Infertility is a medical condition that can touch every aspect of your life; this means from the relationship you have with yourself, to family members, to even pregnant women on the street. The struggle with fertility is in many ways a journey. Perhaps the fertility journey is one that you didn’t necessarily choose to be on, but nevertheless it is one in which you eventually gain a greater insight, a deeper intuition, and an evolved self-awareness, regardless of how difficult it is.
Research has shown that the psychological stress experienced by women with fertility issue is similar to that of women coping with other chronic conditions such as cancer. If you’re having a hard time coping with fertility, you are not alone. There are women all over the world experiencing this same issue even if that fact does not help you. Fertility can be extremely stressful as it creates a great deal of uncertainty and an emotional charge which often gets exacerbated by medical interventions. Like some other more visible conditions, you can’t see fertility. Because it’s such a private matter, it is often kept a secret.
As overwhelming as your fertility journey may seem at times, it is important to know that it won’t last forever.
It is important to know that the fertility process is not anyone’s fault. Many individuals going through the experience blame themselves for their fertility issues. They either blame it on things they’ve done in their past or the stress they are experiencing today. In my counselling practice, I often hear women say “My stress level is impacting my ability to get pregnant.” or “I work too hard at my job and this is my punishment.” Perhaps the self-blame is a natural knee jerk mechanism that seems to restore a sense of control or peace of mind to a situation that is very much out of our control. However, this is a false sense of control that is maladaptive and unhelpful. It makes individuals feel responsible for what is happening to them. This is not your fault. Just like other medical diagnosis; you did not cause this.
As overwhelming as your fertility journey may seem at times, it is important to know that it won’t last forever. While you are in the middle of the journey, perspective is a hard one to grasp. There are specific things you can do to reduce your stress levels and take action towards feeling better. By simply honing in on the things in your control, you will feel more empowered and in balance, prepared for whatever is to come. Here are five free ways to reduce your stress throughout your fertility treatments and fertility journey as a whole.
Scroll Mindfully, Social Media Can Cause Unnecessary Stress
The struggle with fertility creates an unwavering mobilization to “fix the problem.” Part of this fixing and figuring out becomes a whole exploration on its own. You may feel a constant desire to research information related to your diagnosis or see what others have done to bring success. Everybody’s journey is different. Some of the information we come across through the internet may not be applicable to your situation and can even trigger your own grief.
Mindlessly scrolling through social media can make you feel like the grass is greener on the other side. Perfectly curated Instagram feeds filled with pregnant women, baby showers, babies and families are not going to make you feel better. The truth is, you don’t know what those many women and families went through to get to where they are. They could have undergone multiple fertility treatments, rounds of IVF and IUI or even pregnancy loss. We must pay attention to what we fill our minds with since what we absorb from the media may affect us harmfully. Thankfully, many of these media sites have functions that allow us to control what we want to see. If there is information you want to know ask your fertility doctor. Stay off Dr. Google.
Harness Trust Instead of Stress
To harness trust means to believe in your own capabilities to get through this. Trust begins with yourself and then can extend to your treatment team and fertility clinic. Once you acknowledge and deal with the things you can control, you can use trust to address that which is out of your control. Positioning ourselves from a place of trust is far less stressful than constantly doubting.
Letting go, surrender and trust are words I use frequently in my counselling practice and support groups. When we can zoom out just a little bit, we create room for a bigger picture to emerge. This rarely happens when we are clenched so tight with all our might mentally and physically. Trust the journey, trust the process, but most importantly trust yourself.
Connect With Others Throughout Your Fertility Journey
Connecting with others who have either gone through fertility issues or are currently struggling with it can be helpful. Although everyone’s fertility journey is different, but there are common emotions such as sadness, failure, jealousy or grief. To have a safe space to connect with others similar to you can help provide support, perspective and insight. Some fertility clinics have mental health support groups for their patients.
According to deep breathing expert Dan Brule, “The breath is the link between the mind and body.” The moment we consciously focus on our breath, we naturally let go of busy thoughts. The breath can be used as an anchor during stressful times. Deep conscious breaths calm the body and refocus the mind. Through the breath we can elicit our bodies natural relaxation response. Breathe in trust, breathe out worry.
Be Here Now
Mindfulness can be defined as a moment to moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings and anything that is happening in the moment. A large aspect of mindfulness involves an acceptance to what is happening in the moment. Whether it is a thought or experience, bringing acceptance can actually change the way we feel.
Mindfulness also helps with emotional regulation. Instead of worrying about the results of a particular procedure, mindfulness allows us to acknowledge the concern and label it “worry” or “anxiety”; then hopefully we can shift our awareness to a more useful, present and productive state. As we shift into a mindful state, our physical bodies relax and open up.
There is no way to overcome or abolish fertility stress. It’s enmeshed into the experience. We can let it define us, question our capabilities and self- blame, or we can look at the upside and let it transform us into a better version of ourselves.