[This story was originally published on September 4, 2020. It has been updated.]
Are you trying to conceive or dealing with infertility issues amid a pandemic? Each experience on its own is hard enough, but navigating them during a pandemic might make your stress level go through the roof. As we become focused on having a child, it can evolve into an all-consuming existence riddled with unyielding sadness, frustration and disappointment.
Managing your stress is an essential part of maintaining your overall mental, emotional and physical well-being so that you can navigate this overwhelming experience more soundly. Learning strategies for stress reduction can help you navigate the numerous ups and downs that come with trying to conceive.
When I coach my fertility clients on stress management, I help them establish a foundation of strength, support and self-care.
Here are 4 ways to reduce your stress while trying to conceive.
1. Find your support network.
The journey of trying to conceive can be a lonely, overwhelming and frustrating experience. One of the things I wish I had back when I was starting my own fertility journey was a support group and network of people who understood what I was going through. Thankfully, there are now a myriad of ways to connect with other people who are trying to conceive, like on Instagram and in Facebook groups.
Plus, there are several membership-based communities and apps where you can be in the company of others who are trying to conceive and may be experiencing some form of infertility.
Feeling less alone takes away a lot of the stress, isolation and feelings of inadequacy that you feel when you bottle up your emotions and don't have an outlet.
2. Set boundaries.
Setting up boundaries with the people in our lives can be incredibly helpful in reducing our stress, guiding you in what you choose to do, see and speak about. They can also help prevent getting triggered into a spiral of negativity.
While questions or comments may be well-intentioned, they can still feel hurtful and provoke negative feelings. It's okay to set boundaries with important people in your life about what they can ask you or what you are willing to talk about when it relates to your fertility. If you don't feel comfortable doing this yourself, ask your partner to do it for you.
Your mental and emotional well-being needs to be preserved as much as possible during this arduous journey and you shouldn't feel guilty about the need to do so.
3. Communicate with your partner.
Opening up lines of communication with your partner (whether this your romantic partner or a close friend who will be with you on your journey) is another great way to reduce your stress levels. Back when we partnered with our kindhearted surrogate who carried our twins for us, I learned firsthand what it felt like to be a partner who wants to do so much but can only do so little—I wanted to help her, but sometimes I didn't know how.
When you are trying to conceive and perhaps dealing with infertility, lean on your partner for help. State your needs directly and provide clear instructions for your partner to know what they need to do to support your mental and emotional health and reduce stress levels.
Many of us think our partners can intuit what we need, but usually, that is not the case. Often, they want to provide support, but don't know how and their attempts may even make you feel worse if approached in the wrong way (think of the scene in Sex and the City when Trey bought Charlotte the cardboard baby when they were experiencing fertility issues. That did not turn out well.)
Whether it's something as little as a hug or perhaps something more substantial, asking for it clearly rather than having them try to guess will benefit you both.
4. Make a self-care toolkit.
Establish a toolkit of tried-and-true strategies that help you tap into your inner calm. It is key to have more than one go-to self-care strategy because every day and situation is different and requires an appropriate modality to assist with stress reduction.
Some days you may need a more physical outlet to decrease your anxiety such as a workout, yoga or a walk with a friend. Other situations may require you to address your mental wellness with mindfulness-meditation or breathing techniques. Then there are those days that are extremely emotional that call for journaling or affirmations of self-love.
Be sure to try out new things every now and then so you can slowly build up your roster of self-care strategies.
When one is in the thick of trying to become a parent, the stress of the process can pile up if left unaddressed; it's important to set up the right foundation to tackle these overwhelming emotions. No matter where you are in your journey right now, it is never too late to establish a foundation of strength, support and self-care so that you can ride the waves of the fertility journey with your head above the water.