How to handle pressure
By Juliana Kassianos, Transformational Fertility Coach, Yoga Teacher and Founder of The School of Fertility
If you've been trying to conceive for a few months, a year or more, you may start to feel a lot of pressure weighing down on you, which may be negatively impacting your overall health and wellbeing. This can either be pressure you’re putting on yourself or pressure you’re feeling from outside sources like family members and friends. Let’s take a look at some examples.
PRESSURE FROM WITHIN
To be pregnant by your next birthday, as you’ll be another dreaded year older
To be pregnant by Christmas as you don’t know how you’ll survive the holidays
To be pregnant for your brother’s wedding so you can show off your bump
To track your fertile window with the utmost precision so you don’t miss ovulation
To have sex to schedule as you want to target ovulation
To get pregnant this month as you desperately want to have a baby
To get pregnant so your child is in the same year group as your pregnant sister
To get pregnant as your nearing 40 and are worried about your age
To get pregnant as you don’t want to be an older mother
To get pregnant because you've just found out so and so are pregnant
To get pregnant as your best friends got pregnant first month trying
To get pregnant because all your friends are either pregnant or have children
To get pregnant as you’ve already spent so much money on investigation and treatments, you’re not sure how much more you can afford
To get pregnant with IVF as you’ve put so much into it and really want it to work
To put on an “I’m fine” face at your best friend’s baby shower
To “Just relax” throughout the month, even though you’re a bundle of nerves
PRESSURE FROM OUTSIDE
When people say: “When are you going to have kids?”, “You two better get on with it, time’s ticking”, “Are you pregnant yet?”, “You’ll probably get pregnant on holiday” or “Hopefully you’ll be pregnant by then”
Parental pressure: “When am I going to get a grandchild?”
Your partner's family, who wants you to have not just a child, but a son to carry on the family name
Cultural pressure to have a child
Your fertility specialist, not to smoke
Your partner, who doesn’t want to be an older father
IDENTIFY THE SOURCE | TRIGGER | EFFECT
There are various ways you can manage both internal and external sources of pressure. First though, you need to identify the source of your pressure, so whether it’s coming from you or other people, then what's triggering it, followed by the effect it's having on you. Make a list like the one below, so you can clearly see the source, trigger and effect associated. By becoming more aware of the pressures you're experiencing, you're then in a position to address them.
Source: Me | Trigger: Best friend’s baby shower | Effect: Pretending “I’m fine” playing baby name games and talking all things baby related when all I want to do is break down and cry
Source: Friend | Trigger: “You’ll probably get pregnant on holiday” | Effect: Pressure to get pregnant on holiday and that they’ll ask me on our return whether I’m pregnant yet
Source: Mother | Trigger: “When am I going to have a grandchild” | Effect: Pressure to give my mother a grandchild, especially as she’s not getting any younger (which she keeps on reminding me) and to get pregnant before she annoyingly starts asking again
ARE THEY IN YOUR CONTROL?
Some pressures we put on ourselves are within our control. Highlight those you have some degree of control over, then ask yourself what you can do to reduce or manage the pressure your experiencing. For example, say you're experiencing pressure around trying to work out when your ovulating each month. To reduce this pressure, you could either have sex every other day throughout your cycle (unless your partner has a low sperm count) or use an Ovulation Predictor Kit, although for some this can actually then cause another type of pressure – sexual performance pressure.
An example of a pressure you could manage is one which involves money. If you feel pressure about not being able to afford fertility treatment, then form a plan and work out how much money you can put by each month to save for any treatment you may need. Set up a system where the money gets directly transferred each month into a savings account. If this isn't possible, then try approaching a family member to see if they can kindly help you out at all.
Some pressures are in our control, but are felt more in the moment such as if someone asks you "Are you pregnant yet?". The is an incredibly intrusive question that can very quickly touch nerve and cause you to snap back. This is where practicing mindfulness can help as instead of reacting, you respond. You see, when we get caught up in our thoughts, feelings and emotions, our brain reacts automatically without really thinking. Although our ability to immediately react to situations helped us to survive in prehistoric times – such as bolting from a sabre-toothed tiger – in our modern lives, it can prevent us from responding in a way that brings out the best in us. Take time to respond from a higher place by saying something like "We're working on it", a polite way of saying please stop asking me as we're doing all we can to make it happen.
Some pressures can feel like they're out of our control, but this is where we can practice mindfulness so that they don't weigh us down. Say for example your best friend announces she's pregnant, which apart from making you really upset, despite being genuinely happy for her, you feel even more pressure to get pregnant as you don't think you can bare watching her go through her pregnancy. When thoughts, feelings and emotions arise around this pressure, try not to cling on to them or block them out, instead just observe and acknowledge their presence, without judgement or criticism. Accept them, let them be and notice how slowly they subside. You can even try to reframe your thoughts into positive ones, so the fact your best friend is pregnant could mean you now have someone to go to for advice when you get pregnant, no matter when that may be.
ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS REALISTIC?
Unrealistic expectations are a recipe for pain. By saying to yourself “I want to be pregnant by my birthday”, you’re putting pressure on yourself to deliver on this, whilst setting yourself up for disappointment if it doesn’t happen, as you attach your emotional wellbeing to the outcome. Highlight any expectations you’re holding on to and ask yourself “Are they realistic?” Try to let go of any unrealistic expectations by instead practicing acceptance for whatever comes your way. I know this is hard to do, but you want to keep an open mind, in the sense that anything could happen and not create a timeline for when you want/need it to happen by. Also, you could try turning an expectation into a positive plan of sorts. For example, you could say “If I’m not pregnant by my birthday, we will visit a fertility specialist”.
ARE YOU PRIORITISING YOU?
I used to have a ‘disease to please’ and was constantly saying ‘yes’ to everything and everyone, but I’ve come to learn that there are times in our lives where we have to prioritise ourselves and say ‘no’. Trying to conceive is one of them. For example, you don’t have to attend baby showers if you don’t feel up to it. You can always send a hand-written note saying how unfortunately you can’t make it – there’s no need to say why – and include a little gift as a thoughtful gesture. The gift doesn’t need to be specifically baby related either as buying a baby present can cause stress in itself. A nice and easy one is a One4All gift card you can get from the Post Office her pin the UK, that includes places like 'Mothercare', 'John Lewis' snd 'Hamleys'. Do what you need to do in order to stay sane and put yourself first.