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Endometriosis and IVF self care strategies with Emma Kemsley

Self-care for stage 4 endometriosis – how I protect myself through self-care

Self-care is one of the most important things we can do. I’ve learned a few coping mechanisms to improve my mental health and wellbeing, while I am going through both IVF and endometriosis. Some of them might seem a bit weird, but stay with me, I promise they work!

Stop scrolling social media – it won’t make your endometriosis any better

Social media is an addictive poison. There, I said it. Even though my job as a journalist requires me to use it daily, I often find myself aimlessly scrolling out of work hours and it’s not healthy. Instead, put a limit on your usage. There’s a handy tool on the iPhone that allows you to do this. If you can’t help but pick up your phone, leave it in a separate room. My favourite is to swap screen time for reading…but read a physical book. No reading on your phone. I read an hour before bed and it helps me sleep better.

Stop taking advice from others – especially if they don’t have endometriosis or haven’t done IVF

People mean well when they give you unsolicited advice. Even if you don’t agree with them, rather than get frustrated or angry, remind yourself you’re lucky to have people in your life who care. No one can feel your pain, listen to your own advice and do what’s right for you.

IVF and endometriosis is your personal journey, so don’t compare yourself with others

My journey is not their journey. Read that again and repeat it until it is absorbed into your brain. I once read ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and it’s oh so true. When you’re undergoing fertility treatment or waiting for a laparoscopy, it’s difficult not to compare yourself to others. Social media can easily lead you into this trap, so again, stop scrolling. Every person is different. What works for some, might not work for you. Every individual has their own story and difficulties. We’re not competing, we are in this together. The minute you stop comparing yourself to others, the easier this will become.

Watch your language about IVF, endometriosis and your ovaries and womb

I’m not talking about swearing, f**k no. I love a good F-word, especially when I’m creased over in pain. However, look at the language you use. How do you talk about yourself? How do you talk about your endometriosis or fertility? I’ll give you an example. I used to say: “my ovaries are rubbish, why don’t they work?” I have a low AMH and only one functioning ovary. Over the last six months, I switched it to; “I’m grateful for my one healthy ovary and it will produce excellent eggs again.” And guess, what? During my most recent cycle of IVF, my ovaries gave their best performance to date. My left ovary even came out of retirement. Coincidence? Maybe. But I have applied this to every aspect of my life, and I have seen a significant improvement…even my endometriosis pain has eased.

Support groups are a godsend for both IVF and endometriosis 

I am a huge advocate for support groups, they are incredible at providing information and helping women feel less alone. They offer a safe, supportive community. However, this may be controversial, but I personally find them absolutely draining. They are full of anger and it’s absorbed by the users who spur each other on. It’s ok to post a question and wait for a reply but spending a significant amount of time in the group is not good for your mental health. Worryingly, I often see young women asking questions they should only ever take advice on from their consultant. Use online groups for support but be smart and save medical questions for the professionals.

Meditation – doesn’t cure endometriosis, but can help with symptoms

I use this term very lightly. What I do probably doesn’t count as meditation, but I do take time to quieten my mind. It works well for endo pain days and IVF stress. Occasionally for 20 minutes in the evening, I put on mood lighting aka my Himalayan salt lamp, lay on the bed, close my eyes and just focus on breathing. As simple as that. Breathe in and out. Don’t think of anything. If a thought comes in, let it pass and breathe. It takes some practice and my mind sometimes wanders, but the technique works well for helping to breathe through pain. I have also followed Zita West’s HUG Course, which is great for taking this to the next level. Her voice is so soothing you’ll be relaxed in minutes and it provides an interesting insight into how the body is connected and the solar plexus.

Affirmations have helped me with both IVF and endometriosis – they could help you too!

Manifestation and affirmation have been the buzzwords of 2021. I figured I would give it a try. It took me a while to stop feeling like an idiot every time I said the phrases out loud, but it works! I have seen improvements since I started daily affirmations – thank you universe! I generally feel better after it too. It sets me up for a great day. Try repeating a couple of positive statements about your circumstance every morning. It’s not for everyone, but what have you got to lose? Give it a go! Even if it makes you laugh, it’s worth it.

Bubble baths are under-rated! 

Don’t worry I haven’t gone completely off my rocker; a good old fashioned bubble bath is the ultimate self-care indulgence. I love a bath. Bubbles, chilled music, a few candles, maybe a glass of wine, and a book – bliss! I recently treated myself to a day bath which was rather exhilarating. I closed the laptop, made a cup of tea, and spent an hour relaxing amongst the bubbles, I highly recommend it!

Get outside, especially if your IVF or endometriosis is getting you down

I adore being outside. Come rain or shine I go for a long walk every day. Breathing in fresh air and being surrounded by nature is the best way to de-stress. I take the time to appreciate the nature around me during the walk too; the sound of the birds, the colour of the leaves, the light etc Focusing on the elements around you will distract your mind from current problems you may be experiencing. Think of a walk as a reset. Walk away from the problem, come back and start again with a clear head.

Exercise – you know it’s good for both endometriosis and IVF!

My least favourite activity but important for self-care, both physically and mentally. Don’t feel pressured into exercise. Do what feels right for you. You don’t have to run 10k if it doesn’t make you happy. I feel great after Pilates. I exercise in the morning so I can enjoy those stress-busting endorphins all day.

That’s my self-care strategies for coping with both of these challenges! What do you do to cope? I’d love to read your tips, so please feel free to comment below.

				
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