If you’re like me, and have known for some time that there are obstacles in your path to becoming a parent, you might also know how hard it can be to talk about it.
For myriad reasons, it’s a bit of a taboo subject. Fertility challenges seem to question our entire identity, our worth, our value to society. Assumptions are made and feelings are often hurt. It’s easy to feel lonely and truly isolated, even when surrounded by people, particularly when you need someone to confide in but don’t know where to turn.
In fact, the official definition of loneliness is completely subjective and depends solely on whether or not you feel socially or emotionally disconnected from those around you. Sound familiar?
Psychologist Guy Winch tells us in this fascinating TED Talk how chronic loneliness can increase blood pressure and suppress our immune system, making us much more vulnerable to illness. So why don’t we prioritise our emotional health as much as we do our physical health? Is it because we cannot see the injury?
Going through fertility treatment can have implications for our physical wellbeing. These implications are much talked about and understood. The emotional impact of this journey isn’t always well recognized or supported. I’ve learned some simple habits to protect my emotional wellbeing and therefore, my overall health.
Here are 4 healthful habits to cultivate
Find someone you trust to confide in. This can be your partner, but it helps immensely if you have someone else to talk to. Find a friend you trust. Find someone who will listen without judgement and ask them if you can download, rant or simply share. Ask them if they are willing to hold your hand and be with you in your discomfort and pain, as well as your joy. Share with that person, when you need to. If you’re worried that your tales of woe will alienate your friend, ask them for their honesty in return. Prioritise your emotional health and talk to someone.
If you don’t have a friend who fits the bill, get professional support – I believe that the money spent on counselling has been the most valuable investment in my health I’ve made in years. Counselling has provided me with a safe space to say whatever I need to, with someone who is completely objective and supportive. To my mind, counseling is something every single person having fertility treatment should consider. However, it can be really challenging to figure out who to go to. If you’d like more ideas on this topic, sign up for my free Sanity Guide to Fertility Treatment on this page. In it I share lots of ideas to maintain sanity, including how to choose a counsellor.
Develop a regular stress management practice – There is no way to avoid stress, unless you live in a cave with endless supplies of food and water, access to sunshine and hugs. Managing stress is definitely within your reach though. This may be yoga, meditation, simple breathing techniques or going for a gentle walk before bed. Make it a habit, like brushing your teeth. This habit will support you when you need it most, especially if you start early and begin to build emotional resilience.
Pay attention to internal self-talk – What do you say to yourself, in your head when faced with failure, disappointment or setbacks? Sometimes this self-talk is so subtle and habitual, we don’t even notice it. It can take practice to bring attention to it. We are amazingly adept at convincing ourselves of our limitations and once we become convinced that we are no good at something, or sure to fail at another, it’s really tough to stop the negative cycle. Simply becoming aware is a great first step. Journalling can be an effective way to notice the patterns and habits. You could finish each day by writing for 3 or 4 minutes in a notebook. Write the question – How am I feeling today? – at the top and start writing. There is no right or wrong answer. Just write, don’t edit anything, simply write and begin to notice what comes up. Once you become aware of your personal patterns and internal self-talk you can begin to change it.
These are just some of the things I do to prioritise my emotional hygiene. I’d love to know what you do to support yourself. What has worked for you so far? Whatever you think, I’d love to know about it.
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