Let’s talk about overthinking when we’re trying to get and stay pregnant. It’s extremely common. I know the feeling all too well. Thoughts about fertility and family planning can be all consuming, like an annoying song that’s blasting loudly in your ear that you just can’t turn off. The thoughts are there when you’re doing the dishes, brushing your teeth, and almost everywhere, right? The thoughts might be,
‘Am I exercising enough for my fertility health? Too much? Is my stress causing my fertility harm? Is this the right doctor to choose? Is this a sign about my fertility? Is it time to try acupuncture? Should I take a test or wait a little longer? What if this ends badly? Is there more I could do?
It’s too much sometimes. Our repetitive thoughts can seep into all areas of our lives, make decision-making more challenging, feel like life is more chaotic than it is and can cause us to be exhausted by noon.
The good news is that there are ways to manage. I’m proof of that. We’ve made such huge strides in understanding how the brain works – i.e. we have more control than ever before. Together with attending to emotions that need attention (there’s no replacement for that!), being able to gently combat overthinking is a skill we can master. It could ultimately have an impact on your fertility success as well because you’re in a better headspace to make decisions that could lead to the baby outcome you’re dreaming of. Here’s how.
Ways to manage overthinking about fertility
- Meditate. You probably know this or have at least heard of this as a way to quiet all the racing thoughts, but meditation is usually the fastest and most effective way. You could start small and try for 5 or 10 minutes on your own or be guided through an app. There are lots of apps and YouTube videos that you can turn to like Calm, Headspace, and Mindful IVF. Meditation isn’t for everyone and that’s OK.
- Try mindfulness techniques. Overthinking is about our relationships to our thoughts and if we start being more mindful and present, it can take us out of our overactive thinking pattern. I’m sure this isn’t news to you. We hear about the benefits of mindfulness everywhere. Trust me, I fought it too but have come to realize this is key to so much of life. Start by trying to bring your attention to your five senses more and more. Notice how your feet are on the floor. Notice the bird cawing outside. Really be in the moment with whatever you’re doing. Start small.
- Book a call with a certified coach to explore how to stop overthinking in a way that’s unique to your motivation. Coaches are usually solution-focussed which counters the problem-focussed overthinking you might be doing. If you want to start on your own try reading James Clear’s Atomic Habits for how to build that habit. He teaches what certified coaches have been doing for decades.
- Designate time to think about fertility. Put it in your calendar and make it a regular event like everyday at 6:00am or Wednesdays and Sundays 4pm-4:45pm to dive into your fertility thoughts. Sometimes we overthink because we don’t have confidence we’ll get something done later because we haven’t designated the exact time to do it, so it pops back in our head as a reminder. But the reminders won’t stop unless we address the strategy for our thoughts and our to-do list. Instead, when a thought creeps up you can gently remind yourself that you’ll address that thought later at the time allotted for fertility. During that fertility-thinking time, try this:
- Find a place without distractions.
- Make a list of the important issues about your fertility that you want to address e.g. who to tell your fertility about, choosing a provider, when you may go on parental leave, time off work for appointments, researching best practices, getting more emotional support, and making specific changes to overall health.
- Briefly describe the goals you’re trying to achieve for each and break them down into how you’ll meet each of them.
- Write down your action steps. Be specific. Consider what’s actionable for you. We don’t want to be wildly unrealistic and feel worse about not meeting a goal. Be gentle with yourself.
- Drop the action items into your calendar. Having it on a to-do list is an option and crossing it off when you complete a task gives you a hit of dopamine that you can use to keep that momentum going and continue that habit formation.
Then turn off the fertility thinking and focus on what you’re doing in this exact moment. Right now you’re reading this. Right now you’re reading the word now. You’re sitting or standing and can feel your body against the floor or where your back is supported. You’re curling up the sides of your mouth in a smile too, right? Did it work?!!
Good luck to you, my overthinking- completely-normal-fertility friend!