Make Infertility Good For Your Health
So this is going to start off bad, but it's going to end well, so hang in there. I read a peer reviewed journal article that reports fertility doctors are starting to research the possible connection between infertility and future health risk in women - including early mortality. WHAT!?
Okay, that sucks. But if researchers suspect that infertility could be an early warning sign that there are other health concerns looming in a woman's future, we aren't going to get anywhere from dwelling on the negative for long. Right now would be a great time to use my favorite problem-solving approach: "Well what can I do about it?” Because we can easily get stuck in a big pile of “what ifs” and after we wear out every negative possibility, our minds eventually lead us to figuring it out.
Being a positive-thinking therapist and infertility survivor, I have come to believe that infertility is an early life gift we can use to get on track with our health, thinking, and relationships waaay before many of our peers have had any inclination that these things may not be going so well for them. Getting on track with what really matters in the only useful thing we can do with this information. Infertility is a chance to optimize your health.
If you haven’t already looked into your eating, exercise, and sleep habits, please do. All of these actions come together for your optimal health. There is one more aspect of health that is getting more attention, but still is largely overlooked: time spent outside in nature. We have more and more research coming out about the health effects of nature on mood, blood pressure, cortisol levels, and immunity (a boost in natural killer cells that fight cancer). (See The Nature Fix by Florence Williams).
If you’ve been working to better your sleep, eating, and exercise, there is of course risk for overdoing it - which is not optimizing anything. Making time for nature in your day to day life can offer balance to the crazy-making efforts that come in changing all of your other habits. Remember, the goal is to optimize, not perfect or go insane.
So what do you do? Firstly, aim for 10 cumulative minutes outside a day. Yes even in the cold. (I’m a firm believer in the Norwegian saying “No bad weather, only bad clothes.”) This could look a lot of different ways:
Take your warm morning drink outside (with a blanket?) in the morning for 5-10 minutes. Sit, listen, notice.
Eat your lunch outside.
If you have an hour lunch break, take a 30 minute walk during the first half, and eat lunch while you cool down.
On your way home go to a nearby park for a walk or just to sit and clear your head. I love to use Google Maps to locate green space in my area. Parks aren’t usually advertised so it’s hard to know they’re there unless we look for them.
When you get home, instead of turning on the TV, sit outside or go for a walk in your neighborhood.
After dinner, go for a walk in the neighborhood or sit outside with your spouse and catch up. You may find that topics of conversation are different outside. Your mind is unencumbered by the clutter of the house and the limitations of your space.
Think of time in nature as a way to balance all the other pregnancy efforts that might be making you bonkers. Do you have a favorite way to make time for nature in your work week? Email me and let me know!
Allison Ramsey is a licensed professional counselor and fertility counseling specialist in the Asheville area. She’s a member of Resolve, The Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and completed their certificate training in mental health counseling for infertility. Contact her to start feeling better.