When navigating your fertility journey there is so much to think about and, quite frankly, worry about. Each event, whether it be your first appointment, investigative procedure, or egg retrieval seems like a huge mountain to climb, a path littered with indecision and unease – and let’s not even get started on the anxiety-inducing ‘two-week wait’!
It doesn’t have to feel this way though. Training your brain to only worry when you want it to, and not allowing your worries to take over and become the boss of you can stop them from spiralling out of control.
So why do we worry?
First of all it’s important to remind ourselves that worrying is completely normal. Most of us wish we didn’t do it, but there are in fact some very good reasons why we do. We worry:
- To help ourselves find a solution to a problem
- To keep ourselves in check and not overlook something important
- To be prepared for all eventualities and avoid the surprise of a negative experience
- To control situations around us
But when is worrying too much worrying?
Worrying ceases to be helpful when it starts to feel too much to cope with, when it becomes all-consuming, and when we are focussing only on the possible negative outcomes. If you find you’re being kept awake at night by your worries and everything seems very bleak and overwhelming, or your worrying is causing you considerable stress, then you’re definitely worrying too much and now is the time to address this.
Below are three simple steps you can start using today to challenge your negative thoughts and help you to become a Fertility Warrior rather than a fertility worrier.
1. Devise a worry routine:
Decide on a particular time of day that suits you to unpick the things that are on your mind. If you can, first thing in the morning is a good opportunity to get one step ahead of your worries. Choose a place, like a particular room, that you can go to each day to worry/research/think. Try and keep this time and place consistent as this will help to train your brain to only worry at your allocated worry time.
2. Journal your worries:
In your chosen worry place get all the things troubling you out of your head and down on paper, as well as noting any research you may need to do or actions you need to take.
3. Classify your worries:
It can be useful to classify your worries into the below categories as this will help you figure out where to start when it comes to tackling them.
- ‘Real’ worries: These are worries that need to be solved and can be solved. There is evidence that what you are worried about is a reality and therefore solutions need to be considered.
Taking action helps to overcome this type of worry – making a decision about what you need to do, setting a deadline, and then doing it. Break the actions you can take to combat this worry into smaller steps and focus on the task itself rather than the possible outcomes. By doing this you avoid rushing ahead into the future, worrying about all the different ways a situation may turn out, instead of looking at what you can actually do to solve your problems in the here and now.
Communicate your concerns with those around you – a worry shared is a worry halved – this is an oldie but a goodie! Consider the best person for the job, do you need someone to be sympathetic and offering you a shoulder to cry on? Or do you need someone to tell you to put your big-girl pants on and take action?
- ‘Future event’ worries : Your mind struggles to tell the difference between the irrational ‘what if’ worries and those you really need to think about. It’s very likely that you’ll have a lot of these types of worries as there are generally many future events on a fertility journey to fret about!
To overcome these worries you need to devise an action plan. In this plan you can include the things you need to find out, or questions you need to ask. Some people also find that having a ‘Plan B’ helps to lessen their worrying, safe in the knowledge that there is always another option.
Some worries are also strengthened by your own negative belief in yourself. An example of this is perhaps worrying that you may not be able to cope if your IVF cycle is unsuccessful, when in reality you are likely to be more resilient that you give yourself credit for. Learning to accept that not every worry is true or will happen will help to combat these worries.
- ‘Out of my control’ worries: These are worries that you cannot control and most likely don’t have an answer for. These can frequently include things such as worrying about other people’s reactions, and tends to lead to exaggerated and negative scenarios in your mind.
To overcome these worries, take a deep breath and remind yourself that you’re not responsible for, and cannot control, how other people may act or think. Other people don’t think about you or what you do half as much as you might assume!
Comparing yourself to others also comes under the category of ‘out of my control’ worries. Avoid comparing your individual fertility journey to that of others. Every woman is unique and so too will be your own experiences of trying to conceive, what was one way for someone won’t necessarily be the same for you as we don’t all experience things in the same way.
Learning to take back control of your worries takes time, so don’t be too hard on yourself if it feels difficult at first, the more you can practice, the easier and more natural it will become. Remember, fertility is part of you but by no means all of you and now is the time to take back control of your worrying and start living your life.
About the author
Kate Davies (RN, BSc (Hons), FP Cert) is a fertility nurse consultant and IVF Coach who spent 20 years in the NHS as a specialist nurse and manger in sexual and reproductive healthcare before founding Your Fertility Journey: a support and advice service for women and couples who are struggling to conceive.