By Connie Stark, RNC, C.P.C.
When it comes to reproductive medicine, there is no secret recipe (or protocol) that guarantees pregnancy. But whether you just started trying to conceive (TTC), or you’re in the thick of fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF), making choices and finding what ignites you to feel and be your best self can energize you throughout the journey. Being your best self and shifting your mindset using proactive language and strategies (like living “in fertility” instead of “infertility”) may not change your situation, but it could spark that resilient glimmer of hope and keep your vision of parenthood strong.
Think about asking yourself: “Just for today, what could I do less or more of?” Here are 7 unique ways to take care of yourself on your fertility journey. Choose one or all, but always remember it’s “just for today.” Pro tip: make notecards and post-its, schedule reminders, or do anything else you can to help remind you how these 7 tips can energize your just-for-today, present moments.
1. Unplug from technology
Nowadays it’s common for us to stay connected on all forms of social media, but spending too much time on the platforms can make us feel anxious, depressed, isolated, addicted, and even have FOMO (fear of missing out). You get to decide when to unplug and for how long. But try to replace that social media use with simple self-care activities.
Have a notebook and pencil handy; the physical act of writing on paper about your thoughts or feelings (including how unplugging makes you feel) can decrease stress. You can even give drawing or coloring a try. These activities can help calm and relax both the brain and the body. They can also help to improve sleep, fatigue, body aches, heart rate, and feelings of depression and anxiety.
Think of water as a natural source of healthcare. Being hydrated is important not only for our general health, but also for our fertility. Hydration can help with the production of cervical mucus which can help the sperm reach the egg.
Find and use a fun or beautiful glass or water bottle filled with crisp cold water (and feel free to add a twist of lemon) to remind you that water is not just about being thirsty—it’s about nurturing your whole self, and supporting your physical, emotional, and spiritual self. Try to replace caffeinated beverages (like coffee or tea), sugar-filled drinks (like soda or juice), and alcoholic beverages with water whenever possible to improve your overall wellness as you prepare for pregnancy.
3. Make a connection
Take a moment to say thank you to a friend, family member, or anyone else in your personal “support group” you’re grateful for. The act of writing a thank-you note by hand is perfect for growing that sense of positivity and well-being. It may feel awkward, but just think about the other person, and how nice it will be to show them that someone appreciates what they’ve done. Not to mention, a thank-you note often invites people to reciprocate by doing more for you, so you’ll thank them again. There’s no way to lose.
When doing something nice such as a simple act of giving, you’ll not only get a smile back—there’s actually a chemical response that also happens in your body. No matter what your “giving” looks like, whether you’re helping someone out or actually giving them a gift, your brain lets out chemicals made to make you feel good. These include serotonin (regulating your mood), dopamine (giving you a sense of pleasure), and oxytocin (creating a feeling of connection with others). “When we do things for other people, it makes us feel much more engaged and joyful,” says psychologist Dr. Susan Albers.
This is not about overloading your schedule or purchasing expensive gifts. It can be as simple as an affirmation, compliment, thank you, meal, or act, like holding the door open for someone who needs a helping hand. As you go through any of your own fertility struggles, trying to find a way to “give” or do something nice for someone else may ease your own struggles.
5. Plan a special time to reminisce
Reflecting on and sharing good memories from your past not only brings about good feelings in your present, but it can also help your emotional and mental health, and even fuel personal growth. Nostalgia, which happens when thinking about happy memories, can come from familiar foods, places, or even smells, or from looking at old photos or videos. Plan a day or night with your partner, a significant other, or someone special to look at albums or watch videos of a favorite vacation, wedding, or other special and memorable moment that solidifies the strength in your relationship.
A great time to do this is during the two-week wait, when you’re doing just that: waiting to take a pregnancy test. Find some time during those days to look back while moving forward.
6. Be kind and compassionate to yourself
Being kind and compassionate to yourself has a number of benefits. People who are compassionate towards themselves recognize and acknowledge their suffering and are kind to themselves during that time. This can then reduce their anxiety and related depression. Learning and practicing self-kindness and self-compassion can be easy: start by thinking about how you would respond to or treat a friend who was going through the same thing you’re going through.
Also, let yourself do things that you enjoy doing. If you enjoy acupuncture, try to schedule time to do that. If you have a favorite workout, block off a section of your calendar to stick that in. If there’s a hobby you love, look for a way to incorporate it into your weekly routine. Trying to conceive can feel all consuming, especially when you’re trying to keep track of supplements, medications, and regular appointments at your fertility clinic. Remember not to put your whole life on hold, give yourself grace, and keep doing the things you love.
7. Find time to be busy doing nothing
Find joy in a calm and still space and moment. For even a few minutes, repeat your favorite affirmations, stop to focus on your breath, take a walk and pay attention to what you experience through your senses, or reflect on what you’re grateful for. Daily moments of stillness can improve your overall and fertility well-being by reducing stress and anxiety, helping to refocus on what’s important, and allowing you to let things go and make other things become clearer.
You may not be able to change your current struggles or challenges, but just for today, consider how you can be your best self throughout the ups and downs of your journey to parenthood. You are worth it!