A fertility journey can become an all-consuming affair, occupying your thoughts day and night, and draining much of the enjoyment from your life. It doesn’t have to be that way. In this article, I’m going to take you through 5 daily habits that will help you bring out your best self as you work through infertility. Not only will these habits help you feel more like your pre-infertility self, more in control, and more at ease, they can even help boost your fertility naturally.
Daily Habit #1: Spend Some Time Deeply Relaxing
The most obvious benefit of deep relaxation is stress reduction, and I’ll say more about that in just a second. First, however, it’s important to know that relaxation plays a critical role in heart and brain health, and it also helps you feel energized. It’s tough to feel like your best self when you’ve got brain fog and no energy!
As far as stress reduction goes, you probably know intuitively that stress really drags your mood down and can make you feel out of control and unhappy. But you might not know that when you’re stressed out over a long period of time, and your body is continuously pumping out stress hormones like cortisol, your fertility takes a big hit. Cortisol actually interferes with the production of sex hormones which is counter to what you want right now. Elevated stress levels also decrease the amount of blood that’s flowing to your uterus, and less blood means a thinner uterine lining and a less hospitable place for an egg to implant.
How Do I “Deeply Relax?”
When it comes to infertility, the most frequently suggested relaxation techniques are meditation and yoga. I am a big fan of both, but I know that not everyone is. Not a problem! What you’re looking for is any activity that will help you “get out of your head,” and give you some time to feel calm and at peace.
Here is a list of some other creative ideas for stress reduction:
Do some art. Pick up your favorite art supplies, such as paint, markers, or clay, and use them to express your emotions or just make something you find pleasing. You do not need to be an artist at all to enjoy this—the focus is on the process of creating, rather than the end result.
Take a walk in nature. Spending time in nature can be a great way to reduce stress and boost your mood. Find a nearby park or nature reserve, or just use the streets around your home, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural environment.
Try aromatherapy. Scents can have a powerful impact on our mood and emotions. Pick out some essential oils, such as lavender or chamomile, and try them in a diffuser, or add a few drops to your bathwater. (BTW, baths can be another great way to relax!)
Get your giggle on. Laughter is a natural stress reliever that helps reduce tension and boost your mood. Try watching a funny movie or TV show, or spend time with a friend who always makes you laugh.
Do some dancing. Dancing can be a great way to release tension and reduce stress. Put on some music and let yourself move freely, or try taking a dance class to learn some new moves.
Keep a journal. Writing can be a cathartic way to express your emotions, manage stress, and help you notice the good things happening in your life that your fertility issues may be overshadowing. Here's an article I wrote about starting a fertility journal.
Read. Getting lost in a good book can be a really nice way to lower your stress level.
Daily Habit #2: Stay Hydrated
Your body is made up of about 55% water, so it’s hard to be your best self when you’re not drinking enough of it! Look at this list of things that water does:
It improves the way your skin looks by reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and dryness.
It can help reduce acne and breakouts. Dehydration can actually lead to clogged pores and increased oil production, which, in turn, can cause acne and breakouts.
It increases energy and productivity. Dehydration can cause fatigue and reduced brain function.
It improves digestion. Drinking enough water can help maintain regular bowel movements and prevent constipation. (And between you and me, I can’t think of many things that make me feel less like my best self than constipation!!)
It keeps your joints healthy. Water helps lubricate your joints and reduce inflammation, which helps alleviate joint pain.
It leads to fewer headaches. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. Drinking enough water can help reduce both the frequency and severity of headaches.
It improves your immune system. Staying hydrated supports your immune system, thus reducing your risk of illness.
It helps reduce anxiety and depression. Research has shown that there’s a link between dehydration and increased levels of both anxiety and depression.
And that list doesn’t even cover what water does for your fertility. Check this out:
1. Water plays a role in regulating your body’s hormonal balance. When you get dehydrated, the delicate balance between your reproductive hormones can be thrown out of whack, and that can lead to problems with ovulation and menstruation.
2. Staying hydrated is key for your cervical mucus. As you probably know, your cervical mucus is an important player in helping sperm reach your egg. But only when the consistency is correct. If you’re dehydrated, your cervical mucus can become thick and sticky, making it pretty hard for the sperm to travel through it and successfully fertilize your waiting egg.
3. Water is an important component of blood. Just as with your cervical mucus, dehydration can cause your blood to become thicker and more viscous (less fluid). That makes it more difficult for blood to circulate effectively throughout your body, and so not as much blood reaches your uterus. Less blood to your uterus results in a thinner uterine lining, and therefore a lower chance that a fertilized egg might implant.
If you’re hoping to be your best self, and feel as good as possible, drinking plenty of water throughout the day is obviously important. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least eight glasses of water each day, and a bit more if you’ve been exercising or if you’re out in hot weather. And don’t forget to go easy on the caffeine since that’s dehydrating!
Daily Habit #3: Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting enough sleep is important for everyone’s overall health and well-being, but in general we live in a very sleep deprived society. There is no hard and fast amount of sleep that is right for every single person, but the usual recommendation is that most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. A lot of us don’t get even the minimum of 7 hours, and claim to feel ok—mostly because we’re just accustomed to the feeling of low-grade, chronic sleep deprivation.
Here’s a short list of all the really important things sleep does for you:
Improves your cognitive function. Sleep plays a crucial role in consolidating memories and learning, and getting a good night's sleep can enhance cognitive function, including attention, problem-solving, and decision-making skills.
Reduces your risk of obesity. Lack of sleep has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, and getting enough sleep can help regulate appetite and reduce the risk of overeating.
Enhances your immune function. Sleep plays a critical role in immune system’s proper functioning. Getting enough sleep helps boost your immune system and reduces your risk of getting sick.
Lowers your risk of chronic diseases. Adequate sleep has been linked to a lower risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression.
Improves your athletic performance. Sleep is essential for athletic performance, and getting enough sleep can improve physical performance, reaction time, and speed.
Reduces your stress and anxiety. Lack of sleep can increase stress and anxiety, while getting enough sleep can help regulate stress hormones and improve mood.
Improves your cardiovascular health. Getting enough sleep can help regulate your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Improves your mental health. Lack of sleep has been linked to an increased risk of mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety, while getting enough sleep can help improve your mood and sense of wellbeing.
Sleep and Your Fertility
Tied into all of the points above are all the reasons that sufficient sleep is important for your fertility. One of the things that happens while we sleep is hormonal regulation, and fertility requires good hormonal balance. When you don’t get enough sleep, you can end up with ovulatory and menstrual problems.
On top of that, when you don’t sleep enough, your body produces more stress hormones which, as I mentioned earlier, mess with your reproductive hormones even more. Plus, they can wreck your mood and for sure keep you from feeling like your best self!
If you’re not getting at least seven hours of sleep each night, it’s well worth asking yourself what changes you could make so that you can. Perhaps you’ll need to adjust your sleep schedule, create a bedtime routine that can help you relax, or make some changes to your environment that will make it more conducive to sleep.
Daily Habit #4: Movement and Exercise
I know you’ve heard time and again how important exercise is for your health. But just in case you’ve somehow missed out on this information, let me quickly share some of the major benefits. (By now you should be noticing that many of the benefits of these habits overlap!)
Boost your mood by cuing your brain to release endorphins, or feel-good chemicals.
Improve your mental health by reducing stress and anxiety.
Strengthen your bones and joints, and reduce your risk of injury, both now and as you get older.
Regulate and balance your hormones.
Increase your blood flow and improve your circulation. (Think about your uterus!)
Improve your cardiovascular health.
Reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
Help you sleep better.
Improve your immune system’s functioning.
Improve your balance, flexibility, and coordination.
What Does Exercise and Movement Really Mean?
Using exercise and movement to help you bring out your best self does not mean that you’ve got to run out to join a gym, and then spend hours each week pumping iron and sweating like a maniac. A healthy goal is to spend around 30 minutes each day moving, and while all the “traditional” forms of exercise like running and biking count, so do all of these:
Yoga and Pilates
Cleaning the house
Jumping on a trampoline
Playing with a pet
And the list goes on and on!
Daily Habit #5: Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Good nutrition and a well-balanced diet can mean different things to different people, and that’s ok. But regardless of the kind of diet you eat, in order for you to feel like your best self, your food choices should give you a feeling of satisfaction, help you keep your blood sugar steady, and provide you with a wide variety of nutrients.
Here are some food tips to help you feeling your very best, both mentally and physically:
You can never go wrong with fruits and vegetables. They are full of vitamins and minerals, they’ve got a lot of fiber (back to the constipation thing!), they’re a great source of natural sugars which your body needs, they can help prevent cancer, they boost your mood, many of them boost your immunity, and nearly all of them taste great.
Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation in your body. These include salmon, tuna, walnuts, and flaxseed.
Foods high in magnesium have been shown to help reduce anxiety. Spinach, almonds, cashews, and black beans are some great sources of magnesium.
Eating a lot of processed foods has been shown to make people feel sluggish. Additionally, highly processed foods usually have less fiber, and more fat and added salt and sugar than your body needs.
Eat at regular intervals to keep your blood sugar, and your mood, from dropping.
If you know you have a food intolerance, respect yourself and avoid that food or foods. A bloated, upset stomach does not a “best self” make!
Developing new habits takes time. Go slowly and be gentle with yourself as you work toward becoming your best self!