Guest blog by Kendra Tolbert MS, RDN, RYT of Live Fertile.
What comes to mind when you think of self-care? Long luxurious spa days? Remote retreats to faraway locales? Muscle tingling massages? Those things can certainly have a place in your fertility self-care routine if time and money allow, but they’re far from the whole picture. And in my opinion, they’re far from the most effective or important forms of self-care.
The best types of self-care are the simple things you can do regularly. Small pauses and pleasures add up over time. Think of self-care like dental care. Those biannual deep cleans from a dental hygienist are important but you can’t depend on them alone to keep your teeth and gums healthy. You’re going to need to brush and floss daily for that. Same with self-care.
It’s the daily pick-me-ups that keep us going, especially while navigating the fertility journey. So much can feel out of your control when you’re trying to conceive. So many of the procedures and protocols can feel like they’re happening to you rather than with you or for you. But with self-care, it’s with you and by you.
What’s more, self-care provides what is often missing from the medical treatment of infertility- a focus on improving or at the very least maintaining quality of life. Quality of life is greatly impacted by an infertility diagnosis. How can it not be? Fortunately, self-care can help.
Not only can self-care practices improve your quality of life during what can be a trying time, but some forms, like mind-body practices, have even been linked to improved conception rates. Definitely a win-win.
Below, you’ll find five simple self-care practices you can incorporate into your life to show yourself some love.
Also known as forest bathing, this Japanese practice is the gentle and simple act of spending leisure time in nature. The practice of forest bathing has been shown to bestow the following benefits:
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved blood sugar balance
- Improved immune system function
- A sense of vitality and vigor, coupled with reduced feelings of depression and stress
- Improved mood
- Reduced inflammation
The best part? You don’t have to go to the forest to reap the benefits. Going for a walk around a park, noticing the wildlife outside your window, adding houseplants to your surroundings, or even watching nature videos can confer many of the same benefits.
Whether guided or practiced on your own, meditation can be a lovely way to support your mental and emotional health.
My favorite meditations for fertility are guided, like the ones offered by Circle+Bloom, and yoga nidra. Both provide cues and visualizations to anchor your mind to, mitigating the tendency for thoughts to wander.
This is my go-to fertility self-care practice. It encourages relaxation, circulation, and introspection. Explore gentle forms like restorative, yin, slow-flow, or gentle vinyasa classes. Hot yoga or other high-intensity types are generally discouraged while trying to conceive.
Regular medical care
With so many visits to the ob-gyn or reproductive endocrinologist, it’s easy for other health care check-ups to fall by the wayside. But those appointments are just as important for overall well being and may even affect fertility.
Is it time to schedule a new dental cleaning, update your vaccines, or pay a visit to your primary care provider? If so, how can you make those visits work for your schedule?
The world of fertility nutrition can be overly prescriptive and overly focused on restriction. Which leaves many women feeling anxious and deprived. The pleasure of food is often undervalued and sometimes outright vilified. But doing so leaves us without the joy and comfort food can provide.
Food is more than its nutrient composition. It’s also a source of connection to nature, our family, and our culture. All of which are important for overall well being. Plus, enjoying your food may positively impact nutrient absorption.
A great way to bring back the joy of eating is to explore new flavor combos, either by trying new recipes or experimenting with herbs and spices.
If you’re anything like many of my clients, at this point you might be starting to feel the weight of obligation creeping in. Maybe your shoulders are rising. Maybe your mind is racing trying to figure out how you’re going to squeeze another to-do onto your already long list.
This isn’t one more thing you have to do or should do. You get to decide when and what type of self-care works for you. And you get to make it as easy, simple, and enjoyable as you want.
This is something I often work on with my clients. They’re driven and disciplined and sometimes find it difficult to approach self-care from a place of ease and freedom. Self-care can easily become one more thing that drains them of their time and energy rather than something that nourishes them. But being aware of this tendency helps them step back and approach self-care in a gentle way that is more nurturing.
How can you make self-care fun and light? How can you see it as a get-to-do rather than a have-to-do?
I hope the practices above inspire you to prioritize all aspects of your well being in a way that feels good as you move towards parenthood.
Kendra Tolbert MS, RDN, CDN, LD, RYT, Cert AT is a registered dietitian nutritionist, registered yoga teacher, and certified aromatherapist specializing in PCOS, fertility, and PMS. She completed her Masters degree in Nutrition and Public Health at Teachers College, Columbia University. She was awarded the Emerging Professional Award from the Women’s Health Dietetic Practice Group.
Kendra has experience helping individuals, families, and communities make improvements to their health and lives by adopting healthier habits. Her areas of expertise include women’s health, PCOS, fertility, community nutrition, and integrative and functional nutrition. Kendra has been featured on and written for a number of websites.
Previously, Kendra worked as an acute care clinical dietitian, outpatient oncology dietitian, nutrition educator, a community nutritionist, and consultant for nonprofit organizations. When not reading, writing, or coaching her yoga and nutrition clients, she enjoys taking dance and yoga classes, journaling, and body rolling to 90’s pop and R&B.