Saving Your Own Life

How do you move forward when your energy levels are low?

Posted Sep 14, 2018

istock/eggeeggjiew
Source: istock/eggeeggjiew

So your daily schedule leaves no time for traffic jams or bathroom stops.

So you feel naked without your cell phone and cut off when you don’t have a connection or can’t access your phone.

So you don’t cross anything off your “To Do” list when emergencies pop up.  

What’s wrong with overscheduling if you like the buzz—especially if it’s better than boredom? We find it energizing: the more you have to do, the more you get done, and it makes the day fly by.

What’s wrong with overscheduling is this: you are running on adrenaline, your body’s own stimulant. Soon, you’ll get used to higher and higher levels. You may find yourself with endless days, limited patience, conversations replaced by text messages, and your natural mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin, depleted.

If an unpredicted crisis pops up, such as infertility, you’re already running on almost ‘empty’ just when you need a full tank of energy, a clear head, and emotional strength to deal with treatment. How can you regain your sense of control and pace yourself for the long run? It’s not by pushing your adrenaline even further. Instead, here are four behaviors that can lower your stress level and make a difference. Be patient because they take practice!  

1. Learn to say “No” to others and “Yes” to yourself.
Most of us are so busy taking care of everyone and everything else that we literally run out of time. In fact, a Bristol-Meyers study asked women to add up the time they had each day and the time they needed each day, and found the average American woman was running more than 20 minutes short every day! And that was more than a decade ago, before smartphones made us accessible for emergencies and extra errands 24 hours a day. When you add fertility treatments into the mix, you’re overloaded.

So why don’t we just say “no” more often?  It’s probably because of guilt. But the problem is, the only time we do have is in the middle of the night. Your thoughts might be racing, keeping you up and making you more sleep deprived than you already are. It’s time to stop the burnout and time to:

  • Practice saying “no” without feeling guilty
  • Practice saying “no” without justifying yourself
  • Practice saying” no” without defending yourself
  • Practice saying “no” graciously, but not tentatively
  • Practice giving explanations, not excuses

If you falter, remember that expecting too much of yourself can be unrealistic and even cruel.

2. Change your mindset.
Do you blame yourself for life snags like infertility and obsess about what you should have done or could have done to prevent it?  If so, you may be attempting to restore your sense of control by telling yourself that if you can figure out what you did wrong, you can figure out how to make things right. But when it comes to infertility and other things in life you can’t control, it’s not realistic.

Self-blame will not restore your sense of control because infertility is not a personal failure. Stress does not cause infertility. Infertility causes stress.  Negative thoughts do not cause infertility. Positive thoughts do not reverse it. Infertility is a medical diagnosis.

Use a cognitive behavioral therapy tool and re-label infertility in your mind. Change your mindset because it can help move you forward. Think of your life snags as “inconveniences,” not “failures.” Infertility, of course, is not a small inconvenience like a parking ticket. It is potentially a huge “inconvenience,” but it’s not a punishment, nor is it your fault.

“Inconvenience” is not only more accurate than “failure,” but it will help you move forward towards problem-solving.

3. Learn to separate your past from your present.
Even if you have not had success so far, your next step in your fertility journey is not jinxed or doomed. Infertility is not a destiny or fate. For many, it’s a numbers game. How many cycles will it take to get pregnant? For some, it’s a diagnosis exercise.  What will we learn from the cycles that didn’t work to help create cycles that will work? For others, it’s a step toward successful ovum donation or adoption.

The issue is, we can’t control our past, nor can we control what happens to us. Instead of dwelling on the negatives, look towards a positive future. Things may not go as planned, and that is okay. Find moments in the present that bring you joy. Save your energy for family building.

4. Learn to take breaks
Sounds easy, right? If it was, you’d be doing it already. 

Your brain is on alert because of your unexpected diagnosis and the unpredictable outcome of treatment. That means you are stressed. Harvard University research* finds that relaxing a total of 20 minutes a day can reduce your stress symptoms by almost 50 percent. The 20 minutes doesn’t have to be all at one time.  For example, you can take a five-minute pause to relax your body before you get out of bed in the morning, another five-minute break after lunch to do a crossword puzzle or listen to a podcast, five minutes after work for a walk, and five minutes before bed.

So, while you are worrying, watching, and waiting during your fertility journey or through life in general, cross a few things off your “To Do” list and take relaxation breaks. They’ll help you get through those difficult and stressful moments.

Remember: you’re the only person that can change your life and save you from yourself. Treat yourself with kindness, be patient, take breaks, say no, and do whatever you need to do to recharge and move forward.