At first thought, your answer to this question is probably an instinctive (maybe even a tad defensive) “sure.” But when you really dig deep into the true meaning of self-care, you might change your mind.
When we hear the phrase “self-care,” we often think of putting on a sheet mask and kicking up our feet. Popular culture has trained us to associate self-care with indulgence - with treating ourselves and ‘me time.’
Don’t get us wrong - we love a good spa day or Netflix binge, and sometimes, that’s exactly what we need. But it’s important to realize that self-care is much more than that.
Contrary to popular belief, self-care is actually about understanding what you need, and then acting on that - even if that means doing something that isn’t very fun in the moment. It means taking care of your future self, not just your present.
Self-care is about paying attention to you, and being honest with yourself about what’s going to make you healthiest and happiest in the long run.
For you, this might look like meal prepping, exercising or creating a budget you can actually stick to. It could mean going to bed early if you’re a night owl, or crawling in bed with a book to escape a bad day instead of cracking open a bottle of wine.
Self-care isn’t about escaping life, but finding new ways to enjoy it.
Remember that self-care looks different for everyone, and your needs may be different from your friends or your partner. Here’s a basic list to jumpstart your journey:
Do at least one thing for you each day - a walk outside, an episode of your favorite show, or whatever is going to help you relax. Make this a non-negotiable, and keep a list of tiny things that make you happy so you can quickly pick one and do it, even if your day completely got away from you.
Get enough sleep. This one can be easier said than done, but it’s so important for your physical and mental health. If you struggle with this, try starting a new bedtime routine you actually enjoy, and set your alarm so you actually start winding down on time. Creating new habits can help you train your brain to get those coveted yet elusive 8 hours.
Exercise - but make it fun! Many of us have been conditioned to think of exercise as a punishment for treating ourselves, or as something we must do to conform to beauty standards. If this is you, try to reframe your approach to working out as something you do for your whole health - including your mental and emotional. Exercise creates a sense of wellbeing and increases your serotonin, improving your overall mood and energy levels. Pick a physical activity that’s actually fun for you and aim for at least 30 minutes several times a week.
Unplug for a bit. We love social media (especially Instagram!) for its power to connect people in ways that weren’t possible before. And the internet can be an empowering tool for sharing information. But it’s important to remember that not everything you read online is correct, and there are studies abound on the negative impact that too much social media can have on your mental health. So the next time you feel anxiety creeping in, take a step back. Put the phone down, get outside if you can, and do something else.
Lean on your community of friends, family and care providers - especially during your fertility journey. Make sure you have someone you can open up to. Infertility is never easy, but you’re not alone.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. By balanced, we mean that neither extreme - restrictive diets nor binging on fast food - will serve you well. Instead, aim for whole, nutrient-dense foods, but pay attention to the way certain foods make you feel and listen to your body. Focus on fueling your body with foods that make you feel good.
Take your time. Take time for yourself, whether that’s a vacation, or a break from fertility treatments. Our patients often ask if it’s still okay to go on the trip they had planned. Of course! Don’t feel bad for taking a month off from fertility treatments to go live your life. The journey to baby can be all-consuming at times. Don’t lose sight of the rest of your life. Take the trip. Take the time you need.
Self-care is an integral part of your fertility journey. Taking care of yourself will make the path to parenthood easier - not to mention these are good habits to build now, before the demands of a child kick in!
Going easy on yourself, taking care of your body, openly communicating with your partner and getting regular checkups are all ways that you can practice self-care.
And don’t forget about your mental health. If it’s all starting to feel like too much, a counseling session might be just the thing you need to lighten the load. At CARE Fertility, we offer psychological counseling as part of our comprehensive medical services. We find that this is an excellent way to get in touch with what your body and your mind need during fertility treatment.
Self-care is an ongoing practice to carry with you, not an overnight transformation. By looking inwards and keeping the future in mind, you’ll be able to get in touch with what you need - no matter what curveballs life throws at you.
Finally, remember: it’s okay to ask for help. Our doctors are here to answer your questions and help you navigate the ups and downs of your fertility journey.