Managing Your Stress during Covid-19: 5 Questions to Ask Yourself
In the past few weeks, our lives have changed completely due to COVID-19. Our healthcare workers are on the front lines caring for those who have fallen ill, we are sheltering in place at home while also working from home, and non-essential businesses are closed. We’ve all had to adjust to our new routines, and all of these changes can easily contribute to increased stress levels. In turn, stress can negatively impact our fertility in a variety of ways that can be detected through fertility charting.
The Effects of Stress on Fertility
It’s important to manage our stress levels, not only for our physical and mental well being, but for our reproductive health, too. Some of the most notable effects of stress on fertility include delayed ovulation, longer cycles, anovulation/no ovulation, a shorter luteal phase, and a delayed period.
As a psychotherapist, I can share with you five helpful questions to ask yourself, to help you manage your stress levels and minimize the impact stress has on your cycle.
Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
When you’re out of your routine, it’s easy for your sleep cycle to get out of sync with late night binge-watching sessions followed by either sleeping in or being awakened by your kids, leaving you to function on only a few hours of sleep. As easy as it is to fall into this pattern, it’s important to remember that getting enough sleep is essential in times of stress.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. When you don’t get enough sleep, symptoms of stress can increase, according to the American Psychological Association, and these include:
- Feeling irritable or angry
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lacking interest, motivation, or energy
- Losing patience or yelling at your children
- Skipping exercise
If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms above because of the lifestyle changes you’ve experienced due to COVID-19, make sure you are getting 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep as often as possible.
Are You Exercising?
While you may be tempted to skip exercising because you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, exercise is even more important in times of stress. Exercising regularly has many mental and physical health benefits including improved cardiovascular and muscular health, reduced depression, improved mood, increased confidence, and reduced stress. Exercise may also help mitigate some of the effects of stress on fertility.
Even though gyms are closed and studio classes are cancelled right now, there are easy ways to get the CDC’s recommended 20-30 minutes a day from the comfort of your home and neighborhood. Whether you try a free online class from YouTube or your favorite app, host a virtual dance party with your friends and family, or you go for a walk or run around the neighborhood, you can easily squeeze in 20 to 30 minutes each day. Exercising will help relieve stress and boost your mood, both of which are so important and so needed during this time.
When Was the Last Time You Talked to a Friend?
When you’re under stress, you might be tempted to double down and isolate yourself from your support network, but it’s important to reach out to others. Especially for women, reaching out to supportive friends and family can actually help reduce stress.
Research has shown that having a close friend can reduce the impact of a negative event. We are facing a great deal of stress and many unknowns as we try to flatten the COVID-19 curve, which makes staying in touch with our support network all the more important, especially if you are living alone. And, although we can’t meet a friend for coffee right now, you can still call, text, or video chat with your friends and family. You can also be creative and schedule an article or podcast club, themed happy hour, or online game night with friends. Make sure that staying connected with your family and friends is a priority right now.
Are You Allowing Yourself to Have Downtime?
Our schedules have been turned completely upside down because of COVID-19. You might be juggling working from home and caring for your family or you might be coping with living alone right now. While you might be tempted to take on a big project like cleaning out your entire home or starting the side business you’ve always dreamed of, make sure you make time to sit and do something relaxing and restorative. The same goes if you are juggling work, caring for your family, all while trying to maintain your own well being. While keeping busy may help us cope with the reality of COVID-19, rest is equally important in order to mitigate the effects of stress on fertility and overall health. Making time for restorative activities like crafting, journaling, reading, or going for a walk, gives your body the critical time it needs to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which helps return your body to a state of calm after stress. Scheduling your downtime before bed is a great idea because it will also help prepare you for a restful night’s sleep.
What Are You Thankful For?
Especially in times like these when it’s easier to focus on what isn’t going well, what we’re missing out on, and all of the suffering happening in the world, it’s so important to practice gratitude.
When we lose sight of all of the good things happening in our lives, we feel the weight of the world even more, which can make our stress worse. Thinking of what brings us gratitude, on the other hand, helps to open our eyes to the good that is happening in the midst of so many challenges and difficulties. Something as simple as keeping a gratitude journal each day has been shown to increase your overall well being.
Whatever challenges lie ahead, employing these tips can help you manage your stress levels and the effects of stress on your fertility and overall health.