What holistic therapies can help my mental health?

By Kate Boundy

With stress being the number one cause of a whole range of illnesses, mental health is currently at the forefront of everyone’s minds and even more so within the fertility community

When undergoing fertility treatment, it is of paramount importance that your mental health is also taken care of. Here, we look at five holistic therapies that can help your mental health…

Reflexology

This ancient therapy is based on the theory that there are reflex points on the hands, feet and head that then link to every part of the body. As a treatment it induces a state of deep relaxation and alleviates ailments in the body through the massaging of specific reflex points. There is also fertility reflexology, specific to those trying to conceive, or undergoing fertility treatment, to get the body prepared for making a baby and for pregnancy. This therapy can also offer huge relief from the symptoms and side effects that IVF can cause, thus helping to balance your wellbeing and calm down any stress that may occur.

Susan Quayle, a complementary therapist specialising in fertility, maternity and children’s reflexology states that: “Stress is a major factor in all fertility treatments and one of the main benefits of reflexology is relaxation and de-stressing. Reflexology promotes homoeostasis, the natural state the body wants to revert to all the time. It has a profound effect on reducing cortisol and supporting the parasympathetic nervous system to switch on, more commonly known as the rest and digest system. This is extremely beneficial to couples as this journey can be hard and long.”

Reflexology therefore promotes not only a positive outcome for fertility treatment but also good mental health overall, putting your body back in balance.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture forms part of traditional Chinese medicine and has existed for thousands of years. It is based on the theory that health problems can occur when energy, (QI pronounced chee), becomes blocked within the body. It involves fine needles being inserted into different parts of the body called acupuncture points, to help restore the body’s natural energy flow. It is also known to offer some people relief from the symptoms of depression and anxiety as well as chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.

The Federation of Holistic Therapists, which is the UK’s leading and largest professional association for complementary therapists, states: “Like many complementary therapies, acupuncture takes a holistic, ‘whole person’ approach to health and wellbeing, helping to restore balance to the body, mind and spirit. In terms of mental health, a number of studies have shown that it can have a positive effect on the nervous system and improve symptoms associated with anxiety and depression.”

As a relief from the stress and side effects of IVF, acupuncture is a hugely positive therapy, as it increases blood flow, balances hormones and helps to calm and destress. Among many other things, it can have a beneficial effect on someone’s overall health thus improving and maintaining your wellbeing in the long term.

Aromatherapy

This relaxing therapy uses a wide variety of plant-based essential oils to promote wellbeing and healing. Certain oils can help promote sleep, reduce pain and improve low mood. They can be enjoyed through massage or added to a diffuser to release their beautiful aromas allowing them to be absorbed by the body. Aromatherapy can help a wide variety of ailments as well helping to alleviate the side effects of stress.

The Federation of Holistic Therapists states that lavender is one of the most studied essential oils in terms of its relaxing effect.

It says: “Lavender has been shown to calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, heart rate and skin temperature, as well as change brain waves to a more relaxed state. Neroli, often referred to as the ‘rescue remedy’ of essential oils, is also a valuable oil for helping to ease anxiety and stress, along with bergamot, which is traditionally used in Italian folk medicine to relieve tension and anxiety. All of these oils can also help promote a good night’s sleep, which is hugely important to our overall health and wellbeing.”

**Aromatherapy oils should always be treated with respect and only used alongside the advice and guidance of a trained aromatherapist.

Yoga

Yoga is a practise involving breath control, meditation and calming body poses, that aim to encourage a deep sense of relaxation. Yoga can induce a feeling of peace, helping to improve sleep and overall well being, especially when practised over a longer-term period. There are multiple types of yoga that you can choose to follow, although perhaps one of the best for calming the mind and resetting the body would be Yoga Nidra.

According to Cynthia Neal Herzog’s article, ‘The Emotional Benefits Of Yoga Nidra’, published on vistaeap.com: “Yoga Nidra is a specific set of breath, body, mindful and relaxation practices that induces alpha wave dominance in the brain.  Alpha waves occur when one is closest to sleep yet not asleep.

“Yoga Nidra trains the brain to deeply relax the body and release emotional, mental and physical tensions.”

By allowing the brain to be calm there can only be a positive impact from practising yoga on your mental health.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness teaches those that practise it, to focus their attention and thoughts on the present moment, noticing their thoughts and what their body is telling them rather than rushing from place to place. It is about taking life at a slower pace, stopping to take time to appreciate the detail in everyday things, reconnecting with our bodies and what they are going through on a daily basis.

According to mind.org.uk, mindfulness can help you bring your attention to the present, this happens by focusing particularly on your body and your breathing.

There are many mindfulness exercises that you can follow which can be found at www.mind.org.uk

Note: If looking for a complementary therapist, it’s important to find someone who is appropriately qualified, insured and accountable. For further guidance, please visit  www.fht.org.uk/looking-for-a-therapist

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