By Rae Mok
To many newly weds, starting a family seem to go along this route: Getting married – enjoying live as honeymooners for one to two years – have two children, two to three years apart – start repaying “debts” (the agony you’ve caused your parents will be returned two-fold!) and reap the joys.
However, when things don’t go as planned, you can’t help but feel the anxiety. Baby making seems easy for some couples, but for those who are still waiting for that positive sign on the dip stick, it can be truly agonising. Apart from medical problems, stress could be a key factor that derails your baby making plan.
We can’t totally avoid stress as it is part and parcel of life. But if stress is hindering your effort in starting a family, it is worthwhile to examine and address the factors behind your stress.
Ms Joyce Tham (JT), a certified Hypnotherapist/Counsellor/Life Coach shares her experience and strategies in dealing with stress.
What are the most common stress factors that you see in your clients?
JT – I would like to divide the stress factors into two groups – The External Stressors and the Internal Stressors.
1. Common External Stressors
- Work/Family Issues
- Major Changes (marriage, moving house, changing jobs)
- Financial Problems
- Bad time management
2. Common Internal Stressors
- Unrealistic expectations
- Inability to accept uncertainty in life
- Low self-worth
Between these two groups, the internal stressors are more challenging unlike external stressors. With external stressors, you can simply remove yourself from the situation or get someone to step in to mediate, whereas with internal stressors, you are fighting a battle within yourself. It is advisable to seek help from professionals if you feel that you cannot manage these stressors, before they overwhelm you.
Can you suggest some effective ways to relieve stress besides the often-used retail therapy?
JT – Retail therapy might be effective to some people, but at the end of the day, “financial stress” comes on, so it’s a new problem. For those who use it to relieve stress, I would suggest you tailor your “therapy” according to your financial capabilities.
There are many other ways to relieve stress. First and foremost you have to acknowledge that there's always a certain amount of stress in our lives. Stress at a healthy level serves as a protector and motivator. For example, some of us who have certain amount of stress management knowledge will refrain from making any decision – big or small – knowing that the mind usually will not be at its peak. Thus the stress that we feel protects us from making mistakes that may be grave. Stress grows and its source could be a motivator. For example, stress encourages you to give of your best for a certain task.
Yoga and meditation are common methods of relieving stress as they interrupt the mind's focus on a stressful issue, and thus reducing the snowballing effects of stressful events. These methods, not necessary associated with spiritual or religious practices, train the mind to focus on relaxing your body.
A very simple meditation exercise you can practise easily daily is to focus on long, deep breathing for five minutes before you sleep. This exercise helps to clear the mind and improve sleep quality, thus increasing your ability to handle challenges the next day. Taking two to three minutes in between work to close your eyes and focus solely on breathing deeply also helps you to de-stress.
Of course the exercises above only temporarily alleviate stress. However, it helps to calm you down and clear your mind so that you can better address the root cause of the stressors.
For external stressors, you can always seek help from family and friends. Do not try to handle the situation alone thinking that you are doing everyone a favour. There is only that much a person can handle and if you allow it to get out of hand, you will begin to develop your internal stressors and your loved ones will have more to handle than if you had shared with them earlier.
For internal stressors, many self-help books teach you to consciously speak and think positively. Some suggest that acting positively affects the way you think. All these are great suggestions but when you are having internal stressors, you are also more vulnerable to what others say or do. Unfortunately, we cannot control nor predict the kind of interaction we may have with others, or whether it will dampen our conscious efforts. Therefore, the most effective and efficient way is to get professionals who know the makings of the mind and body to help you with your conscious efforts.
Have you come across cases where couples might be having problems starting a family partly due to stress?
JT - So far there's no research that indicates stress contributes to infertility. However, external factors affecting baby-making could be brought about by excessive and unmanaged stress. These factors could be:
- Decrease in sex drive
- Increase in smoking
- Development of unhealthy eating habits
- Increase in alcohol intake
- Increase in irritability thus souring relationships - this is probably the most common problem raised by my clients who would like to have children.
The eagerness to have a child could also increase the tension between spouses so much so that they become distant and even get into a blaming match with each other. Those who do so openly probably could easily recognise and resolve their tension. The problem lies with spouses who keep things to themselves rather than discuss the issues with each other. The relationship might then sour to the point that baby making becomes history.
I conduct counselling sessions for couples and see them individually for Hypnotherapy on a need basis. Hypnotherapy allows them to release negative emotions caused by previous unhappy experiences. At the end of the day, baby making out of anxiety can never beat making a baby out of love.
Do you have any advice for someone who is unable to manage his/her stress?
JT - Should you identify negative stress-related symptoms, do not delay seeking help from people around you or from professionals. It is always beneficial to share your issues and feelings with others, as well as learn from the advice and experiences of others. There are talks and workshops available to help manage stress. Getting help does not mean you are weak or sick; it means you are still in control of your life. Many of our clients have benefited from meditation sessions to learn how to relax their body through their mind. Clients who are facing greater challenges in their lives and require one-to-one sessions come to us for counselling, life coaching and hypnotherapy sessions.
Don’t let stress consume you. If you are planning for a baby and you think the stress in your life is delaying the sound of pattering feet in your home, you’ve got to snuff it out!
Information courtesy of:
Ms Joyce Tham
Hypnotherapist | Counselor | Life Coach
HypnoSpa & Therapy