5 Ways To Cope With Bad News In Your Fertility Journey
There seems to be a run on bad news lately. I have a handful of clients who are going through some really difficult stages of the journey right now. It makes my heart hurt to see them so hurt and full of sadness.
So I wanted to share some of my suggestions for how to cope with these (unfortunately, nearly inevitable) low points along the family building experience. I share them with love and hope that they may provide a little lift and a little ease during this season.
Allow yourself to feel - and learn from - your emotions
Our emotions exist to send us messages. The are meant to teach us to know when something brings us enjoyment or comfort or when something is uncomfortable and needs to be changed.
There are no "good" or "bad" emotions. They are all simply messages to hear and learn from.
So start with some emotional acceptance. Allow yourself to feel all of the emotions you have...acknowledge them and thank them for what they may be trying to tell you. Maybe sit with some of them for awhile - even some of those "negative" ones like sadness, grief, disappointment, guilt, and fear.
Do not try to avoid them...you will only set yourself up to have the messages compounded and begin to emerge in more uncomfortable ways. How you interpret the circumstance is where you begin to make "sense" of or appraise the situation - whether it is good or bad and the degree to which.
Allow yourself to feel the emotions and acknowledge them. Ask yourself, "how else can I think about this?" or "how can I change my response to this situation?", This practice can help you be more aware of the depth and range of your emotions which will allow you to cope, build resilience, and shift perspective.
Seek ways to infuse gratitude
There are several emotions we can feel and enjoy and science has shown that more of these moments can help us open our minds, be more present, and build resilience for challenging times. When I look at this list of common positive emotions - including joy, hope, and gratitude, among many others - one that stands out to me as maybe more readily accessible than others during a fertility struggle is gratitude.
Because we are often fixated on one outcome - healthy baby - in our fertility struggle it can seem difficult to say we feel "relief", "contentment", or "serenity" regularly. (Though I commend you for trying and am always happy to work with you to make these more present in your life.)
But, I do believe gratitude is readily available. It is an emotion that, with focus and practice, can start small and quickly grow.
A gratitude practice - consistent recognition of the aspects of our life we are grateful for - has been proven to have a positive impact on our relationships, health, happiness, capacity for empathy, sleep, self-esteem, and resilience. (Forbes).
I encourage a daily gratitude practice. I encourage you to push yourself to find aspects of your journey you are truly grateful for. And when your fertility journey seems to be at a standstill or in a valley, I encourage you to focus on finding gratitude in other aspects of your life as a way to help you pull yourself back up.
As an example, during my journey, I realized that even though I couldn't be grateful for my struggle, I was grateful that I lived in a time and in a country where IVF was an accessible option for family building. I was grateful to have an employer who was supportive in the time off I needed for treatment. I was grateful that I overcame my fear of giving myself injections.
And in the down times, I was grateful for two feet that allowed me to run miles, a supportive husband who hugged me while I cried, friends who prayed for and with me, and hobbies and distractions that reminded me of life's little delights.
If you'd like to try to start (or re-start) a gratitude practice, check out my free 21-Day Gratitude Challenge.
Move your body
Sometimes, the mental exercises become too much. Our thoughts seem to be churning and spinning and we're exhausted just from the mental gymnastics of the "what ifs" and the "should haves."
When these moments hit, try movement. Do what you can in the physical state you are in - if you have been told by a doctor to restrict your movement, please follow her instructions. But, more often than not, gentle movement like walking, restorative yoga, even swimming or push ups are allowed. Dance in the living room, slow dance with a partner. Move and breathe deeply. If you are at a point where exertion won't harm, go all out. Box, run, spin. Sweat, rage, and cry.
Send the oxygen and the blood all through your body and just dare some endorphins to be released.
The benefits of meditation are many and varied. (See 20 of them explained here.)
Not the least of which include reduced stress and inflammation while increasing happiness.
Don't worry about doing it right or wrong. There's no such thing. Instead, give yourself the gift of quiet time to allow your tangled thoughts to unravel. Notice how you feel afterward.
Remember: This, too, shall pass.
My Grandma's words of wisdom, passed to my Mom, passed to me. "This too shall pass," is one of those mantras that surrounded my childhood and helped shift perspective on many situations from friend and relationship issues, to sports injuries, stressful classes and - yes - my fertility struggle.
Nothing lasts forever in this life. Whether good or bad, our circumstances will change.
Permanence is one of the 3 "P"s of developing resilience and it refers to thinking a horrible situation will last forever. In this case, that you will always be struggling with fertility.
This is simply not true.
Shifting your perspective on Permanence - that your fertility struggle and season will end - can help bring some calm to the swirling mess of thinking we can find ourselves in. This helps build resilience to continue to walk through the mess. I wrote more on shifting perspective and the other two "P"s of developing resilience earlier this year.
In all of these suggestions, the common theme is to rest, take care of yourself, and show yourself love and kindness. It is OK to retreat for a bit, to regroup and allow space for healing.
These are just a few ways to cope during the bad or down times of a fertility journey. Let me know what you think - and what you’d add to this list - in the comments.