When going through infertility treatment, many patients find themselves feeling anxious, isolated, overwhelmed and deeply grieving the many losses they are experiencing. The constant questions of what to do next and the rollercoaster ride from hopefulness to disappointment can lead to increased stress throughout the journey.
Carol S. Miller, MSW, who is part of SGF’s mental health services team, provides 8 tips for calming overactive minds and emotions during infertility treatment.
1. Take care of yourself, particularly in ways that you find calming.
Find something you enjoy that leaves you feeling relaxed. Try to slow down and observe what you are thinking, feeling and experiencing in a non-judgmental way. This takes practice. Meditation apps and breathing exercises can be helpful in working towards this.
In addition, many people find acupuncture, massage, yoga, and exercise helpful in turning down and calming a buzzing mind.
2. Create a good team for yourself.
Because it is so personal, infertility treatment can be lonely. Isolation can easily lead to circular thinking and increased anxieties and fears. Having a group of people to help you make key decisions and to be there for you when you need emotional support is important. This group could include a doctor or nurse whom you respect, trusted friends, or family members.
Think carefully about whose perspective and support is likely to be most helpful to you. Who helps you tune down, lighten up, ground yourself and think constructively? Who is understanding and supportive in a way that makes you feel good about yourself? Also, it is helpful to think about ways you can tactfully let people know how they can be supportive. You’re worth it!
3. Talk to others who have personal experience with infertility.
Sharing information, having a good laugh together, hearing someone else’s experience, and perspective generally make people feel better.
Think about joining one of the many support groups available at Shady Grove Fertility. You do not have to be a group kind of person to find a group rejuvenating. Groups can also help to normalize and validate your experience.
4. Try to re-frame your situation.
Sometimes accepting what is helps people move ahead in a better frame of mind. Once you are able to change the mindset from “this is a catastrophe” to “this is one of the biggest challenges of my life but I will get through it,” things may seem more manageable.
5. Reset expectations.
It is important to find the line between optimism and setting yourself up for disappointment. Knowing success rates for your treatment options based on a variety of diagnostic points may help create realistic expectations. Talk with your doctor about what to expect.
6. Trust yourself.
You may begin by feeling that the world of fertility treatment is a strange new territory for which you are ill-prepared. However, your values and established skills are a compass. For example, if you are generally a good decision-maker, are good at following directions, and understanding data, or are skilled at connecting with people, put those skills to use as you charter this new territory. Or if one of your values is authenticity, coming back to being curious with yourself and your reactions can support you to recenter yourself.
7. The internet is both friend and foe.
There is always one more blog to read or more information to search. More information is not always the answer. You know yourself best—consider what is best for you in terms of screen time. And try to stick to it.
8. Consider seeing a mental health professional.
For some, it may be helpful to develop some better cognitive and emotional coping skills to help in self-regulation during this trying time. For others, the endless loop of over-thinking may be a way of avoiding the mourning that needs to be done when you are confronted with a loss. The slow work of addressing that in one way or another is important for your present and future well-being.
If you are currently trying to conceive, and would like more information, please call our New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755 or click to schedule an appointment.
About the Author:
Carol S. Miller, MSW, is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker on the Counseling Staff at Shady Grove Fertility, and with the practice of Covington & Hafkin and Associates, seeing individuals and couples virtually who reside in Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Arizona. Carol is leading the Mind-Body Skills Group, which starts on February 7, 2023. Carol also facilitates the General Infertility Support Group.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of January 2023.