How Infertility Is Impacting Your Stress Levels and What You Can Do About It.
I came across a Stress Inventory recently. You know those inventories where you count up the number of significant changes or events in your life and the higher your score, the higher your stress levels?
The events on the inventory include a whole range of things - things like moving house, a holiday, a pet dying etc. The more stressful the event, the higher it scores.
Right at the top of the list I looked at, was ‘terminal illness’, ‘death of someone close to you’ and ‘serious illnesses. At the bottom of the list were bad diet, a new car and holidays.
If you're experiencing infertility, you may see where I’m going with this…
How it works is that you add up the scores from all the significant life events you’ve had over the last 12 months to calculate your level of stress. It’s a great way to get an idea of what you have on your “emotional plate” and helps explain if you’ve been feeling unmotivated, run-down, etc.
The inventory didn’t have infertility or miscarriage included, (yip I know crazy), but, and you may or may not know, infertility is considered as stressful as a life-threatening disease. A Harvard University paper titled The psychological impact of infertility and its treatment reported that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.
This means to me that experiencing infertility rockets you right to the top of the Stress Inventory – official high-stress level. Add in a miscarriage, perhaps a surgery, some relationship stress, financial burden, and then Christmas, and well you get the picture.
Infertility is stressful people! I know this isn’t news to you – you know it sucks. But what I want to say is this – have you truly allowed yourself to acknowledge just how stressful it really is? I mean, would you treat yourself differently if it wasn’t infertility you were going through but say a serious illness you were experiencing?
If you’re reading this today, then take this as a signal to be especially kind, super compassionate, and extra gentle with yourself. I want to give you permission to prioritise yourself and to let yourself off the hook.
Ask yourself what is it you need right now? When we are stressed, we can look after ourselves by removing the stress, getting more support, or increasing the positive stuff.
It’s hard to remove the stress of infertility but maybe you’d like to reduce your commitments or say no to social events you don’t feel up to. Perhaps it’s asking for help with household tasks or outsourcing some things.
Adding in support is a great thing to do when we are under stress and something, I don’t think we do enough on the fertility journey. Perhaps it’s talking to a friend, reaching out in a support group, or talking to someone professional who can help ease the stress and bring perspective. It really does help.
Maybe it’s about adding in some things that light you up - dancing, going on a date with your hubby, planning a trip, catching up with an old friend, going to that yoga class you’ve been meaning to go to, taking a long candle-lit bubble bath or getting a kitten (everyone needs one of those!)
In a world that doesn’t yet fully acknowledge the high stress of infertility, it can be hard to recognise and validate the real impact of it. But don’t wait for the world to catch up - make yourself and your emotional wellbeing a priority.
Interested in seeing your level of stress? There are lots of links online but here is one you can try - Holmes- Rahe Stress Inventory - The American Institute of Stress