When you are struggling with infertility, certain times of the year can feel especially challenging emotionally: Holidays, baby showers, children's birthday parties—and all the attention around the return to school—can bring up mixed emotions and uncomfortable feelings.
During the back-to-school season, images of children are everywhere – in stores, online, and on television – reminding you of what you are hoping for. Friends' posts of first day of school pictures on social media and internet references only intensify the focus. It makes sense that the "back-to-school" frenzy can also leave you feeling left out and down.
Here are a few ways to cope:
Make time and space for your feelings
You may feel sadness, anger, disappointment, annoyance, or grief. Make room for any feelings that you're having. They are all valid, and it's important to acknowledge them. If an uncomfortable thought or feeling arises, try to acknowledge it non-judgmentally and let it pass, instead of worrying about what you "should" and "should not" be thinking or feeling. Realize that having "negative" thoughts and feelings, even about people we love and care about, is normal. It's just a matter of what we do with them.
Create connection where you can
You may not feel like talking to other people, and you may need some time to yourself. That's completely understandable, and reflecting in solitude may be just what you need for a while. But excessive social isolation can make you feel even more disconnected and can sometimes lead to depression, particularly if you have a family history of the condition.
Granted, you may not feel like chatting with your neighbor who shuttles her kids to school in her minivan every morning, but it can help to find someone who can support you during this time. Maybe a friend or family member who knows you well can be sensitive to your feelings, or you might consider finding a support group, online or in person.
Treat yourself well
Nobody does well without nourishment and good rest. Not eating or sleeping well tends to make things feel much harder, especially if you may be vulnerable to mood or anxiety issues. So make sure you eat regular, healthy meals, prioritize sleep, and get some exercise you enjoy. (Walks are great!) It can be hard to motivate yourself to do these things when you're feeling down, but taking care of yourself, even in small ways, creates momentum toward feeling better.
Do things that make you feel good
Make time to do things you enjoy like listening to music, reading, going to the movies, playing sports, getting time outside, and spending quality time with supportive friends and family. Research shows that when you are having a hard time, simply engaging in a pleasurable activity can distract you in a healthy way or lift your mood. Of course, this is useful advice any time, but especially when things are feeling hard. It can take some effort to carve out time, but it's worth it.
At the same time, take breaks from activities that make you feel worse, such as spending a lot of time on social media or with people you don't find supportive.
Be open to getting professional help
Mental health professionals trained in the emotional aspects of infertility can offer you a safe, supportive, and confidential space to share all your thoughts and feelings. They also have the expertise to help you find ways to move through hard times.
Consider seeking support from a mental health professional if:
• You feel sad, nervous, or distracted most of the day.
• It is difficult to experience pleasure in your day or in your relationships.
• Your current stressors are contributing to conflict in your relationships.
• You are having a hard time functioning in your daily life.
• You find yourself coping in harmful ways, such as using substances or hurting yourself.
Whatever you are experiencing, remember that you are not alone. With the right help and support, you can cope and feel better.