Stress. It's something we all deal with -- and overcome -- at some point. But for those of us struggling with infertility, that stress tends to stick around until the moment we're cradling a baby in our arms. And the longer we're stuck trying and waiting, the more intense that stress can become.
For me, that stress has lasted for nearly four years -- four years of four miscarriages, six IVF transfers, two IVF egg retrievals, and lost twins during delivery. Needless to say, I'm no stranger to the stress and depression that accompanies infertility.
The roller coaster of emotions around trying to conceive can be even more challenging than the treatments themselves, sending you into a whirlpool of sadness and obsession. "Just relax and it will happen" is complete nonsense, but stress seriously doesn't help.
While we can't always change our circumstances, we can change how we deal with them. Here are 11 ways you (and those with infertile loved ones) can relieve some of the stress of infertility:
1. Pick up an old (or new) hobby.
It's easy to let infertility stress take over. So much so, in fact, that we forget what we used to do for fun.
Well, I say no more. Don't let go of who you were and what you loved to do before conceiving became an issue. Don't let infertility define you. Get back on that bike of yours or try attending that dance class you've always been interested in -- you'll be glad you did.
2. Dance it out.
It's a little dated, but a 2008 study published in the American Journal of Health Education found dancing reduces stress and increases life satisfaction. So crank up your favorite jam and dance like nobody's watching.
3. Take up yoga, or another mind-body technique.
Yoga is so much more than yoga pants and Downward Dog. In it's truest form, yoga is all about harmonizing the body with the mind through various breathing techniques, yoga postures, and meditation. And that connection between mind and body plays an important role in reducing stress and achieving fertility success.
Another way to connect the mind and body for fertility success is through visualization. Essentially, use your mind's eye to visualize what's happening (or should be happening) in your body. This imagery is an effective tool for reversing the harmful effects of stress. If you want to learn more about the concept of visualization and its importance in beating infertility, I highly recommend listening to my interview with Joanne Verkuilen, founder of Circle+Bloom.
A study published in BMC Public Health by Dr. Suzanne Richards in August 2013 indicates that volunteering has been shown to lower levels of depression and increase levels of well-being.
Find a cause you can devote your time, energy, and passion to. I don't know about you, but some days, infertility consumes my every waking moment. Volunteering gives you something else to think about. And it presents a great opportunity for fertile and infertile friends to work together side-by-side for the greater good. Everybody wins!
5. Eat calming foods, not comfort foods.
Stress results in increased cortisol levels, which causes food cravings. For women, that typically means carbs and sweets. Unfortunately, eating these foods during times of stress leads to a slower metabolism -- and potentially weight gain.
According to Keri Glassman in this article for Prevention, stick to "calming" food instead, such as berries, cashews, chamomile or green tea, dark chocolate (in moderation, of course), grass-fed beef, oatmeal, oranges, and walnuts.
6. Adopt a furry friend.
By no means does adopting a dog or cat fill the void that the lack of a successful pregnancy creates. However, our furry friends can provide so much stress relief. They serve as our most trusted confidant, a source of laughter and smiles, and an all-around distraction from the reality of our infertility.
7. Try a little tenderness.
This one, especially, applies to the men and women dealing with infertility. The trial-and-error process of conceiving is stressful for both and can leave a lot to be desired in other aspects of the relationship.
So, try a little tenderness toward each other. A special meal, an after-dinner stroll, or a simple hug can make a world of difference on the toughest of days.
8. Treat yo self.
From weekly doctor appointments to countless blood tests to daily injections, being treated for infertility can feel like a full-time job. And a job well done deserves a pat on the back. Whether it's a with a massage or that pair of shoes you've been eyeing, be sure to treat yo self.
9. Create something.
Struggling with infertility can make you feel like you've lost all control. So what better way to gain back a sense of control than to create something from nothing? Try taking a pottery class or a group painting class. Let go and create.
10. Write it down.
When you're surrounded by an abundance of Fertile Myrtles, it can be hard to find someone to vent to. If that's the case, write it down.
Try keeping a journal or starting a blog (it doesn't have to be public). Having a place to record your thoughts can be a great outlet for the stress and anxiety that accompanies infertility. Best of all, a journal is never too busy or unwilling to listen (even at 3 a.m., when you wouldn't dare wake a friend).
11. Unplug and escape.
In an age dominated by Facebook pregnancy announcements and baby photo shoots, being online can take you from bad to worse. Sometimes, the best way to cope is to unplug and get away.
Take a few days away from social media (it won't kill you, I promise) and get out. Go somewhere new and exciting. Taking a trip somewhere not only helps you stay off of social media, but also is a great way to escape your day-to-day problems for a bit.
How do you and yours cope with infertility stress? Leave a comment below!