For those going through infertility, coping with the stress of treatment is challenging on any given day. Many patients experience increased levels of depression, anxiety and marital strain. When you throw in a global pandemic on top of what is already a stressful time in life, many fertility patients are having an especially hard time coping. Covid-19 was unexpected and has disrupted treatment cycles, surgeries, and consultations. A delay in treatment, especially one as uncertain as this, can elicit a feeling of lack of control and helplessness. While we can’t change the situation, we can try and find ways of coping with the additional stress and anxiety we’re all experiencing.
Staying active is good for mental and physical health. Getting a daily dose of fresh air while social distancing is important. Going for a walk, bike ride, or jog can make a huge difference in the way someone feels even if it’s for a short amount of time. Research has repeatedly shown the healing power of exercise and its positive effect on our mental health. When we exercise, our brain releases endorphins, which help lift our mood and improve our overall sense of well-being. Getting out of the house helps us shift our focus and may take our mind off of some of the things we’ve been worrying about (especially if the news is on a lot in the house!). Exercise does not have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Even just a 10-minute walk each day (or most days) will help. Start off slowly and see how you feel.
Eating properly and keeping your body healthy has shown to help fertility. You’re not alone if you turn to food when you’re feeling stressed—especially comfort food. However, eating right will not only improve your physical health, but it will help your mental health as well. Your diet matters in managing stress in addition to having a healthy fertility outcome. Come up with a plan for the day—make sure you mostly have healthy options, but don’t deprive yourself. Allowing yourself to indulge every now and then isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just make sure you have appropriate portion sizes and eat in moderation. Use this time to take care of yourself—and prepare to be the healthiest version of yourself for when you’re able to resume treatment.
A huge contributor to overall good physical and mental health is getting adequate sleep. For a lot of people, sleep is easily disrupted when we have racing thoughts and pent up stress and anxiety throughout the day. This is to be expected, but it’s important to do everything you can to get as much quality sleep as possible. This will help improve your mood and functioning during the day. There are a few things that can be done if your sleep has been disrupted. Writing your thoughts down before you go to sleep can help ease the mental burden—it will not make the thoughts go away but having them written down in a place you can go back to and revisit may help you from ruminating when you’re trying to fall asleep. Doing some deep breathing or meditation before bed can help too. Avoiding the news or anything that has the potential to feel stressful before bed is especially important. You can try experimenting with different ways to protect your sleep at night–some strategies will work better than others. Like everything else, it’s figuring out what works best for you!
You’ll get through this
We all experience intense stress when we feel ill equipped to handle the problem or situation we’re facing. Can you think of other times in your life you’ve faced setbacks or gone through something challenging? How’d you get through it? We’re often more capable of getting through hard things than we initially give ourselves credit for. Do some reflecting and start employing some of those strategies you’ve used in the past. Not all strategies will work in all situations—but it’s good to have a “toolbox” of strategies we can try and figure out what we can employ in different situations.
Keep in mind that Covid-19 will not last forever. While there are still many unknowns in regards to both the pandemic and how it will affect us long-term, many fertility clinics are already starting to resume services and you are likely to be back on your family-building path sooner than you think.
This post was written by Alyssa Baron.