“Just relax and it will happen” – that’s pretty common advice that you might hear from friends and family when you tell them you’re trying to conceive. If only it were that easy. Let’s get real here, it’s pretty challenging for anyone to relax on a turbulent, winding and steep roller coaster ride. The emotional experience of infertility is really no different, except there’s no telling when the ride will end and that alone, is a big stressor. Exhaustive treatments, expense and cost, valuable time passing, losses, triggers and relationship strains are just a few of the factors that make it very difficult to “just relax.” Furthermore, the stress of infertility can activate a human fight/flight response in the body, causing the nervous system to work overtime to regulate heart rate, digestion, respiratory rates and arousal. So instead of trying to force relaxation on a body that is highly aroused by a stress, focus instead on what you can change with stress reduction techniques.
GET YOUR CONTROL BACK
One of the many challenges during infertility is the loss of control in so many areas, as well as the ambiguity that influences so much of future planning. This painful loss is devastating and leaves many with a wounded self-confidence. Therefore, the more areas that can healthily be controlled during this time, the more psychological benefit that awaits. Routines, events, hobbies, demographics, passions and relationships are all areas to consider for development and/or modification and change. Creating something “new” when the old no longer works will restore personal confidence. There are still parts of life that can have the outcome you want and need. Get your control back.
Who runs a marathon without water or treks up Mt. Everest without oxygen? Yet how often we humans forget that any trial which produces significant stress IS the same emotional challenge, with the same need for reinforcement, supplies, built-in support and reward. Pull out your calendar and figure out what you need. What are places, events and goals that generate hope, excitement and passion? You NEED those things, so plan for them. It helps to have parts of life that “give” when so much of life is “taking.” And you are your own best agent and advocate for creating as much reinforcement and incentive as you need in your journey. This balance creates more internal rest.
Your body and mind is tried and tense. The stress keeps building and there is no end in sight. Your body may be in a chronic state of fight or flight and as result, analysis paralysis occurs. It’s hard to “turn it off”, but your body needs some serious stress relief and even a time out from analysis paralysis. Walking, yoga, pilates, biking, hiking, acupuncture and massage therapy are just a few activities that require your undivided physical attention. The more a body is relaxed and experiencing stress relief, the more the mind is able to relax. This body-mind connection and balance is one relationship to nurture for increased rest.
SPEAK THE TRUTH
Remember life before infertility? You declared the intention to have a family and executed a plan. Even if the desire is not yet fulfilled, it’s time to hit the refresh button and acknowledge your original intention (truth). Why? Because you’re trekking up this giant mountain. It’s a chronic and ambiguous time of life, where so much is saturated with intense vulnerability, anxiety and uncertainty. Don’t forget to acknowledge the hard work you’ve done toward this goal, the strength, determination and courage you’ve poured into your original desire. You know what you are doing. Your present actions and choices are totally backing and aligning with your original intention even though the struggle is real and profound at this time. The human fight and flight stress response thrives on fear and uncertainty. So get certain about the messages you’re telling yourself.
FIND YOUR VILLAGE
Don’t struggle alone. Science has documented a strong connection between social isolation and depression. So while on one hand you may withdraw from certain relationships right now – it’s equally important to create new connections. There are many ways to locate others who are walking in similar circumstances as you. Check online, find groups locally or speak with a counselor. You don’t have to go through this alone. Validation from peers is one of the best gifts during this time. Your village awaits, go find it!