If you are feeling unsettled over recent events regarding COVID-19, you’re not alone. Dealing with uncertainty is never easy. And change can be hard for many to deal with, at the best of times. When navigating fertility treatments and pregnancy, that uncertainty can be exacerbated.
Here are some strategies for managing uncertainty during this challenging time:
Accurate and up-to-date information can help to reduce anxiety. For accurate information about how COVID-19 may impact your fertility treatment or pregnancy, check in on the latest updates from the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
Researching and searching for information is normal. But it can be a good idea to place your social media scrolling or your news channels on a time limit once in a while. It can help to turn off tech devices at least an hour before bed. It can also be helpful to limit your viewing to certain times of the day when you are least likely to feel triggered.
Take frequent breaks to move your body with a breath, stretching, or a walk outside (within a safe distance of others).
Keep up your normal routine for eating and sleeping as much as you can.
Mindfulness can be very helpful in reducing anxiety, muscle tension, and improving sleep. This may be a good time to try out an app at home for mindfulness meditation, yoga, or guided visualization. Remember that mindfulness can be practiced at any time, simply by focusing on the present moment and on slowing down the breath.
Distraction is the opposite of mindfulness, but is just as important. Take time out of each day to focus on topics that are not related to COVID-19 or to fertility. Giving yourself even a ½ hour in the day to focus on anything other than these big topics can leave you feeling lighter.
Do one thing that lifts you up, every day. You may not feel the benefits immediately, but know that it is still calming to your whole system. Listen to music, take a warm shower, or spend time with a pet or in nature.
We all talk to ourselves. Take a look at what you’re saying. In particular, look for phrases starting with ‘what if’. It is normal during times of uncertainty to ask ‘what if’ questions. It is our brain’s way of trying to find solutions and to feel in control. Try writing down all the solutions or options or answers you can think of, even if they are not what you initially planned on, to refer to when you need. Remind yourself with your self talk: ‘Things are not going as I had expected, but it doesn’t mean they won’t work out in the end’. You may also be interested in the Mindshift™ CBT app from Anxiety Canada.
Feeling OK with uncertainty
As stated above, we don’t always have answers to our questions, especially when the circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are changing every day. Remind yourself that it is completely normal to feel discomfort when dealing with uncertainty. It is awful to worry about whether your next IVF cycle, or your flight, will go as scheduled. It can be helpful to say to yourself ‘I don’t know exactly what this will look like yet, but I will get through it’. Remember that your clinic is working hard to help you meet your goals as quickly as possible.
Providing support to others
It can be hard to provide support to friends and family when experiencing similar worries. If you already have children, you may notice them asking more questions than usual. It is natural to want to protect them, but being honest without over-elaborating is the recommendation.
We are being asked to physically distance ourselves from others as much possible, but that doesn’t mean we have to be socially isolated. It is important to connect with others during this challenging time. This can be a good time to check out online or telephone support provided by organizations such as Fertility Matters, ASRM’s Reproductive Facts, and Donor Conception Canada. You may also want to connect one-on-one with a counsellor who is experienced in reproductive health & fertility.
Written by Holly Yager, M.Ed., RCC, CCC on May 1, 2021 (originally written by Holly Yager on behalf of the Counselling Special Interest Group of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society on March 16, 2020)