Each year, the holiday season sneaks up quickly. For some, it is the happiest time of year, and for all, it is a season that brings an array of demands on top of regular responsibilities. Completing the workday as the sun goes down is challenging enough, but adding shopping, baking, cooking, preparing, parties, holiday cards, traveling, and entertaining to the list is a challenge for even the most organized and diligent.
Most holidays conjure up media-fed images of happy family gatherings. For anyone who is having trouble conceiving or maintaining a successful pregnancy, these images can create dread and emotional pain. There are also the anticipated stressors of seeing family and friends who may inquire about starting a family, being around others sharing their pregnancy announcements, and seeing young children at celebration gatherings.
If you are in the midst of treatment or your journey to have a family, the holidays can be especially challenging. In our years of treating those with infertility during the holidays, we wanted to share our tried-and-true holiday tips to help lighten the load this season.
- Prepare: Decide what is meaningful to you this year and how you would like to celebrate. Is this the year to ring in some new traditions? Be open to new experiences while also having realistic expectations and setting limits.
- Plan Ahead: Organize so your work roles and holiday responsibilities can be more manageable. Plan what activities and events you will participate in and strategize how you may answer inappropriate questions loved ones may ask.
- Learn to Say No: Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends, family, and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity, so don’t push yourself beyond your limits. If it is not possible to say no to the work responsibilities on your plate, try to remove something else from your agenda.
- Reach Out: Seek out support and assistance at work or in your personal life where needed. Delegate the entertaining tasks such as cleaning, food prep, and shopping. If you are feeling isolated and lonely for the holidays, seek out support from a friend for companionship. If time allows, look into volunteer opportunities to help and share the joy of being around others.
- Stick to a Budget: Before you start gift shopping, strategize around available time to shop and what you can afford to spend. Do your best to stick to your budget and remember, your values are what is important and happiness cannot be purchased through presents.
- Acknowledge Your Feelings: Holding everything inside does not help. Be aware of your emotional triggers and honor your feelings around them. Try your best to maintain a sense of humor during stressful times. When conversations turns intense, redirect to a lighter focus.
- Practice Relaxation: Learn what it takes for you to relax and calm yourself, and make that a part of your routine. If you’re staying with family and/or having guests for the holidays, plan in your own time to re-energize. Some relaxing activities to try: take a walk, enjoy nature, tune out, read, listen to music, walk the dog, meditate, honor your religious traditions and/or attend a service, offer to run an errand on your own, take deep cleansing breaths.
- Talk to Those Closest to You: Talking to your partner, friend, or close family member can help you during hard times. Take time for your relationship and make a plan to support each other and discuss your true feelings together. Remember that men and women (and any two people) may cope differently, one may be more expressive than the other, neither way is right or wrong, just different.“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” - Lao Tzu
- Take Care of Yourself: Try to cover all of your bases for wellness - eat and sleep well, exercise, and pamper yourself. Take time to truly enjoy the sights, sounds, smells, scenes of the holidays. Try not to go into work, a holiday event, or gathering you are hosting feeling emotionally bankrupt and physically exhausted. Taking care of yourself means stepping away from the “to do” list so you can be prepared to enjoy the company of family and friends.
- Join Our Support Group: We welcome you to join us on December 18 for a fertility support group, and a new fertility support group for single women begins on December 11. Connecting with others who are experiencing similar challenges will help you reduce isolation and feel genuine empathy with others who can relate. To register or learn more about upcoming support groups, click here.
We cannot slow down or make the hustle and bustle and stressors of the holiday season vanish, but we can try to take charge of how we cope with the holidays. Wishing you a peaceful and joyful holiday season!
Arianda Cymet-Lanski, Psy D
Susan M Rizzato, MSW, LCSW