Posted by Nicole on October 14
When you are trying to conceive, you will find yourself put through the wringer of emotions. Some days, you may feel hopeful. On others, you may feel like throwing in the towel.
Such a journey can take a serious toll on your mental health—but there is a lot you can do to keep your spirits up and work through difficult emotions proactively and constructively. Following are some tips and tricks that may help you stay positive.
1. Feel your feelings
We are encouraged by modern society to disown “negative” emotions and to distance ourselves from them or repress them. We are taught that being “positive” means never feeling sad, angry, depressed, etc.
But unpleasant emotions do not just go away because we tell ourselves they are not there. All that bottled up stress just builds and builds.
Resolve suggests, “Don’t try to shut off your feelings. If you need to cry about the unfairness of one more pregnancy announcement, go ahead. If you need to pound a pillow or pummel a punching bag, do it. When you try to ‘snap out of it,’ you waste all your energy.”
2. Try and accept that you cannot control everything.
So much of the frustration we experience with infertility is the result of unmet expectations. Sometimes, those expectations are not realistic.
If you keep trying to control things that you cannot possibly control, you are going to drive yourself crazy. You also may judge yourself far too harshly when you do not get the outcomes you want.
Shady Grove Fertility writes, “Part of managing stress is understanding what you have control over and what you don’t. You may have control over what job assignments you take on at work, but don’t have control over what happens during a treatment cycle. You do have control over the way you manage a cycle (taking shots, being monitored, etc.) but don’t have control over how many follicles you produce or even becoming pregnant. Recognizing the difference helps.”
3. Do not try and control your partner’s emotions.
Infertility can be an isolating experience. One common reason for that is that we feel like our partner “should” feel the same way we do. But everyone processes stress differently. And when one partner tries to force the other to behave a certain way, the wedge of isolation just grows.
Resolve says, “If you’re a wife, don’t waste energy trying to get your husband to feel as devastated as you do. If you’re a husband, don’t try to get your wife to be ‘more like a man,’ forgetting about infertility except when she’s at the doctor’s office or in the bedroom
While the suggestions above are based on typical gender socializations, keep in mind that any gender of partner could engage in either example of the thinking above. Work on regulating your own emotions, not your partner’s. That is their job.
4. Talk it out.
Putting words to our emotions and experiences can help us build perspective. Sometimes, it can make our problems feel more finite. It can also help to relieve some of our stress, soothing our anxieties.
So, consider talking about your fertility journey. If your partner is not emotionally available, try talking to a family member or friend, or even joining a message board online. You can also keep a journal. Even just talking to yourself about your experiences can be helpful.
5. Do not make it personal.
This advice may sound counterintuitive. How could infertility not be personal? But if you start making it about who you are as a person, you are only going to lose perspective and harm your mental health.
Infertility is nobody’s fault. You are not “failing” in any way because you have not successfully conceived. Neither is your partner.
Instead, try to recognize that what is happening is simply a matter of physiology, and that your anatomy is not a reflection of your character as a human being.
Even though the situation may be the furthest thing from okay, you are okay just as you are.
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6. Be kind to yourself.
That brings us to our next recommendation, which is to be kind to yourself and practice diligent self-care.
Planned Parenthood writes, “Try to keep your stress level down by setting time aside for healthy activities that are enjoyable and relaxing, like meditation, reading, exercising, or taking walks.”
Just about anything under the sun can help you de-stress if it is something you enjoy. Have a watch party movie marathon with friends. Read a book in the bathtub. Give yourself permission for a small shopping spree. Go on a hike by yourself. You are going through a lot, and even if you weren’t, all of these things would still be important! You are always worth it.
7. Seek meaning and gratitude.
When you are trying to conceive, it is easy to feel like all of the meaning in your life is contingent upon this one thing. Without getting the test result you want on your pregnancy strip, you may feel your life is empty and meaningless.
But if you think about it, you probably can remember times in your life in the past when that did not seem to be the case.
Try and remind yourself of what brought meaning into your life at those times, and what other sources of meaning are here to make life enjoyable and worthwhile in the present.
Think about the things that you are grateful for in your life, and take time each day to list those things out and express that gratitude in whatever way feels right to you.
8. Get help if you need it.
Finally, even though there is a lot you can do to bolster your mental health through self-care, sometimes, you just need a little extra help from a professional.
In particular, if you are experiencing anxiety and depression that you cannot seem to shake, it is important to seek the care you need.
A professional therapist is not personally invested in your situation, and can offer you fresh perspective with no drama.
Your Fertility Journey is Challenging, So Take Care of Yourself
Whether your fertility journey encompasses months or years, it isn’t easy not being able to get pregnant.
You are probably putting a lot of thought and effort into taking care of your reproductive and physical health during this process. But you should be putting at least as much time and energy into taking care of your emotional well-being.
Doing so will help you to stay physically and psychologically healthy through all the ups and downs, no matter the outcome.
If you are able to conceive, those same self-care skills will also help you to cope with the stresses of pregnancy and parenthood. They will be great skills to be able to pass on to your child as well.