Whether or not you’ve completed a cycle before or this was to be your first, hearing from the Center that your treatment is being put on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak is undoubtedly disappointing, and that’s probably an understatement. In the meantime, you’re dealing with all of the anxiety the rest of the world is feeling about coronavirus, with the added concern about its unknown impact on fertility and pregnancy. It’s a lot to take.
The rational side of you probably understands that this decision was made in accordance with the recommendations from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in an attempt to protect you and your potential pregnancy. But the emotional side of you is devastated and grieving the hope of conceiving this spring. You have been living with uncertainty about conceiving already; the added uncertainty brought on by the coronavirus crisis might feel overwhelming. And the hormones aren’t helping either.
You are probably experiencing lots of emotions right now: anger, sadness, frustration, disappointment, grief, anxiety, or all of the above. These are all completely understandable and normal. No one can tell you differently. You are the one going through this and owning the emotional response you’re having is only fair to yourself. But what’s not fair is to believe you have to continue feeling that way. These are very strong emotions, and they will fade. Own your negative emotions, then try to figure out ways to get past them. They aren’t helping you feel better.
Let’s talk about some strategies that might help you feel more in control of your emotions right now. Here are some techniques aimed at coping with the negative emotions related to your treatment being put on hold and the crisis our country is in at present:
Keeping Perspective: Although it’s very tempting to start catastrophizing, whether it be about coronavirus or your fertility treatment, this unhealthy thought pattern serves no purpose. It just pushes you further down the dark rabbit hole. Everyone is confronting challenges right now, and trying to remember those things in your life for which are grateful can keep you from falling into that hole. Whether it be your partner, your friends and family, your job, your home or the excellent blueberry muffin you had for breakfast, gratitude can go a long way in helping you keep perspective. So can remembering that others are dealing with worse and scarier situations at the moment. And lastly, remember that this is a crisis, and crises are temporary. No one knows how long this will last, or when cycles at CARS will get back to normal, but rest assured they will get back to normal. Keeping in mind the temporary nature of this unpleasant situation can help you get through it and remain hopeful about what awaits on the other side!
Self-nurturance: Now more than ever, this is the time to take care of yourself, both physically and emotionally. This is an opportunity to get as healthy as you possibly can so that you can be in a really good place for your next cycle. This might include eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, and getting plenty of sleep. It might also include pampering yourself so that you can feel as good as possible during this difficult time. Take some time to do something that is soul-nourishing for you. Some examples are: Learn a new skill or brush up on a foreign language. Read a book or magazine that you haven’t gotten to (I usually save Elin Hilderbrand for my summer beach reading, but I just ordered a few of her books for my coronavirus reading–we all need some happy endings right now!) Take a mindful walk, appreciating the outdoors, fresh air, and extra time you have. Make a decadent dessert that you haven’t had time to make before. Learn to knit. Binge watch that show everyone has been bugging you to watch. Practice deep breathing, meditation or visual imagery (you can find some great videos on YouTube or on the fertility coping app–FertiCalm, which I recommend highly.) Anything that helps you feel better–you deserve to feel better!
Social Connection: Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation. If you have shared your fertility journey with others, reach out to them now for support and distraction. If you have kept this journey private, possibly consider opening up to at least one trusted person in your life for support and as a sounding board. It can be a huge relief to open up about what you’re going through. But be patient with people–no one can say the exact right thing all the time. They mean well and are trying. If that’s all too much, and you still want to keep things completely private, still reach out to a friend or loved one for mutual support in this difficult time.
Take a Break from Media Coverage: Right now, hearing about the details of the pandemic over and over again can essentially result in re-traumatization and can be exhausting. Take breaks from watching the news and reading about the crisis. This includes social media–especially if you tend to be drawn to the more heartbreaking stories. I know we are all yearning for some reassurance and confirmation that we are doing the right things to get through this. And it’s OK to watch some news coverage or check out a news source you trust. But focus on getting facts, and if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, stop! At least for some time, most of the statistics are going to get worse before they get better and none of us needs to hear bad news getting worse. So be selective in what you are taking in and know your limits.
In uncertain times, finding some aspect of your life that you can control can be beneficial. These coping strategies can help give you a healthier sense of control and remain hopeful about the future. Pick and choose which ones of these fit best for you. Your goal is to be healthy, energized and ready to go when it’s time to get back to CARS and get closer to your dream of growing your family.
Take care of yourself and be well! Feel free to call me at (860) 830-8862 to discuss some additional support options.
Kim Crone, PhD
Psychologist, Center for Advanced Reproductive Services