baking reading, holidays, work. It might be researching your next steps, continuing to plan your TTC journey. Bear in mind that what you do to remain positive can change over time. You aren’t going to feel 100% all of the time, it is unreasonable to expect that of yourself. But it Is important to feel those bad times, acknowledge how hard all of this is but then pick yourself up and find that positivity again, not necessarily TTC related positivity but in life in general. I do think it is essential we learn to find joy in life. We’ve got a lot to be grateful here in the UK from the NHS to democracy, from the changing seasons to a decent cup of tea. We have freedom to make decisions and whilst life may not always pan out as we had hoped we can always find things to be positive about, I’m sure of it. I have really struggled to get my head around this since TTC. I’ve been to some dark places and wondered how I’d ever feel good again. But I’ve learnt this year that I have to. I have to find a way to make myself feel more positive, more hopeful about life or I am consigning myself to a miserable existence forever more and I’m not having that! Life is too precious and too short for me to accept that. It is easier than you think to find things to enjoy. While writing this I’m sat in a beautiful museum café, enjoying peace and quiet for an hour, writing (which I love) and scoffing a delicious piece of baklava cake. All of those things are there to be enjoyed. It might not mean a lot in the grand scheme of life’s ups and downs but right here, right now, there is goodness to celebrate.
I honestly believe that had it not been for the IG community I would have struggled to work towards this level of positivity. I’ve met people on Instagram who have offered me another perspective, an alternative to the depths of despair I seemed stuck in. I’ll tag them below. I am so grateful to them.
While President, Barack Obama was questioned on the progress of a reform he was implementing and he replied “it’s not perfect but it’s better.” This resonated with me – it’s ok for things not to be perfect, they probably never will, but it’s better, much better and that is ok with me. So while it’s not going to get us all pregnant it’s going to make us feel a whole lot better so let’s be more positive.
Superstar IGers to follow: