Self-care is essential at any time of life. Defined as “any activity we do to deliberately take care of ourselves” self-care can be as simple as clearing your calendar of unimportant “stuff”, shutting down your devices for a bit, or taking a walk. You needn’t schedule a trip to a spa, or go “off the grid” for the weekend (although that’s good too!). Taking care of yourself by recognizing and addressing your own needs is a very necessary step in creating a balanced life.
IVF Can Be A Stressful Time
During IVF, it’s easy to get lost amidst the process. A diagnosis of infertility can cause gut-punching feelings of stress, anxiety, and even loneliness. As you move toward treatment for infertility, especially IVF, those feelings seem to grow. You’re hormones are fluctuating, every bit of your schedule seems to revolve around your treatment, and your anxiety is higher than ever.
That’s why self-care is so important during this time. Now is the time to silence your inner critic, be kinder to yourself, and be mindful of all that takes away from your serenity. Obviously, you can’t hide for the duration of your IVF. Life, and all that goes with it-your career, family, friends, social obligations, etc. – continues, but you need to be extremely mindful of those situations that you know bring stress and anxiety. Managing your life and setting aside extraneous, non-essential obligations, or those that cause you distress, and fill up your calendar, is a necessary step in caring for yourself.
How to Practice Self-Care During IVF
You’re embarking on a journey that’s fraught with emotions. Understanding that this journey is a rollercoaster of emotions helps you create a plan to manage and practice self-care. IVF typically takes about two weeks for one cycle. Your emotional health and well-being play an important role in the success of your treatment. Here are some tips gathered from patients who’ve been through IVF, as well as professionals:
- Begin With The Basics: Obviously sleep is a high priority right now. Your body is going through a lot and you need restorative sleep in order to stay physically and emotionally healthy. A nutritious, healthy diet is also essential to your well-being. Put away those sugary, highly-caffeinated beverages and incorporate more whole foods into your daily meals. One or two cups of coffee a day is still fine.
- Yoga: If your body is accustomed to working out, scale back on the vigorous activities for now. Check with Dr. Bayrak to determine just how much exercise is tolerable right now. Yoga is a wonderful habit to initiate during your IVF treatment. It encourages mindfulness and those long, lean, well-toned yoga muscles will also help you during your pregnancy, and delivery.
- Meditation: You needn’t strike a lotus pose to practice meditation, unless you want to. Simply clear your mind, focus on your breathing, and sit quietly, keeping your mind free of anxious thoughts. Stay in the present moment. If you need help in centering yourself try one of the many apps available for your device. Medication can also be as simple as sitting in a quiet room for a short period of time and gathering thoughts about life overall. Sounds a bit deep, but we all need some down time, in a way to “stop time” and try to find that balance in life.
- Acupuncture: Acupuncture is a highly effective treatment for anxiety. It can lower your heart rate and blood pressure, balance your breathing, and make you feel relaxed. Some studies show acupuncture may improve your odds for successful IVF. Although these studies aren’t conclusive, the fact remains stress takes a toll and alleviating the physical manifestations of stress improves your overall health and wellness. As part of your self-care routine, acupuncture can be a real asset. However, if you aren’t a fan of needles, you may want to pass on acupuncture and schedule regular massages instead.
- Step Out of Your Day-to-Day: One of the best self-care techniques for many individuals, going through IVF, or not, is to take a get-away. Whether a day trip up the coast, or a weekend spent getting pampered in new surroundings, stepping outside of your normal routine is often extremely restorative.
- Seek Out a Therapist: IVF takes a toll on your emotional well-being, which is why it’s so very important to practice caring for yourself. Prioritize your health right now. Find a therapist who is familiar with the process and this will do wonders for your emotional health. Being able to speak freely to another person and tell them your concerns and fears, air your grievances, and cry if you feel the need (you probably do!) is an amazing way to unburden and relieve your mind. You-and your partner-are dealing with a multitude of emotions that you may be afraid to share with one another, in order to protect each other. By seeing a therapist while you go through your IVF treatment some of the anxiety brought on by your concerns can be alleviated. You’ll be given tools to help you deal with the onslaught of feelings that come with IVF, and the outcome.
Everyone is unique in what brings them joy, whether it’s spending an afternoon with friends, listening to your favorite music, or treating yourself to a hot fudge sundae. Practice daily rituals that bring you joy, find moments of beauty, practice kindness, especially with yourself and your partner, and never be afraid to ask for help. If you feel overburdened by feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness and worry, talk to Dr. Bayrak, or a member of his staff, and they can offer help.