Managing the Overthinking Trap During IVF

Photo by Tachina Lee on Unsplash

If you’re undergoing IVF, you know firsthand how overwhelming the experience can be (so do I!). The process is filled with medical procedures, emotional highs and lows, and countless decisions to be made. Amidst all this, it’s easy to fall into the trap of overthinking—constantly analyzing every detail, questioning every choice, and worrying about every outcome. Overthinking can make an already stressful journey even more challenging.

At times like these, embracing the concept of under-reacting (also called under-thinking), as suggested by Courtney Carver, creator of Be More With Less, can be incredibly beneficial.  Courtney’s approach to simplifying life and focusing on what truly matters can help you navigate the complexities of IVF with a calmer mind and a more centered heart.

The Challenge of Overthinking:

Overthinking is a natural response to the uncertainty and emotional intensity of IVF. You might find yourself obsessively tracking symptoms, second-guessing your decisions, or replaying conversations with your doctor. This mental overdrive can leave you feeling exhausted, anxious, and disconnected from the present moment.

The Goal of Under-thinking:

Under-thinking is about simplifying your thoughts and focusing on what is essential. It’s not about ignoring important details or being careless; rather, it’s about recognizing when your thoughts are spiraling and gently guiding them back to a place of calm and clarity.

How to Embrace Under-thinking During IVF

1. Focus on the Present Moment

One of the main principles of under-thinking is to bring your focus back to the present. Instead of worrying about future outcomes or replaying past events, try to stay grounded in the now. Practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or simply taking a moment to notice your surroundings.

2. Set Boundaries on Information Intake

It’s easy to get lost in a sea of information, from online forums to endless research articles. While it’s important to be informed, setting boundaries on how much time you spend consuming information can help reduce overthinking. Designate specific times for research and stick to them, allowing yourself space to relax and disengage.

3. Simplify Your Decisions

IVF involves numerous decisions, from choosing a clinic to deciding on specific treatments. Embrace the idea of simplifying these decisions by focusing on what you sense is best for you (and your partner), rather than trying to find the perfect answer. My RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) used to remind me, “Great is the enemy of good.” So, do your best to trust your instincts and remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

4. Limit Over-analysis

It’s natural to want to analyze every detail of your treatment and symptoms, but over-analysis leads to additional stress. Practice under-thinking by setting limits on how much you allow yourself to dissect each aspect of the process. For instance, decide that you will only check for symptoms or do a pregnancy test only once per day (and stick to it).

5. Create a Supportive Environment

Surround yourself with supportive people who understand your desire to under-think. Share your approach with them so they can help you stay grounded and focused. Whether it’s a partner, friend, therapist or support group, having a strong network can make a significant difference.  

6. Practice Self-Compassion

Be gentle with yourself. Undergoing IVF is emotionally and physically taxing, and it’s okay to have doubt and it’s natural for your brain to want to overthink every aspect of your experience. When you catch yourself spiraling, practice self-compassion. Acknowledge your feelings without judgment and gently bring your focus back to the present. Imagine wrapping yourself in a soft, comforting blanket, allowing yourself to feel safe and cared for.

Exercise: Leaning Into the Unknown
This is a method to practice when you’re finding it hard to settle your anxiety about uncertainty.

  1. Find a Quiet Space: Sit or lie down in a comfortable, quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Close Your Eyes: Take a few deep breaths, allowing your body to relax with each exhale.
  3. Visualize a Path: Picture yourself standing at the beginning of a winding path that leads into a beautiful, unknown landscape. This path represents your IVF journey and the uncertainties that come with it.
  4. Embrace the Journey: As you walk along the path, notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Allow yourself to feel curious and open to whatever lies ahead, without needing to know all the details.
  5. Let Go of Control: Acknowledge any feelings of anxiety or the need to control the outcome. Imagine these feelings as pebbles in your hand. Gently release the pebbles, letting them fall away as you continue to walk. You can also try this.
  6. Focus on the Present: Bring your attention back to each step you take, feeling the ground beneath your feet and the air around you. Trust that the path will lead you where you need to go, even if you can’t see the destination.

Welcoming an under-thinking mindset is a personal commitment to managing extremely tough feelings amid the chaos of IVF. It’s about recognizing that while you can’t control every aspect of the journey, you can use tools to help you manage how you respond to the stress. By simplifying your thoughts and focusing on what truly matters, you create space for less stress.

I’m always here, wishing you more peace as you continue on this challenging path.

Rachel Shanken, Somatic Fertility Therapist in New York City