There’s no doubt about it, fertility treatments put a strain on all aspects of our lives. Undergoing procedures requires you to be present both mentally and physically. Monitoring cycles, administering injections, the ultrasounds, the bloodwork all take a toll on the body. In just one treatment cycle, the body can go through tremendous changes and the effects of fertility medication can drastically alter our mood.
This is why self-care is so important.
It’s an essential tool to help alleviate stress and improve our sense of self amid the struggle of infertility.
When it comes to self-care, it’s all about keeping it simple. Remembering to eat healthy food that fuels the body, taking deep breaths when we feel anxious or depressed or even just taking a gentle time out can all help.
To do this effectively, we have to become self-aware.
“What do I need in this moment?” and the only way to figure this out is to slow down and listen to what our bodies are telling us.
Here are five simple ways you can take care of yourself along this journey:
Sleep is essential in keeping energy levels up, regulating moods and concentration. Sometimes we are so worried about having a child that we become unable to get a full night’s rest. To get that elusive 8-10 hours, try creating a sleep schedule. Have a regular evening routine and try to get to bed at the same time each night. Try using a body scan meditation or autogenic relaxation exercises to get back to sleep if you wake. And you don’t always have to doze, resting the body but not fully sleeping, activates our own natural relaxation response.
2. Cultivate Joy
Make a commitment to yourself to enjoy something every day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. Food, a game or T.V. show, it doesn’t matter what you’re doing just as long as you truly enjoy it. If you don’t feel joyful right away, fake it till you make it. Daily practise of enjoyment will lead to authentic enjoyment and your body will respond.
3. Move Your Body
Research has proven that exercise, even moderate walking can help alleviate depression and anxiety. Every time your heart rate climbs and you break into a sweat, your brain releases norepinephrine and serotonin, naturally lifting your mood.
4. Journal Your Mood
If you start tracking your mood, you will quickly notice a predominant one that envelops you. Sadness, anxiety, anger and even happiness; keep track of it all. As you chronicle your feelings, you will become more attuned to a range of different emotions within you as they rise and fall.
5. Nurture Your Spirit
Many people assume taking care of your spirit has religious implications like going to church. Well, not necessarily. Religion is one expression of spirituality but you can also tap into your spirit in other ways. Helping others in need, spending time in nature and meditating are all ways we can connect with something greater.
Self-care means opening up to others, being vulnerable, asking for help, and saying “no” when we need to. It means creating boundaries that help us maintain balance and keep us safe. Anxiety is just part of the game when it comes to battling infertility but we have the power to change that tone. Being gentle and more loving silences those negative voices and taps into our compassion and kindness starting with taking care of #1, ourselves.
Amira is a fertility counsellor in Toronto, Ontario. She works with individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. Amira facilitates the Mind-Body Fertility Group at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
She is also a mother of three miracles.