Can You "Quietly Quit" Fertility Treatments?
The difference between burnout and stress, and how to course correct.
Posted November 28, 2022 | Reviewed by Devon Frye
- Burnout and stress can negatively impact a fertility journey, and may lead someone to "quietly quit" by detaching and going through the motions.
- If you find yourself withdrawing, avoiding, and losing hope, you may be unintentionally making your fertility journey even more strenuous.
- Deal with burnout by setting boundaries, reminding yourself why you're on this journey, making meaningful connections, and resting as needed.
- Give yourself breaks as often as possible and spend your time on the activities and people who bring you the most joy.
There are thousands of articles and studies focusing on the increase in burnout worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, its symptoms include physical exhaustion, emotional detachment, and mental cynicism.1
It may sound a lot like stress, but it’s different from stress. Stress makes us feel like we must push ourselves harder to get control over our lives and make them better. Burnout, on the other hand, makes us feel like there’s no chance of getting control over life or making it better. In the workplace, stress often leads to competitive, ambitious, and aggressive behavior, but burnout often leads to the opposite: a loss of motivation, social withdrawal, and disinterest in achieving goals because you feel overwhelmed.
A recently viral term, "quiet quitting," describes someone who is on the job and doing only what's required to get their paycheck. Some have used the term to describe being in a relationship and just going through the motions to avoid the breakup.
Could you also be quietly quitting if you are beginning to feel like you are burned out and just going through the motions on your fertility journey? To answer this question, start by asking yourself these three questions first:
- Am I withdrawing from friends and family because I don’t want to deal with questions, hear other people’s advice or stories, or see others who are pregnant?
- Am I avoiding additional treatment because I feel too emotionally exhausted to deal with the next steps?
- Am I showing up for appointments but beginning to give up hope?
Just one “yes” means you may be delaying treatment when time is crucial and making your journey more difficult because burnout makes you more susceptible to headaches, insomnia, acid reflux, and back strain. Quiet quitting also increases the likelihood of actually quitting treatment because withdrawal and isolation mean fewer opportunities for sharing and emotional support.
5 Ways to Deal with Fertility Burnout and Reduce "Quiet Quitting"
- Setting boundaries and taking breaks. Since quietly quitting any commitment is usually about trying to save yourself from burnout, understand there are better ways of protecting yourself that don’t sabotage your goals. You can set more boundaries on demands beyond current treatment, focus less on future outcomes and spend more time in the here and now, and take more breaks for regeneration and pleasure.
- Remember the “why.” Reminding yourself why you embarked on this journey can give the treatment purpose and meaning again. Your IVF, ovum donation, sperm donation, or gestational carrier search was part of your choice to create a family. Recommitting can help you feel like a consumer in power, not a victim, and motivate you to research the next steps in case your current fertility treatment doesn’t work.
- Find the connection. As your journey progresses, making sure you are connected to your medical team and support team is vital. You need to constantly re-evaluate your choices as you get new information from procedures and tests in order to feel in control rather than overwhelmed. If you are feeling disconnected, make sure it’s not because you are burnt out or quietly quitting. If the problem is the medical teams’ accessibility, let them know that you need more feedback and options.
- Connect wisely. Making sure you are also connected to friends and family is important because social contact in your daily life is a natural antidote to burnout. But choose your contacts wisely! Make sure they are good listeners who are not easily distracted or judgmental. Negativity is contagious and you need to be lifted up, not brought down.
- Catch more Zs. Getting enough sleep is critical as well. Sleep is not only necessary for energy, but also for clear thinking and regulating your biological clock and your moods. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because of burnout, you are likely to be even more irritable and pessimistic. Set up a bedtime reminder on your phone to shut off the computer or TV. Distract yourself from pessimistic ruminating by listening to a book on tape or boring yourself to sleep by counting imaginary sheep. You get the idea—get sleep.
Last, but not least, spend time at your job, at your hobby, at your charity, or at your community activities. If your only activity is your fertility journey, you will be defining yourself in this narrow way and every success or failure will be magnified. Unlike stress, which is usually not relieved by stepping away from the source because you feel like you are "wasting time," burnout is often relieved by stepping away from the source because you can feel a greater sense of control in other arenas.
So give yourself a break in every sense of the word. Pausing in the short run can help you last for the long run.
1) World Health Organization (2019). Burn-out an "occupational phenomenon": International Classification of Diseases.