Answer from: Karenna Wood
Worrying can feel so overwhelming during infertility. It can be so hard to get yourself out of your head and away from all of these worrying thoughts. One little trick that I encourage my clients to do is to have worry o’clock, actually just almost setting a time aside later in the day to say “I’m going to worry about it then”. Then at that time having some dedicated time to look through your worries if you’ve written them down during the day or really think around those. And to start questioning and challenging some of those thoughts that you might be having, to say are they rational? Are they true? Are they healthy or helping me? If they’re not those things maybe just becoming aware of that can be really important in helping you drive change in how you’re thinking. This is what’s really important in this area – it’s that we can’t change, infertility, unfortunately, but we can change your response to it, and that is where the power lies in changing that response. I would really encourage you to start journaling some of those thoughts and potentially having worry o’clock. However, it’s going to work for you, but just becoming aware of some of those thoughts can really be the point of change.
Another great tool to use is gratitude. Going through infertility, often our focus is about the lack of the thing that we don’t have, so we lose focus on the things that we do have, and the things that we can be grateful for. If you shift your focus just before bed, writing down three things that you’re really grateful for that happened that day, it’s almost as if that area starts to expand. Your focus goes there during the day to think “I can write that down at night, I’m grateful for this”, or this beautiful moment that you have with your partner or a friend, and to start expanding on the areas that you do have, it really starts to decrease the thinking on some of the other areas.
I want you to know that there is support out there and it’s really important to get the support when you do find the worrying is becoming very overwhelming, so either through a fertility coach or counselor, or through your doctor to see a psychologist. This area is very serious, it can become – it can translate later down the line into stress, anxiety, and depression, so it’s really important that you get the support that you need with worrying and feeling those anxious thoughts an having a look at anxiety and stress reduction tools such as relaxation practices to really help you manage and cope better with all of the stresses and strains of infertility.
Answer from: Andreia Trigo, RN, MSc
Human beings have this amazing ability to think about future events and this thinking ahead means that we can anticipate obstacles or problems. It gives us the opportunity to plan for solutions for those problems and when it helps us achieve our goals, thinking ahead can actually be very useful and very helpful. However, worrying or anxiety is a way of thinking ahead that usually leaves us feeling anxious, apprehensive about the future. Worrying excessively often makes us think about the worst case scenario. It can make us feel like we won’t be able to cope.
What does it feel like? It feels like a chain of thoughts and images in our heads that can progress and become increasingly catastrophic and even unlikely to happen. You might be thinking “I have my period so that means I haven’t gotten pregnant during this cycle. Maybe I will never be able to get pregnant. Maybe my partner is going to leave me because I’m never going to get pregnant. Maybe I’m going to die all alone and without a child” – so that’s the chain of thoughts and of events that can happen in our head that can lead to increased worry or anxiety. In terms of physical symptoms, we might be feeling some muscle tension, aches and pains, restlessness and inability to relax; maybe you find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep or you might be finding it difficult to concentrate or you might be feeling tired all the time. If you are feeling worried or anxious when trying to conceive, know that you are not alone. It happens to a lot of people.
Why does it happen? It’s because all the situations that are ambiguous, that are new or that are unpredictable are known to cause worry and anxiety and if we think about fertility and fertility treatment, it’s usually a situation that is ambiguous, it’s open to different interpretations, you may or may not have a diagnosis, you may or may not know what the outcome of treatment is going to be or what treatment you might want to have. It’s also usually a new situation so you don’t have any experience to fall back on. It’s also unpredictable because it can be very unclear how things are going to turn out. Know that if you feel worried or anxious, it’s absolutely normal to feel that way.
There are two types of worry that you need to remember: the first one is a real problem, worry or anxiety where we’re looking at actual problems that have solutions right now. However, most of the time we are getting worried or anxious about hypothetical worries. These are worries that only exist in our minds and situations that haven’t happened yet, that doesn’t have an actual solution right now so if you don’t have a solution right now, it’s very much likely that you are thinking about the future, about the worst-case scenario and that is going to be a hypothetical worry. It’s good to know as well that there isn’t a right amount of worry. Everything is different for everyone and it’s almost like a scale between normal worry and excessive worry and everything in between is allowed. Normal worry would be a worry that helps you get what you want, helps you achieve your goals. An excessive worry would be one where you’re feeling demoralized, upset, or exhausted. You need to ask yourself – is the worry and anxiety that I’m feeling normal worry that is helping me achieve my fertility goals or is my worry and anxiety excessive worry that is leaving me demoralized, upset or and/or exhausted? Is the worry that I’m feeling a real problem or that has a solution or is it a hypothetical worry that doesn’t have a solution.
That leads me to what can we do about it. The number one thing that I would say is to get a work-life balance, to find balance in your life, make sure that you have space in your life to do things that bring you joy, things that give you absolute pleasure. Secondly, doing things that give you a sense of achievement, a sense that you’re moving forward with your life, maybe doing some housework, decorating, doing some gardening. The third one would be to do activities that give you a sense of connection, either through social media, calling a friend, making a video call. After you’ve found some balance, it’s still likely that you will be worried or anxious from time to time so as soon as you feel that worrying thought in your brain, try to catch it and try to check if it is a real problem worry or is it a hypothetical worry. Ask yourself what am I worried about, is this something that I can do something about; if not I’m going to let go and I’m going to focus on important things to me right now, things that I can do something about. If this is a real problem worry but it’s not a problem right now, maybe it’s a problem in the future, we can plan what we can do and when we will do it. That will let you soften the levels of worry and anxiety.
Another tip that I think is really helpful, the third tip, is to speak to yourself with compassion. Think about all the things that you tell yourself, the self-blame, the guilt and try to think about everything that you are, everything that you do with a sense of love and self-compassion, think about the situations you’re involved, acknowledge that your emotions are absolutely normal and you are human, notice those automatic thoughts that come in your head and challenge them, choose a compassionate response to your thoughts.
How can infertility patients deal with worry and anxiety?
When you have infertility issues that require further testing and potential treatments, you certainly think more and worry about your future. Will I ever have a baby? – you may ask yourself. Before anxiety overwhelms you check how you can manage these emotions.