“Were you able to take a break from trying to get pregnant, or were you always in the back of your mind “trying”?”
Those were the words that leapt out at me, while I was doing my virtual strolls, during this Global Infertility Awareness week. And the honest answer to that question is, it is almost impossible to fully stop trying at the back of your mind.
Okay, so you agree to take a break, which is very essential in the TTC journey, but your brain has already calculated your fertile period, your ovulation had a mental BD label attached to it and your body starts craving sex around that time of the month, yet you say you are on a break but your mind refuses to cooperate.
This scenario has played out for more TTC women than not, and all of this just piles on pressure on an already tense situation. TTC is not for the fragile, but even the strongest of TTC warriors need to de-stress, and here are some ways to deal with the stress that invariably comes with TTC.
Be really good to your body
Stress results in increased cortisol levels, which causes food cravings, so it’s tempting to take up a donut-eating and caffeine-chugging habit, just to be able to keep putting one’s feet in front of the other. But you won’t be doing yourself any favours.
You’ll feel worse. You will lack energy, and feeling positive will be a whole lot harder. Besides, eating these foods during times of stress leads to a slower metabolism and potentially weight gain…everything you don’t want to deal with when you are TTC.
Get your proper nutrients for the day, include pre-natal vitamins and check your iron and vitamin D levels. You’re prepping your body for an important job, so exercise too. Just a half-hour walk in the fresh air will boost your feel-good hormones, work wonders for your stress levels, and will make sure you stay physically healthy too.
You can eat some foods that have been known to have calming effects like berries, cashews, chamomile or green tea, dark chocolate (in moderation, of course), oatmeal, oranges, and walnuts.
Choose a mantra
Hours before I started writing this article, I found a book on fertility being promoted, and it talks about how our faith can help us through the journey.
A study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that repeating a phrase with a spiritual meaning helped people cope with a variety of problems, including anxiety and insomnia.
Thus, you may want to create a personal mantra based on your own beliefs; choose one that makes you feel calm, and repeat it to yourself throughout the day. You can’t go wrong with “shalom,” which means peace and completeness.
Or anything else that brings you to that state of peacefulness.
Go for a swim
It was Dr. Yemisi Adeyemi-Bero who mentioned that she liked swimming, and how the floating experience of swimming helps her to de-stress.
Well, Dr. Bero’s favourite past time is backed by science, as a Swedish study published in the International Journal of Stress Management found that floating in saltwater triggers the body’s relaxation response, which, in turn, helps lower stress hormone levels.
After seven weeks, people who regularly relaxed in floating tanks slept better, felt more optimistic and reported having less anxiety, stress and depression. Do you need any more reason to get into a swimming pool? And please, don’t say, “But I don’t know how to swim.” You don’t need to know how to swim to get into the pool.
There is always next step
On this infertility journey, no one route leads to motherhood. Not one level of treatment is the last. Even IVF, which is considered the grandfather of all fertility treatment, now comes with all sorts of additions.
Rather than be daunted by the fact that you are trying different options, take a positive stance. Think of the fact that there is another cycle, another doctor etc. True, the next step can sometimes be frightening, but just remember, every step brings you closer to your goal, or at least make you realise the things not to try again.
A little tenderness to yourself and partner goes a long way
The trial-and-error process of conceiving is stressful for both partners 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, a stroll, or a simple hug can make a world of difference on the toughest of days.
Unplug and escape
Just recently, two of our members mentioned they had deleted their Facebook profiles and I’m wowed by their actions, but it is a lifesaving action for them, especially in this age of Facebook pregnancy announcements and baby photo shoots, being online can take you from bad to worse…all in a minute.
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, if you can’t bear the thought of deleting your account.
Keep a diary
Writing in a journal has been shown to help relieve stress in psychological studies. But don’t just talk about your day—it’s about getting all the complex and negative thoughts off your chest and onto paper (or screen), if you would rather start a blog.
Write it all down. Keeping a diary helps you let it all out, preventing you from dwelling so much on the negative thoughts in your mind; a practice which has been shown to contribute to depression and anxiety.
Best of all, a journal is never too busy or unwilling to listen (even in the middle of the night, when you wouldn’t dare wake a friend or partner).
With these tips, you can kick stress to the curb, even if you are only able to do some of it.
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here