Anyone who has struggled with infertility can attest to the physical and emotional strain that accompanies this path to parenthood. The rollercoaster of hormones, hope and disappointment, comments made by others, and grueling medical schedule makes anxiety nearly universal to the treatment process.
As a result of this increase in anxiety I would encourage you to consider self-care as a fundamental tool to cope with the anxiety that is inherent to the process. Self-care includes:
- Pamper yourself. Between the daily hormone injections, the blood draws and ultrasound of an IVF cycle, your body takes a beating! Be sure to give yourself a little extra TLC. Get a massage, make time for yoga or take a nap. Treat yourself to what you enjoy. You’ve earned it.
- Find support. Though you may feel alone in this process at times, infertility is quite common. You may already know friends or family members who have struggled with infertility. Talk to them. If you don’t know anyone look for a local support group or a mental health provider who specializes in reproductive health.
- Stay rooted in the present. It can be overwhelming to deal with the countless details of IVF: the medication regimen, the monitoring, the instructions, the potential outcomes. Sometimes it is too much to take in all at once. If you find yourself stressed about the process, bring yourself back to the present. What is happening in this moment? What do you need to do today, not tomorrow or next week? Focus only on the next step and then the next step, one step at a time.
- Ease up on your schedule. Cut obligations where you can. Delegate work or chores if possible. Ask for help from friends, family, colleagues or neighbors. Fertility treatment is a time-intensive process–letting go of any extra responsibilities will give you the time take care of what is really important while decreasing the stress of trying to juggle too much.
- Remember your life outside of fertility treatment. It is easy to get swept up in the process so that conceiving becomes your sole focus. What did you like to do before you began treatment? Paint? Walk? Read? Do it again! What in your life is going well? Do you have great friends? A good husband? A job you like? Focusing on those good areas in your life doesn’t mean that getting pregnant isn’t a priority, it simply helps to balance out your attention and lower anxiety while you undergo treatment.
- Get help if you need it. If you find that your anxiety becomes unmanageable or if you’re struggling with depression, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Many women need a little extra help during this difficult time.
Ariadna Cymet Lanski, Psy.D
Clinical Psychologist, Wellbeing Chicago
Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski is a clinical psychologist who offers a wide range of psychological services to meet the unique needs of individuals and couples coping with fertility challenges. Her services include consultation and support during various stages of fertility treatment, consultation for individuals using egg/sperm donor or gestational carriers. Additionally, Dr. Cymet Lanski conducts egg donor, gestational carrier, and Intended Parents assessments.
Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski’s clinical practice specializes in reproductive health issues -from preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum adjustment to parenthood. Through the years, Dr. Cymet Lanski has provided support and assistance in understanding the psychological impact of fertility issues and other reproductive crises. She has helped many patients to manage stress and feel empowered about their choices. To this end, Dr. Cymet Lanski frequently utilizes mindfulness concepts and is a strong believer in the relationship between emotional and physical wellbeing.
Since 2011, Dr. Cymet Lanski has been an active member of RESOLVE and the ASRM Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG), having served and then chaired the MHPG Membership committee. She has presented in various national and international medical conferences including various presentations at the ASRM annual congress.
Well Being Chicago
Ariadna Cymet Laski, PsyD
By Melissa Hinshaw
Living in the present is no easy task, especially when what we want so badly is in the future. Whether it’s having a baby, buying a house, losing ten pounds, or landing a new job it often feels like life is in front us. It lies in the future. On the same token, we miss the present when we ponder and beat ourselves up for decisions or mistakes we have made in the past. How much time do you spend replaying a decision with, “I should have, why did I, I can’t believe I…” So what does that say about today, the now, the present moment? The present and who we are in the moment are lost.
What does it mean to live in the present moment and why is it important? To live in the present moment your awareness is centered on the here and now. There is no worrying about what comes in the future or obsessing over the past. You are living as life is happening around you and in you. Being present or mindful has many benefits that you may not know about. Being mindful can make a relationship more meaningful and intimate. When you are truly listening to someone (being truly present while they speak), not thinking of what you’ll say or do next or why you shouldn’t have spent that money yesterday, you connect. When you are present with someone you are listening, making eye contact and sensing physical clues. All these things increase intimacy. Living in the moment can have an effect on your emotional well-being. When you live in the present you are experiencing life as complete. Life is more satisfying and therefore you can be more peaceful and ultimately happier. Does worrying about what’s happening in three days make you feel good or satisfied? No. It takes an emotional tow on your mind and your body. When you live in the moment you may find yourself doing things in a smarter way without any effort. If you are being mindful you would take a dirty dish and put it into the dish washer or wash it immediately and put it away instead of tossing it in the sink with lots of other dirty dishes. Both take about the same amount of effort but one creates a life of tidiness. It’s done so no worrying about when you will be doing it and no knocking yourself in the future for leaving a big mess. Being present can help you become better at sex. Not obsessing over body image, the towels on the floor, or how badly you want a raise, keeps your mind focused on the real physical and emotional sensations that go along with great sex, and that is truly sexy. Being present when you eat can actually make your food taste better. Honing in on the flavors and textures and the fabulous smells is something most of don’t do on a regular basis. Think about this next time you sit down to dinner. Be there. Smell and taste and savor your meal. It is a completely different experience than simply eating for eating sake.
Becoming mindful will take some practice. You’ll need to become aware in all that you do. You will need to let the worry voice take a vacation and the regretful voice retire. You will notice what triggers both voices and just the noticing part alone will take you closer to living in the moment. Breath. When your mind winds up in some non-present direction take a deep breath. Remind yourself of the another way to be.
I think Buddha says it just beautifully…
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
Infertility is a trauma that impacts 1 in 10 people. Since it’s so prevalent, then it must be easy for friends and family to understand your feelings, right? Well, as you may have experienced, it’s not.
Often the people you love most, say just the wrong thing. Those who have experienced the pain of infertility often hear things like, “Just relax. Then it’ll happen;” “You should enjoy your time without kids. I’ve got kids and I can’t tell you the last time I got to sleep in or go out to dinner.”
Not only are these types of responses angering, they can be painful. These comments often lead to not sharing feelings in the future. Thus, feeling more and more isolated. Going through infertility is traumatic and just the kind of situation where one needs the most support and care possible. Learning to communicate your feelings with those you trust is an essential skill for surviving infertility.
Here are 8 Keys to Communication During Infertility:
Build awareness of your feelings . This is the very first step to open, productive communication. Understanding oneself and one’s feelings allows for communicating those feelings and needs.
Practice breathing skills. It may sound simple, yet it’s crucial. When communication breaks down it’s often due to at least one person being flooded with emotion. We’ve all been there! Something a person says strikes a nerve and we fire back with a harsh or passive aggressive statement. When we can bring our focus to our breath even for a few seconds, we have a better chance of responding vs. reacting. This leads to a more productive conversation. Try meditation, practice mindfulness , or try Yoga for Fertility to get started.
Talk with someone you trust about your feelings. Perhaps it’s a friend who has always been there for you and is sensitive to your feelings. It can be a parent or a therapist. Just make sure it’s a person that you feel safe talking to. Find your community.
It’s ok to acknowledge hurtful comments. Using simple language like, “When I hear ‘just relax and it’ll happen,’” I feel hurt and frustrated. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.”
Use “I” statements & avoid critical labels. Instead of “You can be so insensitive” try something like, “This is a very painful time for me and I want nothing more than to have a child. So, hearing that I should just enjoy the time feels like a minimization of how important having a family is to me.”
Tell people what you need. A good friend wants to be there for you. She just may not know how. The friend might think that bringing up the topic will make you sad. And maybe you desperately want to talk about it, but expect the friend to ask if she cares. Whether you need her to ask how you’re feeling or to not bring up the topic of kids, let her know.
Vent your feelings to a confidant. Or if you prefer to write your feelings, get a journal and let loose! As you know, it’s important to express your feelings because feelings seep out either directly or indirectly. When we understand our feelings we can respond in a direct way vs. letting our feelings control us.
Know that you can always revisit a conversation. If a conversation didn’t go how you wanted, go back to it. None of us are perfect! There are bound to be miscommunications, hurt feelings, and things left unsaid. Know that you can always try again with a fresh perspective.
If you’d like to work on these skills more or have a particularly challenging dynamic with a friend or family member, feel free to contact me. You are going through one of the most painful experiences in life and are growing stronger through it.
Alison Moran, MA, LCPC
Founder & Psychotherapist
Evolve Counseling & Wellness, Inc.
53 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1119, Chicago, IL 60604
825 W. State St., Suite 214, Geneva, IL 60134
In honor of Valentine’s day, let’s talk about the language of love: touch. Everyone understands that physical touch is one of the cornerstones of romance. Who hasn’t swooned with a simple caress at the base of their neck? Or with a hand placed on the small of their back? Or even a few fingers brushing across their hand on a first date?
Unfortunately, romance (and libido) tend to dip during times of stress. Ironically, romance is an ancient healing art for just that very thing! So for the month of February let’s turn up the heat with some targeted touch: a foot massage with five specific points to enhance romance! ***these points should not be stimulated if you might be pregnant.
Starting with your partner face down, apply pressure to the soles of the feet with your thumbs, ‘walking’ your thumbs up and down the arch of the foot. Stop just below the halfway point on the foot (slightly closer to the toe than to the heel), directly in line with the big toe. This is the adrenal reflex point. Apply pressure for at least 30 seconds, or until you feel the muscles start to relax. Melting the adrenal reflex points is an excellent way to decrease stress and stimulate relaxation, which sets the stage for our next point!
Continue walking your thumbs up the midline of the feet (directly in line with the middle toe). Stop just below the ball of the foot between the pads, and apply pressure for at least 30 seconds. This is Bubbling Spring, or Kidney 1, an acupressure point thought to awaken the body’s sexual energy.
Have your partner turn onto their back. Focus the massage on the right foot, either kneading the foot with massage oil or continuing to massage dry with thumb pressure (for extra credit, add lavender to the massage oil for relaxation, or jasmine for romance). Imagine a diagonal line connecting the inside ankle bone to the tip of the heel, and apply pressure to the middle of this line. Stimulate the same point on the outside ankle, and hold for at least 30 seconds. These points correspond to the ovaries and uterus on a woman, and the testicles and prostate on a man. Repeat on the left foot.
Massage up the foot to the toes. Gently apply pressure and pull each digit. When you get to the big toe, press the center point (you will need to use another finger or hand behind the big toe to maintain adequate pressure), and hold for at least 30 seconds. This is the pituitary reflex point, which encourages balance to the endocrine system (an important part of a healthy libido).
Continue massaging the feet and then travel up the lower leg to the knee. Stroke or ‘walk’ your thumbs up and down the inside of the tibia, just above the calf muscles. Find the point four fingers above the inside ankle bone, and press for at least 30 seconds. This is Spleen 6, and is also known to awaken sexual energy and stimulate the uterus in a woman.
Next steps? Get creative. Nothing is more intimate that communicating with your partner about what feels good – so explore and become an expert in what makes your partner feel that touch of romance!
Learn more about how massage can help your journey here !
With Valentine’s Day coming up, we are surrounded by hearts, lace, and thoughts of love and romance. However, when you are in a long-term relationship, and especially when you have struggled with fertility, you may feel that the Loving Feeling may need a little of Cupid’s help!
Feng Shui, or Chinese Geomancy, is a traditional form of correcting the flow of energy with proper placement of furniture, decor, and structure in your home, office, or other living space to create balance, health, and harmony. Many techniques focus on health and wealth, but creating and maintaining loving relationships are also a big part of the picture! Here are a few tips to creating a home environment that is conducive to bring love into … or back into … your life.
First, find your Love Corner! According to Feng Shui principles, different areas of your body correspond to different aspects of your life. This is known as the Ba Gua (8 Principles). The Love Corner of your home is in the far right.
Wealth and Prosperity
Colors: Purples, Blues, Reds
Fame and Reputation
Colors: Reds, Oranges
Love and Relationships
Pinks, Reds, Whites
Family and Physical Health
Colors: Greens, Florals, Stripes
Spiritual Health and Well Being
Yellows, Earth Tones
Children and Creativity
Colors: Whites, Pastels
Knowledge and Wisdom
Colors: Blues, Greens
Travel and Helpful People
Colors: Greys, Silver
Go to the main entrance of your home. Even if you enter through a side door or garage frequently, you should still go to the main entrance of the home. Point your hand to the far right corner of the house. That is your Love Corner!
Next, remove objects, colors, and other elements which would harm the flow of energy to this area:
Any representations of things that are alone. Images/statues of a lone figure, etc
Anything that reminds you of an old relationship, lost love, or other relationships that make you feel hurt or would rather not think about
Anything in 3’s
Sharp objects, prickly cactuses, unwelcoming or unsafe objects
Piles of stuff, clutter, storage, old boxes, “baggage” – literally or figuratively!
Computers, TVs, and other “distractions”
Games of any kind (you never want to play games in your relationships!)
Dead plants, dirt, dust, garbage cans
Anything broken or in need of repair
Once you have removed all of these objects, give the area a good cleaning. Then, consider adding some of the following elements to welcome good Love energy to the space:
Paint the space or bring in accents of red, pink, and/or white. It can be as simple as a throw pillow, vase, or picture frame.
Symbols of love. This can be through pictures, sculptures, murals, etc:
Animal print material
Two figures together
Bowl of Hershey’s kisses
Mirrors and candles (see more on mirrors below)
Silky, sexy items
Romantic music (radio, guitar, piano)
Clean the area regularly! Don’t allow clutter to build up.
You can also look at other rooms in your house or office and apply the same principles! When you stand in the entrance of any space, the far right corner is the Love Corner, so you can use the same techniques in all of your spaces to promote love there, too!
Some special notes about the bedroom:
Avoid mirrors in your bedroom. Mirrors are always reflecting things, so they are considered an active item. If you have built-in mirrors, consider removing them or covering them up (especially at night with a folding screen or other decorative item.
Do not have water elements (fountains, images of water, reflective surfaces, etc) in the bedroom.
Do not place pictures of your family or religious images in the bedroom. Having these images near your bed will make you feel like you are being watched and not allow you to fully enjoy your partner.
No work or fitness in the bedroom. Working and love do not mix! Keep computers, papers, other things that remind you of stressful situations or work, along with any workout equipment out of the bedroom.
Have fun! Make your Love Corner a place that stimulates happy, warm, loving relationships in your life!
Christine Davis, LAc is the Director of Acupuncture at Pulling Down the Moon. She sees patients in the Highland Park office on Mon, Wed, Fri and Sat. Call 312-321-0004 or go to www.pullingdownthemoon.com to book your appointment today with Christine or any practitioner on the team at the location that works best for you!
The infertility journey can strain even the healthiest of relationships, which is why it’s important to protect your partnership while navigating this process. The end goal of any fertility treatment is a baby, but if you’re going through it with a partner it is essential to prioritize connection and communication. This process can be grueling at times – medications, injections, sperm samples, genetic testing – but maintaining a team approach will help your relationship thrive during (and far beyond!) this process.
Avoid the blame game – PCOS, low sperm count, unexplained infertility – these terms may tempt you to assign blame to your partner. Signing up for partnership means erasing the blame and taking a team approach to whatever comes your way. Make a commitment from day one to resist the urge to place blame.
Seek out fun and connection – Spend a night away, plan a date – connect! Lately I’ve been loving the app “Gottman Card Decks”. It offers helpful questions and conversation starters to deepen intimacy and connection. Regardless of what you do, spend an hour or so intentionally connecting and try not to forget the reasons you chose this person to do life with.
Understand and validate your partner’s perspective – Infertility can bring up feelings of shame, guilt, and loss and it’s important to remember that you might have a different range of emotions from that of your partner. These feelings may be deeply rooted in our hopes and expectations of parenthood. Connect to your partner through this shared experience and encourage him or her whenever you can. If your partner is having an especially difficult day, offer your time and listening ear for support.
Find support – We all have different needs. Perhaps an online community would feel safest for you. Maybe an in-person support group or individual therapy would help your partner process this experience. For some, coffee with a friend who “gets it” meets this need. Even within the infertility world, situations and experiences can vary from person to person. Make sure that both you and your partner are surrounded by a supportive community of people who can hear and empathize with what you’re going through. Infertility is a unique journey that stirs up lots of emotions, don’t go at it alone!
Maintain hope – There’s no doubt that this process can be difficult and at times even discouraging. Try to hold onto hope, knowing that you’re doing everything you can. You may have to put some things on hold while going through the infertility process, but move forward where you can. You’re not alone and there are many people out there who have walked this path before. At the end of the day, remember there is a lot to be hopeful for.
Amanda Atkins is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She practices in Lincoln Square and specializes in perinatal mood disorders and couples & infertility. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org . Check out more at amandaatkinschicago.com .
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