Alexithymia The Unheard of Medical Condition That Can Impact The Emotions We Feel

Such profound problems with emotion are sometimes associated with autism  (Derek Brahney for Mosaic)

One in 10 people struggle to recognize their emotions. New research suggests a vital link between our ability to sense our physical bodies and knowing how we feel. Stephen has been married twice. Two wedding days. Two “I do”s. Yet Stephen has no happy memories from either – or, in fact, from the marriages or any of his relationships.

He met his first wife on a pre-nursing course when he was just 16. Six years later, they were married. Three years after that, they got divorced; she was never really the right one for him, he says. Almost two decades on, in 2009, he met his second wife through a dating site. He threw himself into the relationship and, the following year, with his father and her two adult siblings present, they married at the registrar’s office in Sheffield, where they both live.

He put on smiles for the wedding photos because he recognized that they were expected but, as he explains: “From an inner feeling point of view, anything I do that requires an emotional response feels like a fake. “Most of my responses are learned responses. In an environment where everyone is being jolly and happy, it feels like I’m lying. Acting. Which I am. So it is a lie.”

Happiness isn’t the only emotion that Stephen struggles with. Excitement, shame, disgust, anticipation, even love… he doesn’t feel these, either. “I feel something but I’m unable to distinguish in any real way what that feeling is.” The only emotions he is familiar with are fear and anger. Such profound problems with emotion are sometimes associated with autism, which Stephen does not have, or with psychopathy, which he doesn’t have, either.

Last year, at the age of 51, he finally learned what he does have: a little-known condition called alexithymia, a word made from Greek parts meaning, roughly, “no words for emotion”. Despite the name, the real problem for people with alexithymia isn’t so much that they have no words for their emotions, but that they lack the emotions themselves. Still, not everyone with the condition has the same experiences. Some have gaps and distortions in the typical emotional repertoire.

Some realize they’re feeling an emotion, but don’t know which, while others confuse signs of certain emotions for something else – perhaps interpreting butterflies in the stomach as hunger pangs. Surprisingly, given how generally unrecognized it is, studies show that about one in 10 people fall on the alexithymia spectrum. New research is now revealing what’s going wrong – and this work holds the promise not only of novel treatments for disorders of emotion, but of revealing just how the rest of us feel anything at all.

After working as a nurse for 10 years, Stephen decided he wanted to do something different. A two-year Access to University course led to a degree in astronomy and physics, and then to a job testing computer games. He built a successful career for himself, working for various companies in their computer testing departments, managing teams, and travelling around the world to speak at conferences. He had no problem conveying facts to colleagues.

It was in the context of more personal relationships – or any other scenario that would typically involve expressions of emotion – that he felt things were “wrong”.

“At the beginning of a relationship, I’m totally into who that person is,” he explains. “I’ve been told I’m very good at maintaining a honeymoon period for ‘longer than expected’. But after a year it takes a massive turn. It all falls apart. I’ve put myself on a pedestal to be this person which I’m really not. I react mostly cognitively, rather than it being emotions making me react. Obviously, that is not valid. It’s not real. It seems fake. Because it is fake. And you can only pretend for so long.”

He and his current wife stopped living together in 2012. He saw a GP and was prescribed antidepressants. Though he was still in contact with his wife, it was clear that the relationship was no longer working. In June 2015, he attempted suicide. “I had actually been posting on Facebook and Twitter regarding killing myself and someone – I’ve never found out who – contacted the police. I was taken to hospital and treated.”

A psychiatrist referred Stephen for a series of counselling sessions and then a course of psychodynamic psychotherapy, a type of Freudian-based therapy that, in trying to uncover unconscious drivers of thoughts and behaviour, is similar to psychoanalysis. It was in a book called Why Love Matters by Sue Gerhardt, which his therapist recommended, that he first came across the concept of alexithymia.

“I brought it up in therapy, and that’s when we started talking about how I was very alexithymic. Obviously, I’ve got a vocabulary. I’ve got words for emotions. But whether they’re the right words for the right emotion is a different point altogether… I just thought that I wasn’t good at talking about how I feel and emotions and stuff like that. But after a year of therapy, it became apparent that when I talk about emotions I don’t actually know what I’m talking about.”

The term “alexithymic” dates from a book published in 1972 and has its origins in Freudian psychodynamic literature.Freudian ideas are now out of favour with most academic psychologists, as Geoff Bird, a professor of psychology at the University of Oxford explains. “Not to disrespect those traditions, but in the cognitive, neuro, experimental field, not so many people are really very interested in anything associated with Freud any more…..Read more….

By: Emma Young

Source: Alexithymia: The unheard-of medical condition that can impact the emotions we feel | The Independent | The Independent

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Related contents:

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How Parents Can Encourage Their Child’s Joy

One of the unexpected delights of being a parent is having a front row seat to seeing a child’s joy—whether it’s excitement at zoo, the experience of riding a train, or just getting a slushie on a summer day. “Most children have a huge capacity for joy,” said Maureen Healy, a child psychology expert and author of the book The Happiness Workbook For Kids.

“Some children are born with challenges that make it difficult for them to experience joy, because of the environment or biological reasons, but most children are joyful.” As a parent, one of the struggles is finding a way to help your children retain their capacity for joy even as the difficulties of life get in the way.

Supportive relationships are essential

To help maintain your child’s capacity for joy, one essential component is helping them develop supportive relationships. “You need to have someone you can talk to,” Healy said. “For an adult, a supportive relationship is, ‘who would you call at two in the morning?’ It’s the same thing as a kid: ‘Who can you talk to when you are feeling bullied?’

As Healy notes, children will often internalize the bad circumstances around them and think that it’s their own fault. “You need to have another supportive relationship,” Healy said, someone who can offer comfort and a different perspective, one which can help them recalibrate what is going on in their life.

Help your child lean into their strengths

Another component of helping your child retain their joy is helping them embrace their strengths and offer unconditional acceptance of their interests. “Developing their strengths is part of joy,” Healy said. “I’ve had parents who have said to me, ‘I have a guitar player, but I wanted a doctor.’ You want to do your best as an adult to unconditionally accept and encourage them.”

One way to do that is by letting your child participate in making decisions about what they want to do or how they spend their time, such as choosing their own extracurricular activities—even if those activities are unusual or unexpected. “Allow your child to be a voice in participating and finding their joy,” Healy said.

Set an example for getting through tough times

When the tough times hit, it’s important to set an example for your kids of what it looks like to get through them. As Healy suggests, it’s important to not always sugarcoat life’s challenges, but to be honest about the fact that sometimes life can be really hard and that there’s not always much that you can do about it other than persevere as best you can.

By: Rachel Fairbank

Source: How Parents Can Encourage Their Child’s Joy

Critics By Eric Barker

Happiness is a tremendous advantage in a world that emphasizes performance. On average, happy people are more successful than unhappy people at both work and love. They get better performance reviews, have more prestigious jobs, and earn higher salaries. They are more likely to get married, and once married, they are more satisfied with their marriage. So looking at the science, what really works when it comes to raising happy kids?

Step 1: Get Happy Yourself

The first step to happier kids is, ironically, a little bit selfish.Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and “negative outcomes” in their children, such as acting out and other behavior problems. Parental depression actually seems to cause behavioral problems in kids; it also makes our parenting less effective.And this is not merely due to genetics.

Step 2: Teach Them To Build Relationships

Nobody denies learning about relationships is important — but how many parents actually spend the time to teach kids how to relate to others?

(Just saying “Hey, knock it off” when kids don’t get along really doesn’t go far in building essential people skills.)

Step 3: Expect Effort, Not Perfection

Note to perfectionist helicopter parents and Tiger Moms: cool it. Relentlessly banging the achievement drum messes kids up. Why? Dweck explains: “When we praise children for the effort and hard work that leads to achievement, they want to keep engaging in that process. They are not diverted from the task of learning by a concern with how smart they might — or might not — look.”

Step 4: Teach Optimism

Want to avoid dealing with a surly teenager? Then teach those pre-teens to look on the bright side. Author Christine Carter puts it simply: “Optimism is so closely related to happiness that the two can practically be equated.”

She compares optimists to pessimists and finds optimists:

  1. Are more successful at school, work and athletics
  2. Are healthier and live longer
  3. End up more satisfied with their marriages
  4. Are less likely to deal with depression and anxiety

Step 5: Teach Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is a skill, not an inborn trait. Thinking kids will just “naturally” come to understand their own emotions (let alone those of others) doesn’t set them up for success. A simple first step here is to “Empathize, Label and Validate” when they’re struggling with anger or frustration.

Step 6: Form Happiness Habits

We’re on step 6 and it might seem like this is already a lot to remember for you — let alone for a child. We can overcome that with good habits. Thinking through these methods is taxing but acting habitually is easy, once habits have been established. How do you help kids build lasting happiness habits? Carter explains a few powerful methods backed by research:

  1. Stimulus removal: Get distractions and temptations out of the way.
  2. Make It Public: Establish goals to increase social support — and social pressure.
  3. One Goal At A Time: Too many goals overwhelms willpower, especially for kids. Solidify one habit before adding another.
  4. Keep At It: Don’t expect perfection immediately. It takes time. There will be relapses. That’s normal. Keep reinforcing.

Step 7: Teach Self-Discipline

Self-discipline in kids is more predictive of future success than intelligence — or most anything else, for that matter.

Yes, it’s that famous marshmallow test all over again. Kids who better resisted temptation went on to much better lives years later and were happier. What’s a good way to start teaching self-discipline? Help kids learn to distract themselves from temptation.

Step 8: More Playtime

We read a lot about mindfulness and meditation these days — and both are quite powerful. Getting kids to do them regularly however can be quite a challenge. What works almost as well? Playtime isn’t just goofing off. It’s essential to helping kids grow and learn.

Step 9: Rig Their Environment For Happiness

We don’t like to admit it, but we’re all very much influenced by our environment – often more than we realize. Your efforts will be constrained by time and effort, while context affects us (and children) constantly. What’s a simple way to better control a child’s surroundings and let your deliberate happiness efforts have maximum effect? Less TV.

Step 10: Eat Dinner Together

Sometimes all science does is validate those things our grandparents knew all along. Yes, family dinner matters. This simple tradition helps mold better kids and makes them happier too.

Parents of disabled children ‘still not happy‘ with care provided by Dudley Council Express & Star

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Psychologist: College students can help us improve children’s mental health care | Opinion NJ.com – The Jersey Journal

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How To Set Boundaries To Make Your Relationships Better

Your parents may have taught you that “no” is a complete sentence, but actually saying it — or setting a boundary in general — can be tricky. Sometimes, you feel uncomfortable setting the boundary; sometimes, the other person hates it and has a strong reaction. But the fact remains that in your romantic relationships, at work, in your family, and in friendships, you’re going to have to set some boundaries one way or another.

Boundaries are a way to value yourself, and they don’t have to be scary. Or at least, that’s what our guest today, Nedra Glover Tawwab, writes about in her new book, Set Boundaries, Find Peace. Nedra is a therapist, bestselling author, and relationship expert. We talk about what boundaries are, why they’re so important, and I get some strategies for setting and keeping boundaries even when other people in my life don’t seem to want me to.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. As always, there’s much more in the full podcast, so listen and follow Vox Conversations on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Julia Furlan

I want to start with a question that you use to open your book, which is basically, what even is a boundary?

Nedra Glover Tawwab

Boundaries are statements that make you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships. Sometimes it is behaviors that make you feel safe and comfortable. A woman asked me today on Instagram: “How can I set boundaries with my drinking socially?” So that is a behavior. How do you drink less socially?

Sometimes it can be my mother-in-law keeps popping up at my house and you may need to say something to your mother-in-law. So it works in both ways.

Before writing this book, and for many years, I thought of boundaries as saying no or cutting people off. I have learned that it’s a lot of gray areas. It’s all of these situations that we feel very uncomfortable about in our relationship, it is bigger than “no,” it is bigger than just cutting people off.

Boundaries preserve relationships. Cutting someone off is like the ultimate boundary, right? There are 1,000 other boundaries we can set before cutting people off.

Julia Furlan

Right. Sometimes people think that it’s, as we say in Portuguese, oito oitenta — all or nothing.

But, in fact, there is a lot of flexibility. There’s a lot of space that you can give both yourself and the other person when you’re putting in a boundary. One experience that I’ve had is that if the other person has fewer boundaries or doesn’t really live their life with a lot of boundaries in a particular area, there is resentment.

Nedra Glover Tawwab

Yeah, I think in general, we feel best when people do as we do. You don’t answer emails on vacation. It’s now problematic because it is different from what I choose to do. So it’s really important to acknowledge that boundaries are preferences. It’s not a rule. It’s not a fact. It is just what we choose to do.

I choose not to work after 7:00 pm. It is a preference for me because this is what makes me feel comfortable. There are tons of people who love working in the evenings. It makes them feel fulfilled. Keep doing it, if that’s what you like. I’m saying, I don’t like it. And it’s okay for me to think differently about this thing. And it doesn’t mean that I’m lazy because I’m not doing things like you. It doesn’t mean that I’m inefficient. It just means that my time is my time.

Julia Furlan

One thing that I want to go back to that you said is that boundaries are statements or behaviors that make you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships. I would love to know the range of some of those things. What’s a small one and what’s a big one that’s not cutting someone off completely?

Nedra Glover Tawwab

I think a small one is something we did at the beginning of this conversation: making sure we’re appropriately pronouncing each other’s names.

That’s a really small one that can get really annoying, right? If someone’s mispronouncing your name or mislabeling you, sometimes people might be using the wrong pronoun.

It’s never too late to set a boundary. I think we really program ourselves to think like, oh, it’s too late. The moment has passed. You’ve let this person do this thing for six months. You might as well let them do it forever. But now I am recognizing that this is an issue for me.

Julia Furlan

What are some of the larger boundaries that you have guided people on in your work?

Nedra Glover Tawwab

One significant thing that I’ve helped with a ton is helping clients become adults in their relationship with their parents. That is a really big one because it is a struggle to get people to accept that they want to spend holidays differently. They want to maybe not do that yearly family vacation anymore.

They may not want to talk to their parents every single day. There are so many different things that we continue to do just because we’ve been doing them, but they have always bothered us. Like, I don’t want to go over to uncle so-and-so’s house.

Family relationships have been a huge part of the boundaries work that I’ve done. With couples, it has been communicating what your needs are, communicating what you like and what you don’t like because if you are agreeing to spend even this moment, this week with a person, you need to be very clear about what is bothering you. We’re hoping that our partners sort of figure it out. We’re hoping that there is some signal that they receive, that we are secretly bothered by something, and they don’t typically get it.

It’s a lot of gray areas. It’s all of these situations that we feel very uncomfortable about in our relationship. It is bigger than “no,” it is bigger than just cutting people off.

We get our needs met by communicating them. And that can be really hard. There is this huge, huge, huge thing that I see all the time on social media. I saw a girl saying that when people really love you, you don’t have to tell them how to love you. It’s like, what fairy tale was this in?

Julia Furlan

One of the things that is really hard about boundaries is reckoning with your own feelings around saying it aloud or writing it down. It feels like just the communication of it itself can be its own huge thing.

Nedra Glover Tawwab

Yeah, by unpopular opinion, I do suggest getting it out whichever way you can, in person, by phone, via text or email. Whatever it is, because it is better out than in.

Julia Furlan

People don’t always respect your boundaries, even if you’re specific. Even if you’ve worked really hard to articulate it. There is sometimes a whole dynamic, where the person loves to get under your skin or enjoys the experience of making you upset or teasing you.

Nedra Glover Tawwab

Yeah. I think when people habitually disrespect our boundaries, we have to try something different. I’m thinking of a relationship with someone who could not keep a secret. A solution that you can manage is to not tell this person anything that’s secret because they’ve demonstrated that they cannot respect that boundary.

So how do we change the way we behave with people who demonstrate that they can’t respect your boundaries? There are times where people say, “You know, I know you told me that you didn’t wanna hear me talk about all the terrible things happening in my relationship anymore …” but that’s a wonderful time for you to jump in and say, “I will not listen.”

Julia Furlan

One thing that I want to recognize here, though, is that especially when you’re putting up a boundary with someone that you love and that you really care for, you’re changing the way that something’s going. You’re changing a dynamic. You’re trying to get out of a pattern. There is a grief that can come up, and I’ve felt this grief before where that boundaryless relationship was also a symbol of some special closeness, and you’re having to let go of some of that closeness. Can you speak to that a little bit?

Nedra Glover Tawwab

Is it that you’re letting go of the closeness because you have to let go of the relationship, or are you letting go of the idea that this person could respect the boundary?

So there’s a disappointment that you’re dealing with. You know, I think in being in relationships with other people, the unfortunate risk is being hurt and being disappointed by people. No matter how much people love us, in some way big or small they will disappoint us because it’s so unintentional.

Usually when a person isn’t respecting your boundaries, it’s because they can’t. It is really because they just can’t do this thing you’re asking, or at least I feel like they can’t.

You’re right. You do have to grieve the loss of who you thought that person could be for you and reconstruct what’s possible with the person that you actually have. Sometimes we will stay in those relationships. We’ll keep doing the same thing, place in the same boundary over and over. But it’s really on us to change the way in which we engage.

I often hear people say, ”My friend always calls me to complain. Every time we talk, they’re complaining.” And I think, every time you talk, are you picking up the phone every time to be complained to?

And I know that’s a really hard boundary to say, “Instead of talking to this person every day after work, I will talk to them on Tuesdays like that. That is what I can manage without being overwhelmed.”

And it is really hard to think about, oh my gosh, we used to talk every day, and here I am, intentionally stepping back because I’ve set this boundary over and over and this person refuses to listen to me.

Julia Furlan

Can you speak a little bit to the things that might open up? What do people gain by putting up this boundary?

Nedra Glover Tawwab

A relationship that’s less stressful, a relationship that seems less contentious, a relationship that you receive more joy from. Sometimes we get burnt out with people doing some of the things that we’ve asked them not to do. And then we start to complain and get upset and become anxious about having to engage with them. So stepping back could be the healthiest option.

Julia Furlan

Sometimes people in general, not specifically me at all, in no way is this about me, might be a little conflict-averse. They don’t want to have a big conversation. They get really scared. And then they bail. How often do you have to have boundary conversation about ghosting?

Nedra Glover Tawwab

Ghosting is an interesting topic because I don’t think people believe that they are the type of person who might be hard to communicate with. But there are some people, when you bring them a boundary, it becomes an abusive situation. Belittling may occur. They may become really defensive. It may just be a really unhealthy interaction.

And there are other situations of ghosting where it’s like, “I really can’t say this to the person. I hope that they just start to get the picture when I stop answering them because I don’t have the words. I don’t feel comfortable.” Ghosting is never an easy decision. It’s not the best solution, but it is a solution.

We can’t control how every relationship ends, and many of our relationships don’t work out.

The friends you had in elementary school, then middle school, then high school, then college or wherever you used to live, a lot of these things, they just sort of fizzle out. There’s this low level of non-harmful ghosting,

Julia Furlan

How do you talk to your followers who are conflict-averse? Are there any tips to pump yourself up before setting a boundary?

Nedra Glover Tawwab

I would say don’t pump yourself up. When we pump ourselves up, we deflate ourselves later because we think about all of the things that could go wrong. We get into this very spirally way of thinking. We think about very black-and-white outcomes. Practicing beforehand in the mirror and on paper, I think it can really work us up into an anxiety spiral that might not even be useful. The world is very flexible and we cannot add those black-and-white principles. And I think when you are averse to conflict, you are thinking of one outcome and it is very bad. You are thinking about one way of saying something.

It’s really healthy to think about the flexibility, that you can’t control how this person feels and you don’t know how they would feel about you. I would say in most cases, when we set boundaries and relationships, it actually goes well.

They’re not like, oh my gosh, you’re not my friend anymore. It’s not as big as we think. Keep it simple. If you can whittle your thoughts down to one simple sentence, I think it will be easier. Don’t think of it as “having a boundaries conversation” as much as it is just talking to someone and just letting them know.

Source: How to set boundaries to make your relationships better – Vox

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How To Look After Your Relationship When Experiencing Fertility Issues

Why us? A question familiar to the never-ending plaguing thoughts of those struggling with fertility.

Couples will always face – and defeat – an onslaught of battles together. 

When it comes to trying for a family, these will come with intense strains that can push even the most stable of relationships into choppy waters and uncertainty.

And yes, epic fights that make you want to knock on the wall and apologise to the neighbours. Sorry pals, we’re trying for a baby, it’s all cool.

Infertility is arguably biggest test of all when it comes to relationships.

With lives suddenly going from romantic getaways, thrilling sex and fun nights out together, to ovulation monitoring, bird food dieting, scheduled, clinical intercourse and two week waits, things change forever.

What you thought would be an exciting journey together can quickly become something that threatens to bring toxicity into a safe space, one that always felt equipped to face the world.

Tensions and disappointments can lead to arguments and blame. Microaggressions such as implying that the glass of wine they had last month might be a factor in why this month hasn’t been the month, can seep in.

Neglect of things that used to be fun, exciting and loving can breed resentment and sap joy from life. This is not what you expected on that whirlwind first year together.

You thought that when you decided you want a baby, it would be full of rom-com type adventures and excuse to have sex after sex after sex. What could go wrong? Look, it doesn’t have to be this way.

My husband and I are in the middle of a very difficult attempt to have a child. The months have ticked by; and those months became years. There have been times when the pen could pretty much have been hovering over the divorce papers.

The clashes have been monumental, and the emotions have been raw and heartbreaking. But I have learnt a lot, and there are things I wish we had taken into account.

We naively entered this thinking it could only strengthen our relationship. And it can. But making the baby is only half the work; everything that goes with it demands just as much input.

‘Fertility struggles can have a profound effect on a couple’s relationship, with many couples experiencing anxiety and depression throughout their fertility journey,’ Victoria Jeffries, an accredited psychotherapist who specialises in infertility counselling, tells Metro.co.uk.

‘Quite often, the shock of the inability to conceive a child as quickly and easily as expected gradually leads to feelings of guilt and sometimes even shame.

‘In my therapy practice, I have noticed that those struggling to conceive are often left experiencing an identity crisis; if I can’t be a parent, who will I be? Along with concerns for years to come; what does the future hold for me without children?’

It will be tough, and there will be days where you just want to punch your partner in the throat, but your relationship isn’t doomed because you have fertility struggles.

Nothing is. So how can you have a better fighting chance of sticking this out (and in) together, through thick and thin?

Knowing the facts together

It’s no secret that our basic high school sex education class did not prepare us for this.

In fact, it actively sought to prevent a baby: ‘Look at a boy and you will have ten babies and your life will be ruined, heathen.’

So, it’s no wonder the expanse of naivety when it comes to producing children, is wide. Like it or lump it, it goes without saying that women will know more about what is happening in their bodies, and some of what is needed, than their male counterparts.

This is where being on the same page matters. You can’t communicate or make plans if you don’t both know the score. There are many things I have learnt, both mentally and biologically; and the same for my husband.

So, get this out of the way. You will need to learn together, you will need to accept that explaining stuff to one another is not patronising, and you will need to suspend any embarrassment if you don’t know basic things.

If you’re going to be at it for every waking moment during a fertile window, checking discharges and depositing samples, there is no time for embarrassment.

It is absolutely imperative that you start this on equal footing and don’t judge one another for not knowing stuff; for a circle of life species that is, at its bare roots, supposedly designed for procreation, it isn’t half complicated to have a baby.

Researching and learning together is a valuable bonding exercise – and also leaves you prepared for the journey ahead.

Support

Ask anyone who is trying to conceive and they’ll tell you: this is not easy. All of those people who routinely quote stats that moving house is the most stressful thing a couple can go through together have clearly never heard of the two-week wait.

There is so much that goes into this; physically and emotionally. And as a couple, we need to be there for one another.

To that end, Victoria can’t emphasise enough the importance of mutual support as couples ride through what are understandably choppy waters.

‘It is important to remember it is perfectly normal to feel stressed, anxious and drained while going through this journey,’ she says.

‘These are valid feelings and are to be expected; it is an incredibly trying process after all.

‘This is why it is critical that you both show compassion to yourselves and each other, and allow yourself to feel what you feel.’

We all deal with disappointment differently. Understand what helps your partner and tell your partner what helps you.

If you are both coming from different places, but neither of you know what that place is, then you are going to fall out. You will be confused over why your partner is acting the way they are and, until they explain where they are at, it will just leave you bewildered and often angry that they aren’t approaching this like you are.

Scheduling regular times to just sit down and reflect, talk about things and get things off your chest – even if it involves a bicker – helps to break things down. When you ‘get’ someone, you validate their feelings, whether they are positive or negative.

And when someone feels validated, they can trust that they can open up again. With all relationships, this is important for survival. This is even more the case when you are on such an intense and emotion filled journey like this.

Humour

My husband and I laugh a lot; him being funny was the first and main attraction I felt. We have a shared dark humour and I swear, this is why we are still standing.

If you approach this with nothing but severity, it’s going to be a long journey packed with fights and resentment. Making a baby is an absolutely ridiculous and often slapstick (slapdick?) process.

I am not saying that you are going to be making quips when your period comes again, or slapping your thigh with laughter when some dodgy tests come back.

But in among it all, you have to laugh before you cry. You will do both, but the former is so vitally important for couples.

Budget

If you are in a relationship and you claim that you never argue about money, then you are a bare-faced liar.

Cashflow is the Achilles heel of so many couples. We have so much to thank the NHS for and, many tests and treatments, including some rounds of IVF, are covered.

But your outgoings when trying for a baby will increase. Annoyingly, eating healthily and nutritionally is more expensive than chicken nuggets and chips. Supplements are not cheap. You need to take things into account.

Before the money stress gets you, get ahead of the game. Modify the monthly budget together to take everything into account so there are no shocks.

If you are someone who didn’t budget before (aka me), then start now. No-one wants those Omega 3 capsules to drive a wedge between you before you even get to the nitty-gritty.

Prepare

There are so many outcomes and stages and together, you need to be as prepared as you can. 

A positive outlook is so important, but you also have to be realistic about the fact that during this, there will be days when you just want the ground to swallow you up.

There will be setbacks and you need to discuss how you will approach them if they come.

This is when you can identify what is going to hit one another the hardest and how you can then support each other.

If you feel your other half in this journey does not have your back in these moments, this is when things can get seriously sour.

Self-care and rewards

It’s going to challenge your mental health more than you think it will. So, things need to be broken up so your whole life as a couple isn’t just conceive, conceive, conceive.

Ensure you take time to just be together, even if nights out, special meals or weekends away are scheduled far in advance.

Make sure you still invest in your hobbies, together and apart. You still need to have conversations that don’t involve the words ‘ovulating’ and ‘well it says on Mumsnet…’.

Don’t beat yourselves or each other up if there is a day or two when you slip from the fertility diet and have a takeaway or a beer.

Count some blessings, but in a certain way. I hate nothing more than someone telling me ‘well at least you have each other’ or ‘it could be worse’, so any blessings are between yourselves, and not with the idea that you should want or deserve a baby less because you have nice things in life.

Nevertheless, it’s still important to enjoy what you have.

Reward yourselves and each other as you go. Acknowledge how hard this is and how many life changes you have adopted. This is hard work, so make sure you tell each other how proud you are.

Romantic gestures, little gifts or cards and most importantly, hugs and ‘I love you’s are imperative tools to keep you going.

Take a break

Have sex that is not just conceiving sex. When that window isn’t open, it doesn’t mean your legs can’t be. It’s amazing how many couples forget that sex has other upsides.

‘Trying for a baby’ sex is vastly different to ‘let’s have sex’ sex. You need to keep the spark alive and enjoy each other sometimes without the pressures that come with having those all important ovulation sessions.

And take a break from it all now and again. It’s exhausting, individually and as a couple. There is no shame in taking a month off and just recuperating and existing, remembering what a human life is outside of this. Taking a break is not failure, it’s a positive move to reflect and get ready to go again. It’s the most important holiday that you will ever have as a couple.

Everyone needs time off from work sometimes. This is work. Take that month’s leave and take it together. Like you wouldn’t check your emails, don’t check your ovulation strips or obsess over your discharge. One month won’t change anything.

Most importantly, even if you have to write it down, remember that the whole reason you want a baby together is that you love each other, and you want to expand your family to share that powerful feeling with someone you will both love unconditionally, together.

If you are torn apart, the whole motive for what has divided you is lost. It’s the easiest thing to forget but the most important thing to remember – as clinical, bizarre and tense as this fertility mission can be, it is first and foremost a process of deep love.

By:

Source: How to look after your relationship when experiencing fertility issues | Metro News

Related contents:

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An Ancient Technique Can Improve Your Attention Span

Does this sound familiar? You can’t focus. You’re bored one minute, overwhelmed the next, and stressed either way. You make mistakes you shouldn’t and then dwell on them for hours. When you try to be productive, you can’t go five minutes without checking your texts, dreading some future engagement, or walking into another room to check on … something. (What was it again?)

Neuroscientist Amishi Jha opens her book, Peak Mind, with this vignette to illustrate an important truth: You’re not alone. Most people can’t go three minutes at work without being interrupted by a chatty colleague, and students cite the allure of social media and other digital distractions as a major disruptor to their studies.

“I’ve seen certain universal patterns in the way all of our brains function — both how powerfully they can focus, and how extraordinarily vulnerable they are to distraction — no matter who you are or what you do,” Jha writes.

At the heart of this predicament, Jha argues, is attention — specifically, the many ways we can disconnect from it. Depleted attention creates a mental fog. Hijacked attention manifests as anxiety and worry. Fragmented attention shatters our ability to focus. Disconnected attention keeps us detached from others. Each attentional affliction causes you to grow out of sync with what’s happening around you, affecting what you think, how you feel, what you learn, how you react, and your relationships with others.

In short, attention isn’t just a matter of where your focus happens to be. It’s the internal force that shapes how you encounter and experience your life in its entirety.

Attention: A cognitive currency

In her book, Jha compares attention to a currency. You can pay it to others, and they can give theirs to you. You can request it in the spirit of charity — “Will you give me your attention, please?” And as any parent whose child is within earshot of an ice cream truck can attest, attention can be stolen outright.

This connection is more than metaphorical. Attention is a scarce economic resource; you only have so much to give in your lifetime. When you focus on a person, tweet, daydream, or TV show, you are spending a moment of attention. You can never get it back, and you can’t provide it elsewhere. The same is true for any $10 bill that’s left your wallet.

But like that ten-spot, attention is also a means of exchange. In exchange for yours, you may receive love, knowledge, entertainment, self-understanding, and much more. “Given how powerful attention is, we need to really respect where we place this precious brain resource,” Jha said in an interview.

Evolutionary life insurance

This cognitive currency is traded through your brain’s attention system. This system filters out unnecessary noises, sights, and sounds from the environment alongside distracting thoughts and mental chatter. Without it, you couldn’t focus at all. Your conscious mind would stall from the vast amounts of information bombarding it — like a computer with overloaded RAM.

This attention system isn’t foolproof, though. It becomes easily distracted when it encounters novel, exciting, threatening, or self-related information in the environment. And this backdoor hack isn’t a flaw; it’s a feature of evolutionary design.

For example, imagine you’re an ancient human who is spearfishing in an African river. You’re focused intently on the glittering water, trying to aim your thrust to account for the bending light. Suddenly, your eye catches something in its periphery. It’s long, brown, and moving half-submerged through the water.

Your attention system will break its focus and snap toward that potential threat. If it’s a log, you’ve paid a pittance of attention and can return to fishing. But if it’s a Nile crocodile, then your attentional insurance paid out big. Distraction just saved your life.

Living in the Attentional Red

While distraction has its uses, today it’s an ever-present quality of our lives, wrenching us from our attention when we need it most. That’s because, Jha writes, while attention is powerful, it’s also fragile. It can be easily broken by stress, threats, and negative moods. And the prevalence of these forces is causing our crisis of attention.

Don’t get the wrong idea. Much like distraction, these three forces can be advantageous. Stress has a positive side called eustress. It’s the low-to-medium levels of stress that motivate you to accomplish something. Without it, you’d have no drive, and every day would be a listless lull in the doldrums.

Similarly, a negative mood can signal that something is wrong. That unease can propel you to solve the problem and lift the emotional pall.

But the modern world has hyper-charged these forces beyond the tipping point of usefulness. Stress has become distress, negative moods have become chronic melancholy, and threats are overrepresented. There are many reasons for this hyper-charging, but a prominent one is the attention economy.

Technology companies, news media, and political players now recognize attention as the resource it is and, in some ways, regard it as more valuable than money. “[M]oney follows attention, whereas the reverse is not necessarily true. As our economy becomes more dependent on attention, the medium of exchange flows from the holders of the old to the holders of the new,” writes the Berkeley Economic Review.

Given attention’s value, it’s little wonder enterprises have built products and services to target the attentional back doors left open by evolution. 

News organizations, for example, favor headlines that drip with threat and tragedy — the so-called “if it bleeds, it leads” standard. That’s because we’re hardwired to assess threats and determine what can be done. Essentially, we need to find out if the story represents a log or a crocodile. The more people compelled to perform that assessment, the more newspapers sold.

These threats don’t have to be physical. As Jha writes, “Our reputation, financial well-being, or sense of justice can all be under threat.”

People used to pay some of their daily attention to the news, either a morning read of the paper or an hour watching the evening broadcast. But in the era of 24/7 news coverage — the era of the attention economy — we’re paying that attentional cost throughout the day. Over time, it becomes a sizable withdraw of our mental energy, yet we continue to check our news feeds for threats even when we should be focused on something else.

Train your attention

Is the answer then to wall yourself off from stressors, disconnect from social media, and choose not to engage with news coverage? “My answer is a resounding no,” Jha writes. “Many stressors are unavoidable, while others are part of our journey to fulfillment and success — if we remove them, we would be limiting ourselves.”

While attention is both powerful and fragile, it has a third feature: It’s trainable through mindfulness. Just as exercise trains the body, mindfulness trains the mind by strengthening your meta-awareness — that is, your ability to be aware of where you’re placing your awareness.

The stronger your meta-awareness becomes, the more control you have over your attention system. That control then helps you keep your attention on the present moment, enriching how you encounter and experience your life.

Through her research, Jha discovered what she calls the “minimum effective dose” of mindfulness. Her team found that lab participants who practiced mindfulness for 12 minutes or more a day saw benefits in objective measures of attention and mood. Those who practiced for less did not.

In Peak Mind, Jha lays out a four-week regimen to help readers build their mindfulness habits. But in her interview, Jha shared an exercise you can do right now to exercise your attentional system. Simply follow these steps:

  1. Start by settling into your body.
  2. Notice yourself sitting and breathing.
  3. If you feel comfortable, close your eyes.
  4. Ask: What’s most vividly tied to my breath? Is it the coolness of air moving in and out of my nostrils? Or are my shoulders moving up and down?
  5. Direct your focus on this sensation.
  6. If you notice your attention has wandered, redirect it back to your breath.

On the page, the exercise seems painfully easy. Maybe even a little boring. But you’ll likely find your mind often drifts away from the sensation of your breathing. You’ll become lost in reliving a childhood memory, worrying over an unfinished project, or delighting in a favorite fantasy. Whatever the case, it’s not a failure on your part. Redirecting your focus back to the breath is the whole point. That’s the key to strengthening your attention span.

“Minds wander. It’s a natural thing that the brain does. When our mind moves away, gently return it back. Simply begin again,” Jha reminds you.

By: Kevin Dickinson

Source: The evolutionary reason you can’t pay attention

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