The quality of our thoughts and attitudes are a powerful tool in shaping how our bodies function. In fact, a vibrant and continuing program of research from the field of Positive Psychology has provided an abundance of research into the ways we can build states of wellbeing through everyday ordinary habits and behaviors.
When we think about resilience, we normally picture one of two things: someone blazing forward a bit like Rambo with guns blazing; being fearless and tough. Or, we come up with examples of those who have overcome extraordinary situations thinking that only conquering immense obstacles qualifies one as “being resilient.”
The reality is, any time we are confronted with a life challenge, no matter how big or small, we engage our inner strength to move forward and we build resilience.
But what, exactly, is resilience? It’s the ability to keep on keeping on; to persevere with hope even when it feels hopeless. It’s to get up when we fall and to keep trying no matter how small the steps.
Cultivating resilience is a personal journey. What works for you may not work for someone else.
Being resilient is about trying different things for different times in your life. If something is not helping, the most important thing is to try again or try something else. This is resilience in action.
The quest to conceive can call on every available internal resource, leaving you feeling depleted and uncertain about how to keep going.
Here are 10 ways to help you build resilience to support your fertility journey:
Create a fertility mindset — embrace things as they are, not what they could be or should be; don’t compare yourself to others.
Let’s be honest here, examples abound of people who don’t struggle to get pregnant. They’re everywhere! Letting go of the image of what you wish it could be is an important first step.
A fertility mindset is built on facts, evidence, knowledge, and acceptance of your personal experience. Embracing things as they are and taking steps to plan for the journey ahead will keep you grounded in your reality. It will also help you avoid the negative feelings that can arise when you compare yourself to others. Your story is unique, it may not be what you imagined but each day brings an opportunity to accept what is and take action toward your goal.
Everything that you’re doing is working toward your goal — measure success by the steps forward, not the outcomes
During fertility treatment, when a positive pregnancy result is not achieved, many of us tend to paint everything with a feeling of failure, including ourselves. It’s important to think about what you see as a success during this time. Trying a new treatment, exploring the timing of intercourse, using acupuncture, or changing lifestyle factors may not have obvious or measurable outcomes, but each and everything that you are trying is a step forward and that should be your definition of success — and what makes you see yourself as successful. Catching these micro-moments of pride, joy, and happiness can help to combat negative feelings; giving you a much-needed lift to sustain your effort.
Plan for a marathon, not a sprint — it’s a journey. Make sure you have enough left in your tank to get across the line
Think about the pace and speed of your efforts. Consider whether all the appointments, tasks, hobbies, and social commitments that you have can be maintained in the long term. Remember, a successful marathon is about a sustained effort. Doing too much, too quickly or too often, can deplete your energy, leaving nothing in the tank to get you to the finish line.
Take care of yourself — you’re not being selfish practicing self-care
In our busy, fast-paced world, taking care of yourself has become a luxury rather than a necessity. If you find that your life has turned into one big “to do” list, it really is time to do a self-care audit. Think about what nourishes you and puts energy back into your emotional tank. It might be taking a walk in nature, spending time on your own, having a good belly laugh with friends or digging up the garden. Whatever it is, it’s important that through your fertility journey, these activities are given as much priority as you give to your work, attending meetings or seeing your doctor. Self-care is knowing when you are feeling depleted and actively doing things that give life to your life.
Celebrate small wins along the way — every step is a win
If you’ve been trying to conceive for some time, chances are your brain has started to shine a spotlight on all the things that are not going well. This negativity bias actively filters out alternative information, leading to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. Even if you tune in to something that has gone well, you may find that you do not allow yourself to feel excited for fear that it will be taken away.
Denying ourselves this small momentary upward lift means that our brains and bodies continue to experience our outside world as a threat. We remain in a state of fight and flight.
Celebrating and honoring what has gone well, even if it’s finding a parking spot and getting to an appointment with your doctor on time, is a moment to communicate with your mind and body that this moment, right now, is actually okay!
Give yourself a break — rest and recharge, it’s not a waste of time
When you are on the fertility clock, taking a break can feel like the worst possible piece of advice. But, just like time away from work, time out from trying to conceive can have several positive benefits. Your body and mind work together constantly. Giving both the opportunity to rest and recharge is an act of kindness and self-compassion. Remember that a break does not have to be an extended time. It might be a day, a weekend or a month where you actively dedicate time to doing things unrelated to getting pregnant. Whatever it is that you do, it’s about giving your mind and body a break from the activities of trying to conceive.
Talk about your feelings — it’s okay to struggle and be vulnerable
For most people, the expression of positive emotions comes easily and effortlessly. But when it comes to talking about more complex human emotions such as shame, despair, and worthiness, reaching out and opening up can make us feel deeply vulnerable. But, withholding our feelings and emotions can make us feel like a pressure cooker. Eventually, the valve needs to be released. Confiding in a close family member, keeping a journal, talking to a best friend or engaging the help of a professional on a regular basis can create ways to let off steam. Expressing your feelings can help you to know yourself more deeply and this can lead to greater insight and self-awareness.
Surround yourself with a support network — build connections with those who build you up and hold you up
Human beings are hardwired for connection. Forming strong ties with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, and our community is important, if not essential, for our mental and physical health.
During your fertility treatment, you may find that some connections serve you better than others. Taking a step back from relationships that are not serving you is an act of courage. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries with people and give them some guidance on what you need, especially what is and isn’t okay to talk about. Real friends appreciate openness and honesty and will not be offended if you give them a gentle nudge in the right direction.
While being on your own might feel like a helpful strategy, isolation and going it alone is detrimental to our happiness and erodes wellbeing in the long term. Build a scaffold of key people around you, so that when you feel like you have the wobbles, your tribe of loved ones can hold you upright.
Invest in other life pursuits that light you up — refuel your inner strength
Focus on things that bring joy, happiness, engagement, and wellbeing to your life. Let’s face it, you probably wish that you could press pause on everything else that’s going on in your life and just focus on getting pregnant. Let’s think about this for a minute. What would each day look like if this wish came true? The richness of life comes from engaging in a range of experiences. Actively pursuing other life goals and activities brings opportunities to fill up your emotional and psychological tank, while also creating opportunities to feel a sense of achievement, mastery, and accomplishment in other life domains. Avoid the temptation to put everything on hold until after you achieve pregnancy and consider what you can do now that can help you feel alive and vital.
Talk openly and regularly about plan B — it’s not second-best; it’s an alternative plan A
Living a life that is not a mirror match for your blueprint is difficult to contemplate. Talking openly and honestly about plan B can help take the fear out of the unknown and can assist you to think about how your values and strengths can be used in new and novel ways.
Actively exploring what your plan B looks like can help you to journey into new territory. This might include discussions about assisted reproductive treatment, using donor eggs, sperm or embryos, surrogacy, foster care, adoption, or exploring a life without children. Remember, just because you talk about it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the life that you end up living. Considering alternative plans might just help you to know that there are other options, and this can help lighten the load.
Every journey takes courage and perseverance: the fertility journey is no exception. Remember, your wellbeing is essential and should take priority over everything else. Work on developing resilience so that your inner strength reserves can carry you safely across the finish line.
“There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who do not. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.” – José N. Harris
If you find that you need a space to talk about developing resilience or need help on actively applying some of these points to your journey, reach out to us. The ART Space is your space, come in and grab a cup of tea and have a chat. Our door is always open, and we are here to support you in any way possible, even if it’s just a hug.