The holidays are a time when we find ourselves surrounded by families and their children. You’ll be participating in holiday traditions that other families share each year.
But if you’re struggling with fertility issues or undergoing fertility treatments, the holidays can be a painful reminder of the family you wish you had.
The emotional stress that the holidays can bring adds to the stress of the fertility process. This can cause you to feel overwhelmed and make it harder for you to enjoy this special time with family and friends.
So I’ve created a Fertility and Infertility Self-Care Plan for the holiday season to help you navigate what may not be the “most wonderful time of the year” for many women.
1. Check-in With Yourself Each Day During the Holidays
Daily prayer or meditation sessions help you identify what you need at any given moment. Journaling can also be an effective way to process emotions and observe your responses to situations and people around you.
Remember that your emotional needs can change daily, and that’s okay. But the more awareness you have around those needs, the better you’ll be at making sure you’re taking care of yourself throughout the holiday season.
2. Eat Sensibly and Stay Active
Food and holiday celebrations go hand-in-hand, and the holiday season often becomes a time for us to over-indulge.
Too much of a good thing can leave you feeling sluggish at a time when you need all the energy you can get. So enjoy your favorite holiday foods in moderation.
Regular exercise at the right intensity for your needs can improve your mood and help digest all those holiday calories while helping you manage stress.
Eating sensibly and staying active during the holidays can make it easier for you to enjoy this special time without any unwanted stress.
3. Just Say No and Have a Backup Plan for Holiday Events
Be selective about which holiday events you want to attend. If you aren’t sure if you want to go to a certain party, ask yourself, “How will I feel if I go? How will I feel if I don’t go?”
Being around pregnant women or parents and their children can trigger women who are struggling with fertility challenges. Give yourself permission to opt-out of any parties where you know you won’t be comfortable.
You can also arrive late or leave early if you think there’s a chance that you might find a particular event difficult. The important thing is to have a backup plan and know when you need to use it.
4. Prepare in Advance for the Questions You Don’t Want to Answer
Decide what information you plan on sharing about your situation when people ask questions you may not want to answer.
Prepare answers in advance for common questions like, “When are you having children?” or “Isn’t it about time you thought about starting a family?”
Rehearse your answers ahead of time, and don’t feel shy about telling others that you don’t feel comfortable answering certain questions.
5. Don’t Pretend There’s Nothing Wrong
Be transparent and share your feelings. Sometimes the act of saying how you feel lets you move through negative emotions a little faster to find space for more positive ones.
Being honest about what you’re going through can take away the power it can have over your feelings and emotions. Owning how you feel can help you be more in control and empowered to connect with others in an authentic way.
6. Celebrate the Holidays the Way You Want
If you feel like celebrating, enjoy it. Listen to your favorite holiday music, plan out your holiday decorations and meals, or go shopping. Do what feels right for you.
The holidays are yours to enjoy however you want. There’s often a pressure to do things a certain way, and expectations from others can add to the stress of the holiday season.
Learn to recognize what the holidays mean for you, and start creating your own celebrations and traditions.
7. Take a Break From Fertility Treatments
If going through potentially mood-altering treatments during the holidays sounds like more than you can bear, talk with your doctor about taking a break.
It might make more emotional sense to revisit your treatments after the holiday season is over.
8. Create Your Own Child-Free Holiday Traditions
This step may feel like the hardest one of all, especially since you probably dream about someday having holiday traditions with children of your own.
But it’s okay to create new ones in the meantime. You may find comfort in celebrating with friends and family members who also don’t have children.
9. Practice Having an Attitude of Gratitude
Giving thanks can feel tricky when you’re overwhelmed with sadness. But when you can, learn to be grateful for what you have.
You might be surprised by how gratitude for the small things in life (like your favorite tea, candle, or space) can lead to more significant moments of gratitude in your life.
10. Reach Out for Support When You Need It
If you’re working with a therapist or coach, schedule a session sometime during the holiday season.
You can find a support group online or in-person to help you navigate the challenges that the holidays can bring.
Knowing you have a safe space and the support you need, free from unhelpful advice or unwanted comments, is priceless.
The holiday season is one of the hardest times of the year for women and couples who are struggling to start a family. Wherever you are on your journey, remember to be gentle with yourself and with others.
Use the steps and tools listed above to help you make your way through the holidays more confidently and with greater ease. I wish you a joyful holiday season and celebration for you and your loved ones.
Originally published in Thrive Global on November 18, 2019.
Related Article: Set Intentions, Not Resolutions