“Happy holidays” rings hollow when you are struggling through infertility.
Seeing all those “baby’s first” pictures popping up in your social media newsfeeds can bring a daily dose of pain. Answering “So, when will you be starting a family?” inquiries at holiday gatherings can be awkward.
Half of women, and one-third of men experience depression at some point during infertility treatment. What’s more, three-fourths of all participants in a recent survey – not just those experiencing infertility – reported feeling more anxious or depressed during the holidays. If it’s normal to feel blue during the holidays, it’s that much more likely that those experiencing the stress of infertility might feel a little more anxious or depressed, too.
If you or your partner are feeling depressed, anxious or stressed during the holidays, it’s not pleasant, but it is not unexpected. It’s normal.
So how can you make it through the holidays with your heart intact? Here are a few tips:
Start by checking in with you
Take some time to learn and reflect on how you are feeling, and how you best handle stress. Be proactive about planning healthy strategies for maintaining your well-being. Make sure that in the holiday rush you’ve built in time for exercise, solitude and connecting with friends.
If you haven’t already connected with a trusted counselor, now might be the time to make that connection. Scheduled opportunities to talk immediately before or after big events that you think might trigger depression or anxiety, such as family get-togethers or office parties. A good counseling session can fortify you with the perspective you need to face the challenge, or help you decompress afterwards.
Prepare and plan ahead
Role play scenarios with your partner or a friend. How will you answer if you are asked an uncomfortable question? Rehearse those answers, so you have them at the ready just in case.
Role playing ahead of time can give you time and space to experience your emotions, too, in a context that is private and safe.
Need a little help? Check out these responses: https://creatingafamily.org/infertility-category/ten-answers-to-the-when-are-you-going-to-have-kids-question/
Give yourself permission to take a pass
Don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) keep you glued to social media. Take a break from Facebook for a few weeks. Research indicates that social media use can trigger depression. Watching the highlights reel of other people’s lives can stoke feelings of jealousy and resentment.
Hide the posts or connections that bring up those feelings for you. You can always go back and “unhide” friends from your newsfeed later.
It’s also ok to turn down invitations. If you know you’ll be confronted with uncomfortable situations or you are just not feeling up to it, opt out and instead exercise self-care. Go to a movie, read a book, take a walk, volunteer or treat yourself to a spa day.
And what about strategically scheduling a getaway with your partner? A vacation will give you time to reconnect with one another, experience the holidays in a whole new way and avoid situations likely to cause you stress.
Give others a pass, too
Most questions and comments come from a place of genuine interest and even love. While their comments may be insensitive, thoughtless or invasive, rarely is there any malicious intent. It may be best to simply answer honestly and graciously, or deflect the question altogether rather than snap back with a sharp retort.
Giving grace to others when they say something uncomfortable rather than giving vent to your anger, hurt and frustration may benefit you, too. Escalating a comment into a conflict might raise your blood pressure, trigger unhealthy coping responses like overindulging in food or drink, or cause long-term damage to relationships. The momentary satisfaction of the perfect comeback might not be worth it.