Self-care gets a bad rap. Many times, it can be mistaken for selfishness or self-centeredness. At its core, though, self-care is nourishing your own well-being to free yourself to be your best for others in the specific way God has called you to (see It’s Okay to Start with You by Julie Hogan). It is important to recognize that whatever phase of your infertility journey you are in – diagnosis, treatment, discernment, break – you are likely experiencing stress in some form. Anytime you are experiencing stress it is even more important than usual to take care of your body, mind, and heart by setting aside time specifically for self-care. The list below is not comprehensive but includes strategies that others, including me, have found to be helpful.

Note that every person is unique! You must find what relaxes and rejuvenates you and reconnects you with yourself and with the people around you.

  1. Practice Catholic Forms of Mindfulness

Much of our anxiety comes from worrying too much about the past or the future. The antidote, according to Dr. Greg Bottaro of The Catholic Psych Institute, is living in the present moment. This can be helped by practicing a specifically Catholic form of mindfulness, which focuses on becoming aware of God’s presence in each moment. Dr. Bottaro’s book, “The Mindful Catholic,” takes you through an 8-week program that teaches you practices, such as body scans and focusing on sounds, that ground you in the present moment.

  1. Listen to Music

There are so many lies that you may believe about yourself as a woman, especially when struggling with infertility. You may hear voices that say, “My husband would have been better off if he married someone else” or “I wouldn’t have made a good mother anyway.” These are lies straight from the pit of hell. But it can be difficult to prevent these thoughts from taking over your mind and starting to define you.

To combat this, you need to let the Lord speak truth into your heart. This can be done through silent prayer or by reading the Scriptures or other spiritual reading. Another one of my favorite ways to experience this is through music. I created this playlist, which includes women artists who sing the truth of how we were made and how we are loved by God. Allow yourself to lay in the grass, snuggle in your bed with a blanket or sit in the Adoration chapel with these words echoing in your ears.

Flower in the Desert (A Playlist)

  • “Rescue” by Lauren Daigle
  • “Show Me” by Audrey Assad
  • “Wildflower” by Sarah Kroger
  • “In the Morning” by JJ Heller
  • “Love Like This” by Lauren Daigle
  • “Known” by Audrey Assad
  • “God is Still Here” by JJ Heller
  • “Wonderfully Made” by Ellie Holcomb
  • “Pieces” by Sarah Kroger, Audrey Assad
  • “Salt & Light” by Lauren Daigle
  • “Honesty” by Elle Limebear
  • “Belovedness” by Sarah Kroger
  • “Rebel Heart” by Lauren Daigle
  • “Constellations” by Ellie Holcomb
  • “New Wine” by Hillsong Worship
  • “Slow” by Audrey Assad
  • “Thank God I Do” by Lauren Daigle
  1. Take a Long, Candlelit Shower

One of my best friends is studying to be a psychologist and she recommended taking a long, candlelit shower as a way to wind down after a stressful day. Take the shower in silence or with a playlist of your favorite instrumental hymns and finish it off by moisturizing your body with your favorite lotion. There is something very visceral about this practice that can help ground you in the present moment when you face daily anxieties like scheduled intercourse, taking medications, and waiting to take a pregnancy test.

  1. Go on Vacation

When you undergo frequent pills and injections, blood draws, ultrasounds, and visits to your provider’s office, it can start to feel like your treatment becomes your whole life and even your identity. Taking a long weekend or a week with your husband, away from your day-to-day stresses and routine, can allow you to physically step away and find joy in exploring a new place or resting in an old favorite.

  1. Have a Girls’ Night In

Do you remember those bachelorette parties where your favorite women in the world- mom, sisters, and friends from childhood, high school, and college- were all together in one place? For me, something about being with all those women always reminded me of who I was and how blessed I am. Organize a wine or game or movie night with some of your favorite women and laugh and tell stories into the night.

  1. Go on Weekly Dates

The pressure to schedule intercourse within fertile windows can make intimacy with your husband feel like a chore. One way to combat this is to go on weekly dates and enjoy the man who is your family, your lover, and your vocation. Make a “date jar” that includes dates you went on while you were getting to know each other, your favorite spots, and new ideas to try – and start pulling from it regularly.

  1. Take a Social Media Fast

It has been said that comparison is the thief of joy. Seeing pregnancy announcements and advice, baby showers, and birth stories on social media can easily bring about feelings of jealousy and wishing your life looked like someone else’s. Sometimes the best way to combat these feelings and to be grateful for the blessings in your life is to fast from social media for a certain amount of time. Then, if you decide to return to social media, be aware of your triggers and when it is healthy to step back or step away again.

  1. Take Care of Your Responsibilities

During times of stress, it is easy to let your day-to-day responsibilities go by the wayside. This, however, can add even more to stress. Setting aside time each day or week to clean the house, work on unfinished projects, pay the bills, etc. helps to prevent you from feeling overwhelmed by physical, mental, and emotional burdens.

  1. Exercise

Exercise is known to increase serotonin levels and decrease stress. Exercise doesn’t have to be painful or a chore, though! Find something you enjoy like walking your dog, taking an exercise class (my favorite is Pietra Fitness) or going on a hike.

  1. Pray

Prayer is talking and listening to God (a definition from my Catholic school days). God wants to know if you don’t feel like praying or if you’re upset at Him for the way your life looks. He also wants you to snuggle close to His merciful heart, comfort you, and give you the desires of your heart. Time spent in daily prayer helps you to develop intimacy with the Lord and orient yourself to Heaven.

While this is not a comprehensive list, I hope that you found these suggestions helpful in developing your own unique self-care routine. Please know that I am praying for you and rooting for you on this crazy journey to Heaven.

Caroline Gindhart is a nurse practitioner at Divine Mercy Womens Health in Camp Hill/Carlisle, Pennsylvania. She received her nursing degrees from Penn State University. In her professional work, she diagnoses the root causes of infertility and treats in a way that cooperates with the woman’s cycle using her training in the Creighton Model and NaPro Technology.