Anxiety and Infertility

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1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. Infertility is a disease that carries a lot of stigma. If you are going through infertility, it is common that you may be feeling: shame, loss of control, detached from your body, sad, angry, emotional, depressed, and even anxious.

Anxiety is common when going through infertility.

In Rewiring your Anxious Brain, by Catherine M. Pittman, PHD and Elizabeth M. Karle, MILS, you learn that anxiety can come from the cortex or the amygdala. The anxiety that develops in the cortex, is the anxiety that you interpret; the “what ifs”. What if you never get pregnant? What if you never become a parent? What if you do get pregnant and lose the baby? What if infertility ruins your relationship?

In addition, these thoughts are usually accompanied by physiological symptoms. This is anxiety that comes from the amygdala. Anxiety that comes from the amygdala is the physical sensations and anxiety of past experiences. This type of anxiety contains the triggers and associations. Examples include feeling anxious every time you see a pregnancy test because it was negative before and that caused anxiety. Also, anxiety about going to the doctors office because the last time you were there you got bad news.

Anxiety symptoms can include, but are not limited to, racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, sweaty or clammy hands, upset stomach or butterflies, tight muscles, inability to focus, feeling lightheaded, and dizziness. Everyone experiences anxiety, as it is our body’s coping mechanism for danger. It is when there is no danger and our body still goes into the fight/flight/freeze mode that it starts impacting our functioning in life and becomes an anxiety disorder.

Stress is a common trigger for anxiety. If you are going through infertility this can be a stressful time in your life. Infertility treatments can also be emotionally and physically stressful. If you are feeling anxious you do not have to let it control you.

Here are some ways to deal with your anxiety:

  1. Exercise - When you exercise you can lower the baseline for your anxiety so that it doesn’t peak every time you start to notice your symptoms of anxiety. Exercise is also great when you are feeling anxious. When your body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode your body sends energy to the parts of the body that you need to either fight or flee, when you exercise you can use up that excess energy allowing your body to get the message that you are no longer in danger.

  2. Breath - If you are feeling anxious one of the best things that you can do is start to take some deep breaths and start to notice your breath. When your body is in the fight or flight mode our breathing becomes quicker to get more oxygen into the parts of our body preparing to fight or flee. When you start to slow down your breath your body gets the message that you are no longer in danger.

  3. Take charge of what you are in control of - If you are going through infertility, it can be easy to feel out of control. Write down your anxious thoughts. In one column, put those thoughts that you have control over. In the other column, put those thoughts that you do not have control over. Take the list that you have control over and work on those things. Rip up the other list.

  4. Say no - It can be very difficult some days to be facing infertility. You do not have to go to every baby shower or every kid’s birthday party. You do not have to join in on every holiday. You get to decide what you can handle that day. You do not have to listen to people’s advice or tips on how they got pregnant. It is okay to say no and to set boundaries.

  5. Be kind to yourself - Going through infertility is not easy. It is very important that you treat yourself kindly through the process-self affirmations, self care, mediation, support groups, counseling. These are all great ways to show yourself kindness through this difficult journey.

    If you are struggling with infertility and anxiety you are not alone. Please contact Kull Counseling, LLC to learn more about coping with anxiety during infertility. 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com

How to love your body through infertility

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Infertility is the inability to conceive or sustain a pregnancy after 1 year (for women less than 35 years of age) or after 6 months (for women over 35 years old).

If you are struggling with infertility you may feel anger, guilt, shame, depressed, or broken. It is common for women going through infertility to struggle with anxiety or depression. But one of the things that I rarely see addressed is how women feel about their body while going through infertility. You may be feeling like your body is broken, like it let you down and is not doing its job to reproduce. If you are a woman, odds are you may have a history of a body dissatisfaction. Infertility may be bringing up some new feelings about your body or triggering ones from your past.

You may hate your body.

You may want to punish your body by saying mean things to/about it. You may want to punish your body by dieting, restricting or bingeing food. You might even want to hurt your body. You may have a hard time connecting with your body, struggling to remain intimate with your partner, or even feeling numb in certain areas.

If you are going through infertility, you are not broken.

Here are some ways to love your body through infertility;

  1. Challenge your negative thoughts about your body - When you are having negative thoughts about your body it is easy to see your body as broken or bad. It is easy to want to punish your body or even to hate your body. By challenging these negative thoughts we can examine where they have come from, what proof we have to support them, and how to reframe them.

  2. Praise your body - Even if you do not believe what you are saying, even if you cringe while you are saying it, say it. Start by focusing on the part of your body that you do love or that you feel is strong. Focus on the functions of your body and what it truly does for you. If you have other children this is a great activity to do together. This is also something you can do while doing a physical activity. Examples of this are, “I love my feet because they allow me to run many miles” and “I love my hands because they are steady and stable allowing me to create a painting or piece of pottery.”

  3. Positive affirmations - When thinking of negative statements (i.e. “my body is broken”) try to mentally or verbally replace that statement with a positive statement about your body. For example, “I love my body” or “My body is strong” or “My body is amazing” or “My body can do so many things.” Start each day by looking in the mirror and saying one positive thing about your body.

  4. Give your body the proper nourishment - Fill your body with foods that give you energy and make you feel good. Feed it until it is full. Nourish it when it shows signs of hunger.

  5. Let your body rest - Trying to get pregnant is tough work. You are challenging your body physically, mentally, and emotionally everyday while trying to get pregnant. Being aware of when your body needs to rest; self-care is necessary. For most people, that is 7-9 hours of sleep and may be even more when undergoing procedures or fertility interventions.

  6. Move your body - Physical and mental exercise is helpful.

  7. Practice mind/body exercises - Mind/body exercises are those that combine breathe work with mental focus and body movement. This could be yoga or tai chi, as well as grounding exercises or progressive relaxation.

  8. Know when to get help - Many women suffer from an eating disorder, disordered eating, and/or body image concerns in their lifetime. If going through infertility is triggering any disordered eating behaviors such as restricting, bingeing, purging, only eating certain foods, feeling detached from your body, or punishing your body in any other way it is time to seek professional help.

For more information on loving your body through infertility contact Julie at julie@kullcounselingmadison.com or 608-239-4807.

The importance of self care

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Self care. Do you feel like you are hearing those two words everywhere? Have you ever wondered what self care is and how to do it? Self care is defined as any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health according to  Psychology Today.

Self care is not just exercise or meditation but it certainly does include these things. Self care includes all the different areas in your life: Physical, Spiritual, Social, Cognitive/Mental. 

Physical- How can we physically take care of our bodies? One way is through movement. Exercise is a great form of self care. Examples include: Running, Walking, yoga, pilates, tai chi, stretching, dance, cleaning, hiking, kayaking, swimming, bicycling, getting a massage, and gardening are a few examples. The second physical way that we take care of our body is how we nourish it. What food are you putting into your body? Are you eating a balanced diet? How are you eating? Do you rush through your meals? Do you rely heavily on meal replacements? Are you cooking your meals? Or if you cook often can you take a break to eat at a restaurant? Self care and nutrition can look different depending on your dietary needs.

Spiritual- Are you nourishing your spiritual side? For some that may mean organized religion, for others that may be more spiritual or even philosophical. Examples include: going to church, volunteering within your religious community, taking time to be in nature, connecting to your spiritual side, taking a day of rest, prayer, meditation, or devotions.

Social- Self care for our social side can include social activities and social support. Social activities can include taking a class with others, going to a movie, going out to dinner, playing a sport together, going for a walk or joining a club, volunteering, joining a board, and hanging out with friends to name a few. Social support can include: friends, family, neighbors, religious community, colleagues, 

Cognitive/Mental- Cognitive self care involves stimulating your mind. This can include: reading, learning a new skill, taking a class, learning about something new. This also includes getting enough sleep. Mental self care is nourishing our emotional health. Examples of this include: mindfulness, meditation, journaling, painting, drawing, listening to music, playing an instrument, seeing a psychotherapist, and practicing relaxation exercises.

There are many ways to care for your self and self care will look different for each person. Many of these examples cross over to other categories. It is important to care for yourself in many different aspects of your life. Self care is important to your overall wellbeing. It does not need to take long but even incorporating a few minutes a day or trying one or two examples from above can make a big difference. 

For more ideas on adding self care into your life contact Kull Counseling at 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com.

 

Going back to work after a miscarriage

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Miscarriage affects 1 in 4 people. Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester. While it is common to have a miscarriage, how it affects you looks different for each person. A miscarriage can take a toll on your wellbeing. Many women struggle with how and when to return to work after having a miscarriage. Below are some considerations for deciding when to go back to work and some coping tips that may be useful at work.

Considerations to make before returning to work:

1. Is your body physically able to return to work?

Having a miscarriage can be a painful experience. It can drain you not only emotionally but physically. It is common that your hormones may be out of whack and is common that you will still have pregnancy symptoms and you may still feel pregnant. The miscarriage may take a few weeks to complete. You may need to take time away to schedule a D & C. You may need to consider what your job asks of you physically. Do you have to do any heavy lifting or be on your feet all day?

2. Are you emotionally ready to return to work?

Do you feel well enough emotionally ready to return to work? You might be having a hard time concentrating. You also may find that your emotions are consuming you. It is common to feel like your emotions are on a roller coaster often feeling more than one emotion at a time. It is common to feel sadness, anxiety, depression, loss of interest in things, isolated, and feeling disconnected from your body.

3. Will you tell anyone?

If you took some time off after/during your miscarriage your boss may wonder while you are out. Will you tell your boss? Have you thought about how you want to tell them? If you decide not to talk about it at work have you thought about what you might tell your coworkers if they ask where you were. Do you have anyone at work that you can trust or that your feel like you want to tell?

4. What can you do if you are feeling upset at work?

When you have a miscarriage it can affect you at different times. You might be feeling okay but then something may trigger thoughts of the miscarriage and feelings of sadness, frustration, isolation ect. Do you have coping skills at work when these feelings come on? Is their someone that you can talk to? Would you like some alone time? Where can you go? Your office, a bathroom, outside for a walk? Does deep breathing help you? A simple method is called four square breathing. Breathe in to the count of four, hold it to the count of four, exhale to the count of four, hold it and repeat. Can you do a grounding exercise? An exercise that is easy to remember is to just feel your feet. Put your feet flat on the floor and bring awareness to any sensations that you feel in your feet for the next minute.

5. When do you have to be back at work?

Do you know your work policies about how much time you can take off? Have you contacted the correct departments if you need more time off of work. Most companies have a human resources department that can help to guide you through this process. Can you work from home?

If you do not feel ready to return to work it is important to speak with your doctor. If you are feeling depressed or anxious most days it is also important to talk to your doctor or identify a psychotherapist that you can talk to.

For tips on returning to work and early pregnancy loss contact Kull Counseling, LLC at 608.239.4807.