As we get closer to the holidays, navigating fertility and trying diligently to conceive can be a very painful challenge. Holiday events, public environments, and communication of all forms carry an underlying theme of the family merriment one struggling with fertility desires desperately. Without a doubt, emotional dysregulation is a likely outcome. This is often displayed through an individual’s actions i.e. withdrawal, isolation, avoidance, interpersonal break-downs, etc.
Adapting Mindful Self-Compassion, a concept derived from Kristen Neff, PhD, it is imperative to work towards a version of yourself that addresses what you need and honours your feelings versus resisting the reality you are presented. Using some of the tips below can help you navigate this holiday season.
1. Sit with Discomfort - What we tend to resist will persist. Being insightful to your level of tolerance is key. In every environment, conversational exchange, and public setting there will be a level of discomfort in anticipation of ‘the question’. If you are feeling vulnerable and unsafe, excuse yourself, change settings, or distract your mind. Set a limit to the time you are willing to expose yourself to the possibility of a negative exchange. Conversely, if discomfort is tolerable, validate the emotions you are feeling with positive self-talk.
2. Plan Ahead - Before we know it, the holidays have arrived and we are without a plan of action, especially if you are emotionally drained from the fertility process. Having ‘some’ control over your circumstances can make feeling overwhelmed less taxing. Consider planning out the events you have been invited to on a calendar. Limit your events. Ensure you are balancing events with activities of self-preservation. Bring a support person whom you can turn to for support if needing to leave in a hurry. Practice a generic update, but decide ahead of time what you are willing to disclose. Plan to debrief if event did not go as planned.
3. Can I Say No? Yes, You Can! - Saying no and honouring your body, mind, and spirit are the foremost priority. Fertility can be mentally, emotionally, and physically draining on the body. Make this the year that you put yourself first. Inquire whether problematic family or friends plan to attend the event you’re considering and determine whether it is worth the trigger. Experiment with new traditions instead.
4. Mind-Body Connection - Often times it is when our body is screaming with pain (emotional/physical) that we tune in. Gabor Maté, BA, MD argues that when we tend to ignore the whispers and warning signs along the way it is when we cause the most amount of damage. Guard against this by giving your body adequate sleep, nutrition, and movement. Encourage balance over the holidays.
5. Reach out for Support - Ensure you are connected to a solid support. A simple text message, phone call, email, or instant message can offer the slightest bit of relief and comfort. Connect with a counsellor to walk through difficult upcoming holiday events and review coping strategies that will ground you.
This holiday season, instead of retreating challenge yourself to remain present. Shift perspective from helplessness to being in control by staying within your limitations of distress.