Guest blog by Avery Neal, MA, LPC.
Ever noticed that those struggling with infertility also frequently tend to suffer from anxiety? Perhaps you’ve experienced this first hand or have a close family member or friend you’ve watched go through this. Though there is no question that the standard hormone regimen that women face while undergoing treatment for infertility exacerbates mood shifts and can cause anxiety, there are some commonly experienced feelings associated with infertility that can easily lead to the development of anxiety.
From a psychological perspective, an ongoing sense of helplessness for a prolonged period of time causes us to experience anxious thoughts and feelings. Chronic helplessness results from the sense that no matter how hard we try; we may in fact be quite powerless in a situation that is beyond our control. This is particularly painful when the outcome is significant to us, as is the case when we desperately want a child.
In the case of infertility, there are many factors that are beyond our control, not the least of which is that our body may or may not be doing what we want it to do. No matter how much we will ourselves to get pregnant, the exact methodology that will result in a successful pregnancy and timing of it remains largely unknown on the front end of it.
So, what can we do to decrease anxious symptoms? Some points to consider:
- Have Fun. Enjoy the freedom that comes with having less responsibility. It doesn’t mean that you want a baby any less, but engaging in things that you enjoy will give you a break from the heaviness (and scheduling) that accompanies trying to get pregnant. It will also serve as a temporary distraction, making the time pass by infinitely faster. Make having fun a priority so that you don’t completely lose yourself in a process that can easily become all consuming.
- Stay Present. Make a conscious effort to live in the present moment, rather than succumbing to the temptation of living in the future. It is so easy to make everything revolve around waiting, but this only makes each minute feel long and excruciating. Try shifting your awareness to what you do have, and focus less on what you don’t. Take some time to visualize what you desire each day in great detail, holding those positive images in your mind. You can go back to those positive images any time worry begins to take over.
- Acknowledge your Feelings. Some days are going to be easy, some days will not. It’s okay to feel disappointed, angry, sad, and hopeless at times, and everything in between. Often the road to a successful pregnancy is not a straight one, and of course, you are going to have some feelings with each turn that it takes. This is completely understandable, so be gentle with yourself. Give yourself full permission to feel how you feel, unapologetically.
- Try Not to Get Too Isolated.
It’s easy to want to hibernate when we are sad. This is especially the case when we are facing a difficult time getting pregnant and it seems everyone else is posting an ultrasound photo or hosting a baby shower. If you need to protect yourself from this by getting off social media, for instance, listen to that need. It is important to protect yourself from things that make you feel worse. However, make sure that you are continuing to engage with your primary support system. Fight the temptation to become too isolated, which only feeds anxiety and depression.
The key to overcoming distress caused by an ongoing sense of powerlessness is to take charge of what we can. It may require a bit of thought, but thinking of various areas of our life where we can directly influence our experience, leaves us feeling much stronger and less helpless.
Avery Neal, MA, LPC is a practicing psychotherapist and writer. She specializes in depression and anxiety at all stages in a woman’s life. She has also worked extensively with women suffering from prenatal anxiety and postpartum depression in addition to helping women recovering from divorce and healing from emotional abuse. Avery is passionate about empowering women to discover their own inner strength, leading to higher self-esteem, confidence and overall life satisfaction. In 2012 she opened Women’s Therapy Clinic, which has locations in both The Woodlands, Texas and in Denver, Colorado. Her upcoming book is entitled “If He’s So Great, Why Do I Feel So Bad?”. To read more of Avery’s writing visit http://www.womenstherapyclinic.com/blog.