Over the past couple of years probably the most important thing I have taught myself is how to relax. Or at least try to. I am a worrier at heart however the more I go through life, the more I realise there is absolutely no point in worrying. It’s easier said than done trying to stop, especially when dealing with something like infertility; you so desperately want to know the answers, to fast forward a year or even six months to see what’s going to happen and whether or not you will come out victorious or have to admit defeat and move on.
If I could know now that this time next year I would be pregnant or even have a little one of my own, it would save me so much worrying and stress now. Unfortunately of course, that is impossible so the best I can do is try to stay positive and find ways which help me clear my mind, ease the worry and generally contribute to my overall health and peace of mind. What follows are my best ways of doing this; all are very simple but are definitely my ‘go to’ stress busters when I just need to find my centre again and remember that everything is going to be ok.
I used to think Yoga was only for people who were super fit and bendy and let me assure you I am neither! However, even before our fertility issues began, I grew to love yoga so much and really felt so much better after a session. There’s just something about stretching out your body, controlling your breathing and challenging your body into positions you never thought possible, that makes me feel great!
I do various yoga routines but always have my favourites that I go back to and am often surprised at what a workout it can be. Ok it’s not 30 minutes of heavy-duty cardio but for me, it’s so much better than that as my mind gets a workout as well as my body.
I know there are many yoga classes in my surrounding area, however I’ve never been one to enjoy classes – too many fit people for my liking. So I do my yoga at home. My favourite yoga instructor is Tara Stiles and all her sessions are available on You Tube (https://www.youtube.com/user/TaraStilesYoga).
Meditation is something I have only discovered since starting our fertility journey. Everyone tells you how important it is to be relaxed going through your treatment as stress and worry can play a massive role in how your cycle goes. It can be very difficult at times as you spend most of your time feeling awful and during the stimulation injections in my first cycle I was barely able to function. So it can be very hard to keep happy and positive when you’re unable to go about your life as you normally would.
I don’t know about anyone else but I feel at my best when I’m dressed nicely, make-up and hair done and out meetings friends, running errands, spending time with family or working on my business. When you find it difficult to do any of that because you’re feeling so unwell, it can be hard not to get a little sad and lonely.
There are people who have told me that during IVF you have to get on with things and go through life as though nothing is happening. I do agree to an extent that life must goes on and to that end this weekend I have done a 2-day event for my jewellery business which I have had booked for months so it was bad timing that it ended up being in the middle of our cycle. It is busy and exhausting but something I really enjoy so despite having a week last week of feeling pretty horrible, I still forced myself to go along. I had people to help me so when I needed a rest I took it, but I am fed up of feeling guilty for not performing at 100% all of the time.
Everybody reacts differently to the IVF treatment programme and the first time I did it, I had nothing to compare it to. However, this time I have noticed how much worse I’ve been feeling and I was getting angry at myself, until a few IVF friends told me that it’s normal for the treatment to get worse each time you do it. They also shared with me their own personal experiences of the cycle and I noted that they suffered much worse side effects than me. They made me realise that it’s ok to feel bad going through this. We are putting ourselves through an extraordinary amount of turmoil, physically and emotionally and I have no interest in playing a martyr to IVF, so if I feel terrible, I’m going to allow myself to feel terrible and not try to continue charging through life and ultimately make myself feel worse.
I’ve found that meditation is a great for me and really helps me to accept that how I’m feeling is ok. It acts as a tool to remind me that this is not permanent; I will feel better again and I will get back to my normal self but sometimes it’s ok just to lie on the sofa, not meet up with friends or attend events. I shouldn’t feel guilty about that as if that’s what I need to do, then that is fine.
My favourite meditation is an IVF-specific one called ‘Mindful IVF’ which can be downloaded from the App store. It has meditations for each step of the IVF process and the guy has a fabulous Irish accent that is tremendously soothing!
I have also recently downloaded Zita West’s ‘Positive Visualisation for IVF’ (available from iTunes, but you can find more information on her website at www.zitawest.com).
One of my favourite things to do to clear my mind and put things back in perspective is to go for a nice long walk with my husband and dog. We have a Black Labrador, Roman, who needs a LOT of exercise and we’re lucky enough to live in Aberdeenshire, Scotland surrounded by forests, hills, beaches, lochs and castles, so we try to make the most of it as much as we can.
Only a few minutes walk from our house is a wood called Drumstone where we often go in the evenings. At the end of the walk there is a bench made from two bits of tree trunk that has a fantastic view that looks down to the Loch of Skene, our local loch. I absolutely love sitting there and looking down the fields to the gorgeous water – I think I can say it’s my most treasured view. I always have such a feeling of calm when I’m sitting there and at that moment, it feels like nothing else matters.
Again we are lucky enough to live in a gorgeous house with a beautiful garden. Admittedly when we moved in we thought it was going to be too much for us, however I have gardening in my genes, so decided I was going to become our resident gardener. Now I probably don’t do it as much as I should and often the weeds take over to the extent that I think what is the point, but it’s something that I enjoy and find really relaxes me. There’s such a feeling of fulfilment when you plant something and watch it grow year on year. It’s not anywhere near perfect and I constantly have to ask my dad for advice but I’m really proud of our garden and the colour and variety it contains. It also smells amazing and there’s nothing I love more on a warm summers night (when we get them!) than going out to the garden and smelling all the amazing aromas.
Even if gardening is not your thing or you live somewhere that doesn’t have a garden, indoor plants can be great assets to a home and I also love to have my house filled with fresh flowers as they can really lift the spirits.
A doctor once told me that essential oils were a complete waste of time. She said that they had no impact whatsoever on your health and if you felt a health benefit from using them, it was all in your mind. I think a multi-billion pound industry would tend to disagree, and so would I! I have used essential oils for years and since our infertility diagnoses have used them even more to help me sleep, calm my mind and relax me prior to procedures.
I feel such a great benefit from them and my favourite way to enjoy them is through my diffuser. Apart from the emotional assistance, I also find them highly useful for a variety of other reasons. Whatever your issue, I believe there is a natural remedy for it and a couple of drops of lavender on the soles of my feet before bed is now my favourite night-time ritual for having a lovely night’s sleep.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful and if you’re looking for new ways to relax I hope you will try some of them. One of the greatest things I have found about the IVF community is the sharing of thoughts and ideas that we can use to support each other. If you have a great tip for getting through this awful stage of our lives, I encourage you to share it so we can all benefit! Helping each other is what it’s all about.