In this episode of LivingUpp's Conversations with Smart People, I interviewed Lori Shandle-Fox, who helps companies increase happiness and productivity in the workplace, about the topic of Self-Care, Humor & Infertility.
At her company, Laughing is Conceivable, Lori uses her life experiences with infertility and IVF, along with her background as a stand-up comic, to give some lightness to those going through similar experiences.
On her website, she shares this little bit of wisdom: "Our experiences -- what we each as human beings have to endure in this life and how we can help each other to come through those times with laughter -- this is where we all meet. Even in the most trying of times, especially in the most trying of times...Laughing IS Conceivable..and Humor Heals."
That philosophy is her gift to the world.
Even in our heaviest of moments, there is still room for humor.
There's little doubt that laughter is good medicine. And that's because it increases oxygen intake, releases feel-good endorphins, and promotes muscle relaxation.
Laughter is an easy tool that we can all learn to add to our self-care toolbox.
Here's a summary of our interview:
"I come from a funny family," Lori explained. "When I lost my parents, humor was somehow always way a way to get me out of things. When I could laugh I knew I was on my way to getting better."
Lori was almost 40 when she got married and starting thinking about having children. "The second you walk into a fertility place, your life is basically never the same again," she explains.
Jokes became a coping mechanism and she quickly realized that comedy might be helpful for others as well.
"The thing about infertility is that it's not resolved after a couple of weeks. It can take years."
The stress can be overwhelming. But humor helps relieve stress almost immediately. It's calming and it gives us perspective.
And humor also plays a role in relationships. "Another thing it does is that it bonds you with people. It's easy to get caught up in your own little cloud of craziness. But if you can laugh together, all of a sudden you're in the same spot. It's a powerful thing between people." she says.
"First, get your anxiety issues in check before you even start fertility treatments."
Preparing for what's to come is critical.
"Fertility is about more than trying to get pregnant. You may have to change your work schedule. You may have to cancel vacations. You may have to drop out of school."
And if you're not careful, fertility can take over your whole life.
You may find that you're avoiding going to functions like baby showers and gatherings where you may be asked questions you don't want to answer. Well-meaning friends and family can also give unwanted advice that can come off as being insensitive.
"Everything will revolve around infertility if you let it," explains Lori.
Having your own personal time is critical.
Another important consideration is the relationship you have with your partner--boyfriend, husband, spouse, girlfriend, etc. The foundation you're building is important and you can't let that go.
Self-care is critical and you have to care for your whole life.
If you're looking for positive social support, here's what Lori recommends: "I think the most important thing to know is that IVF support groups are great, but you gotta take them with a grain of salt. When it comes to online groups, you have to be careful. You have no idea what other issues these people are bringing into this situation," she says.
"It's great for support as long as you're aware that it could go wrong. And sometimes it's so overwhelming to hear what everyone else is doing. If the social experience causes more stress, it might not be the right place."
The other important piece of advice Lori had is this: "I feel strongly that you don't owe anybody any information. Don't let anybody guilt you into anything--and that includes being the one to put on someone else's baby shower or attending somebody's christening. People will try to push your buttons, whether they do it intentionally or not."
Politely and assertively say, "I'm sorry I can't. I'm just not up to it this year."
And make sure you have some other plan in place.
Those on the outside need to realize how sensitive this is--there couldn't be anything more personal.
Unless you've been through IVF treatments, you don't know.
So if you want to be supportive, the best thing you can do is take cues from the person going through it.
But also remember that everybody's doing the best they can. When someone comes off as insensitive, they're still just doing their best.
And remember, life doesn't stop being stressful at the end of infertility. Your self-care strategies may change over time, but you'll still need self-care when your fertility journey is over.
Lori adds to her self-care list every chance she gets. "The more you're taking care of your inside and outside, the better you are for everybody else," she says.
The one question Lori asks is this: "What rights your ship?" What do you have in your life that can set you back on course? What do you have in place in your life that you know you can default to immediately to start to feel better?
Eating right, exercising, meditating and writing are some of Lori's favorites, and she aims to include at least two of those each day.
Learn more about how to connect with Lori on her website: Laughing is Conceivable.
Have a thought about self-care and infertility? Leave a comment below.
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