By Kristen Magnacca, noted author, coach, motivational speaker, and expert on the emotional aspects of infertility. Her book Love and Infertility: Survival Strategies for Balancing, Infertility, Marriage, and Life (from which this article is excerpted) was awarded the inaugural Hope Award for Best Book by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. Ms. Magnacca is a speaker at RESOLVE New England’s upcoming 20th Annual Fertility Treatment, Donor Choices, and Adoption Conference on Saturday, November 2, 2013.
We had been trying to get pregnant for months, with no success, and the process was wearing on my personality and work ethic.
I was so easily distracted during the day. Hour after hour, I was obsessing – thinking about the time of the month, my fertility signals, and the likelihood of creating a baby during each month’s attempt. I was driving myself nuts with all these thoughts. I think of each thought in my head as a person on my mental bus. The strongest thought at any given time sits behind the steering wheel and drives the bus, sometimes to a point of no return. It went something like this:
“Gee, I wonder if I took all my folic acid today. I can’t remember. Well, I’d better go and take one – or another one – just in case.” Working out of my home office was a curse and a blessing during these mental bus rides. Up the stairs to the kitchen to get the folic acid, back downstairs to the office. “Okay, folic acid taken. What’s today’s date? Oh, that would be the tenth day of my cycle; the ovulation kit still only gave us one line. I wonder if there’s a problem. I should retake the test.” And on and on and on it went.
Fear was the basis of all my internal conversations. I allowed my fear of not being able to get pregnant to permeate my thoughts and my day. To save my days, I began to “schedule” lamenting time. It can save yours, too.
During the day, if a thought popped into my head, before I allowed that thought to climb behind the wheel, take control of the bus, and drive me to distraction, I would quickly jot it down on a colored sticky- note, and then stick it to my computer. I would repeat this during the day, stopping, jotting the thought down, and then moving forward on my work to-do list.
This strategy became powerful for a few reasons. First, I felt as though I was taking control of the emotional surge – and my mental bus – through the act of jotting the thought down on the piece of paper. Second, I felt as though I was giving it some acknowledgement for that brief moment. Having done that, I was then quickly able to regroup and maintain control of my workday. But this was only the first part of the strategy.
At the end of my workday, I would allow myself fifteen minutes to focus on all the thoughts I had written down on those sticky-notes. I would review the notes and allow all the emotions contained on that colored paper to pour out. On some occasions I would cry in frustration at not being able to conceive. Other times I would laugh out loud at how outrageous the notes were and be thankful no one else was privy to my crazy thoughts! Either through laughter or through tears, I’d be releasing my emotions and making room in my system for new energy and new thoughts.
Putting It into Practice
This technique is perfect for controlling fear and mental chatter, and will give you a chance to balance your emotions throughout the day. The goal of this strategy is to give yourself permission to feel what you need to feel, but at an appropriate time. Allowing yourself to feel helps your body purge itself of negative and toxic emotions.
Part One: The List
• You’ll need a piece of paper, or a notepad, or a stack of little pieces of paper.
• Keep this paper and a pen or pencil nearby throughout the day.
• Whenever a stray thought pops into your head, quickly write it down on your notepad or on a separate sheet of paper.
• Repeat this step during the day: stopping, jotting the thought down, and then moving forward with whatever task you have at hand.
Part Two: Schedule Lamenting Time
• At the end of each day, after compiling your list of stray, distracting thoughts, set aside fifteen minutes when you know you won’t be disturbed.
• Now review your list, allowing yourself to feel the emotions that each thought brings up for you. Focus on that thought alone, permit yourself to experience the excitement, or grief, or sadness, or disappointment – whatever the emotion. Then move on to the next “thought” on your list or in your pile of notes.
• Move through your list until you’ve addressed each “thought.”
• Feel the release of tension and the toxic “obsessing.” You should feel lighter, less distracted, and better able to focus on what tomorrow will bring.
For me, working this exercise was like giving myself the gift of freedom and the permission to feel without guilt.
I encourage you to give yourself the gift of fifteen minutes during the day to think, purge, and release all the harmful energy that is stored with negative emotions. And just think what a wonderfully positive environment you are creating for your baby!
This article originally appeared in our Winter 2011 Newsletter.