7 Ways to Manage the Stress of Infertility

Tips to Handle Uncertainty and Anxiety

Struggling with infertility is stressful enough in itself.  The emotional ups and downs of fertility treatment, uncertainty, and feeling a lack of control often heighten people’s feelings of anxiety.  Environmental stressors like viruses, other illnesses, family problems, and worries about your job only add to the tension.   You may wish you could go to a spa for a week and get away from it all!  But there are steps you can take right at home to lighten the anxiety and feel better right away.

Exercise Relieves Stress

Any kind of exercise helps you cope with stress and helps relieve anxiety.  Exercise outdoors, like a long walk in the park, is especially effective.  It doesn’t have to be a strenuous workout in order to work.  Regular walking has been proven to relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Any exercise you enjoy and will do 3-5 times per week will improve fitness and mood.  Dance along with a song, find an exercise video at a comfortable level, or go for a walk.

Healthy Eating, Healthy Emotions

When you’re anxious, it’s normal to crave comfort foods that are sweet, salty, or fatty.  One cookie won’t hurt, but consistently eating fast food and not getting vegetables and fruits are bad for your health and for your fertility.  Take care of your body by eating lean protein, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and avoiding fried foods, fast food, and foods with added sugar.

Sleep and Anxiety

Anxiety causes sleeping problems, and research suggests that sleep deprivation can cause anxiety disorders.  Try practicing good sleep hygiene.  Limit caffeine, especially in the 6 or so hours before bedtime.  Go to bed at the same time every night. Put away your smartphone and any screens at least one hour before bedtime—the blue light disrupts your sleep cycle.  Have the same routine every night, which will signal your body and your brain that it’s time to go to sleep.  If you wake up in the night and can’t go back to sleep, get out of bed and read a book or do some other soothing, low-energy activity, until you feel sleepy.

Step Away from Bad Habits

Be kind to your body.  Smoking, taking drugs, and drinking too much all contribute to infertility and also to stress and anxiety.  Quitting is not easy, but think of it this way—when you get pregnant, you will need to quit anyway!  You’re doing it for yourself, but also for your future.

Trigger the Relaxation Response

Activities that trigger the relaxation response are a time-tested method of reducing stress and anxiety.  Research over decades has found that practices involving repetitive actions and sequences, like yoga, meditation, prayer, chanting, knitting, crocheting, running, and even playing a musical instrument, lower blood pressure and heart rates.  They take you out of yourself and break that ruminative, worry-filled state of mind.  Try different activities and find which ones work for you. Then practice daily, even just for 10 minutes a day.  There are all kinds of YouTube videos, meditation apps like Calm and Headspace, and streaming classes.

Laughter Really is the Best Medicine

Make time for play and laughter, for doing things you enjoy.  Play board games with your partner or friends, watch old sitcoms, find silly videos of animals—whatever makes you laugh.  Take pleasure in the small moments and comforts.  This situation will pass, and worrying will not change it a bit.

Connect with People

Be kind to yourself and your partner.  One of the best actions you can take is to reach out to a friend or family member you trust, and share your feelings.  It’s great if you can meet in person and be together, but, if not, a phone call, video chat, or group meetup is a way to connect and share emotional support.  If you find you need help with anxiety or stress, your fertility center likely has a counselor or support groups who can help you.  Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you feel the need.

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