How to Handle the Stress of the Holidays and Infertility
It’s that time of year again – the holidays. Ads are showing perfect parties with friends and happy family reunions, but the truth is that many of us will be hugging each other, exchanging gifts…and stressing out!
The stress is because real families and friends are not perfect and holiday gatherings often have some feuds, conversations that turn into arguments, sibling rivalry, children acting like babies, and grownups acting like children. Then, if you are dealing with infertility issues, add having to answer well-meaning questions about your plans to start a family.
Here are some tips on how to handle the stress of the holiday and infertility.
- If infertility is an issue and you are planning to spend time with your family, make sure they know that you are not to blame for your problems. If your relatives tell you to “just relax” and you’ll get pregnant, take it as well-meaning concern, but explain that infertility causes stress, and not the other way around. You did not create infertility by working hard, worrying, or feeling tense. Tell them that you are sure this makes them feel relieved. Hopefully, they will take the ‘hint’ and agree.
- Practice your answers to difficult and/or insensitive questions about getting pregnant. Your answers can be self-protective or self-revealing, humorous or serious, original or borrowed. It doesn’t matter as long as you feel ready and not taken by surprise.
- Give yourself permission to tell others only what you want to share, and only when and if you decide to share it. You can always tell, you can never un-tell.
- Expect to be more irritable or sensitive if you are taking hormones as part of fertility treatment, dealing with pregnancy loss, or waiting for test or procedure results. And expect to also be at least a little bit jealous and angry when you are around anyone with a family already - particularly during the ‘family’ parties. You are human. Don’t expect yourself to be anything else.
- Get some psychological distance by looking at your family and friends as if you've never met them before and pretend you’re writing a book or movie about them. That should make you more of an observer than participant and help you laugh instead of getting annoyed.
- Try to make some dates with friends who don’t have children. Play games that would be too hard for kids, watch movies kids wouldn’t understand or appreciate, and eat food you wouldn’t want kids to have. In other words, take the opportunity to enjoy your freedom for a night before focusing on fertility treatment again in the morning.
- If holiday traditions are making you nostalgic, just when your hormone injections are making you melancholy, create some new upbeat traditions of your own. Volunteer one night, for example, to remind yourself that there are others with problems too. Besides, making others feel better usually helps you feel better.
- If you have friends who are also going through the holidays with fertility issues, stay in touch. You will see that your reactions are not unusual and when they say “I understand,” you will know that they really do!
But if dealing with your friends and family during the holiday is less of a problem than dealing with yourself, think about these points:
- Accept that you have no control over the past or the future. That means making a deal with yourself to live in the present and make the holidays enjoyable.
- Choose to behave “as if” you are calm and optimistic. Your behavior will signal your body that extra adrenaline is not needed. Soon you will actually feel calmer and more optimistic. It works!
- Take opportunities to play and laugh during the holidays because they are nature’s stress relievers. Try competitive games ,watching a comedy, reading funny emails, or sending them to a friend – they all release mood-elevating brain chemicals and, according to Dr. Herbert Benson’s Harvard research, a total of just 20 minutes a day of laughter or play can decrease stress symptoms by 50 percent.
- If you enjoy working out, do it! Workouts will not only burn off holiday calories, but they will also help you to burn off your frustration, feel more like you did before you started your fertility journey, and remind you to treat yourself well.
Finally, remember to be your own best friend. Treat yourself with the same supportiveness, consideration and respect you give to others you love.