The process of fertility diagnosis and treatment can impact a patient's life in unanticipated ways and sometimes it can all feel overwhelming. It is very common to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression as a result of this experience. Know that these difficulties can be managed and overcome, and we are here to help our patients do just that.
Patients can follow these suggested coping strategies from PFC's Marriage and Family Therapist, Peggy Orlin, to better understand their emotions and re-engage with their life. One doesn't need to do all these things – some strategies work well for some and not for others but here is some food for thought:
Accept one's emotions. Before one can work through one's feelings, a person needs to accept them. Remind oneself that there is no right or wrong way to experience infertility. Feelings may run the gamut from indifference to intense anger or despair – and all of these are understandable under the circumstances. Developing healthy coping strategies can be part of life's lessons learned from this experience.
Learn to recognize 'useless' or damaging emotions. Feelings of guilt can hinder the healing process. Understand that it is unlikely that one did anything at all to cause this diagnosis. One of the tasks practiced in our Mind/Body workshops covers re-programming negative thoughts and channeling positive thoughts to promote healthy coping and overall well-being.
When it comes to socializing, acknowledge the limits. Choose the gatherings one wants to attend carefully. If being around children or babies is upsetting, it is okay to gracefully decline invitations to events where they are likely to be present.
Maintain physical well being. Exercise moderately, eat healthy foods and get plenty of rest. One will feel better if their body is balanced and restored every day. Consider yoga or acupuncture as other stress-relieving activities.
Enjoy adult activities. Take a vacation to a favorite spot. Eat at a fancy restaurant. Go for a massage or other spa treatment. Try to maintain usual interests and hobbies as one continues to try to conceive.
Volunteer. Helping others who are having a difficult time can shift anyone's focus and lift their mood. Feeling vital and needed are life re-affirming and can be very rewarding.
Plan ahead for sticky questions. Have answers at the ready for uninvited questions about when one is going to have children. Remember, no one is required to tell others their entire "story." When asked "When are you having children?" here are some possible responses:
"I'm not sure"... (and then re-direct the conversation with something like): How are things for you?
Just smile and change the topic
Be direct: "I'm sorry, but I'd rather not discuss that"
Communicate one's feelings. Whether with a partner, close friend or therapist, share one's feelings. Infertility can be a very isolating experience and having someone to talk with can be a great relief. As partners are not always on the same page as one another, sometimes a close friend or therapist can be the best support. Some people find that keeping a journal can be a way of communicating with oneself and helping to identify and eliminate negative thinking.
Partner communication. Couples are recommended to set aside time each day to discuss their infertility, for about 20 minutes. This allows the partner who always is ready to discuss infertility to know they will get time to discuss it, and allows the less communicative partner know that the discussion will have time limits. Let these times for talk be just that--- talk. Being able to express oneself to one's partner without having to "problem solve" is therapeutic.
Meet and talk with others who are having fertility treatment. Few people can understand an infertility patient's feelings like other fertility patients. Sharing their feelings with each other can help them to feel less isolated. We cannot emphasize this enough. One way to do this is by attending a Mind/Body infertility workshop where patients can become acquainted with a group of people who can understand and empathize with their experience.
Learn stress reduction techniques. At best, they may help the patient with the goal of getting pregnant and, at least, they will help one to feel better while in the process. Join us at our Mind/Body at PFC Weekend Workshops.