Breathing in the Now: Creating an Eye in the Storm by Helen Adrienne, MSW, ACSW

Breathing in the Now:
Creating an Eye in the Storm
by Helen Adrienne, M.S.W., A.C.S.W.

Infertility is an emotional hurricane. And hurricanes wreak havoc. While it is not irrational to think and behave as if the only choice is to ride out the storm, it is not the only choice.

The eye of any storm is where the calm is. If an infertility patient does not actively pursue calmness, it is not likely to happen. So, what choices for calmness are there? How does one create an eye? Strange as it may sound, creating an eye, necessitates creating an “I.” The logistics of infertility are so demanding, that patients often loose their “I-ness” in the rush to get to the clinic at the crack of dawn, take injections …… I don’t think it’s necessary to make a list for you; you all know what is entailed.

Creating an “I” can be defined simply as making time for self-care. I am not talking about getting a massage or a manicure, meeting a good friend for dinner, “dating” your husband, or even taking a yoga class, although all of these are important, recommended and intelligent. Self-care here means making the time to turn your attention inward and honor the way in which being tuned in to yourself can really matter. It means honoring the power of the mind/body connection.

I have seen the magnificence of this work with infertilty patients over and over again. I see it in a group setting when I do mind/body support groups for infertility patients. Learning to elicit and doing the relaxation response in a group setting is both synergistic and profound. I teach the relaxation response, as well as guided imagery and hypnosis on an individual basis, too, and the results are no less stunning.

“Breathing in the now” is a double entendre. Yes, it is about breathing, sometimes learning to breathe again in a free and rich way. But it is also about being in the present moment, taking in your “I-ness.”

Whether it is by way of the relaxation response, guided imagery or hypnosis (which are all cousins to one another and all of which I teach), being present with yourself serves as an antidote to the enormous stress of infertility. In fact, it creates an eye in the storm, and reverses the physiology of stress.

How do these techniques work? When you can be encouraged to enter a state of relaxation, and when you can utilize the creative power of your own imagination, you are engaging the limbic system of your brain. The limbic system, or the mid-brain, is the part of the brain that we use when we dream, the part of our brain that is the seat of our creativity, and the part of the brain that is said to be the place where the unconscious mind is “located.” For one thing, the limbic system of the brain doesn’t know that we are not where we imagine ourselves to be.

Therefore, with guidance, imagining ourselves at a beach, smelling the salt air, feeling the warmth of the sun, hearing the waves lap up to the shore, can result in an alteration of physiology. For another thing, in a state of relaxation, we can tune in to the “secrets” of our unconscious mind; we can get to know ourselves better. This, too, is a form of self-care.

To breathe in the now, to create both an eye in the storm and an I in the storm, is to purposefully utilize the mind/body connection to great advantage. And one never knows what impact this will have on the medical process of assisted reproductive technology.

Editor’s Note: Helen Adrienne, M.S.W., A.C.S.W., is in private practice specializing in the mind/body connection and infertility therapy in the New York City area.

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