Surviving the Holidays
How To Survive the Holidays
By Traci Shahan, RN, WHNP-BC, Doctor of Nursing
It seems like a split second ago, my husband and I were
traversing the slippery slope of getting through the holiday season, childless
once again. We have now spent more
holiday seasons as parents than we did childless but the empathy remains.
Never too far from my frontal lobe is the indelible impression of how
delicate life is, and, consequently,
what an absolute miracle it is that I am a mom, as ours was one of the
more unique roads to parenthood.
But I digress.
Holidays are difficult for most patients I work with as an
REI nurse practitioner. After all, it is
a time steeped in Rockwellian images, frankincense fantasies and the nearly
pandemic idea that the season is magic, what with all those tiny rein door
hooves clickety-clacking away on someone’s rooftop and Handel’s Messiah proclaiming miracles from every
speaker and stage. Many feel guilt if
they don’t want to revel in the season or if they feel sad or even depressed
that they are childless. After all, our
American credo is pull yourselves up by
your bootstraps already, Little Buckerina or Buckeroo, as the case may
be. Most of us were suckled on rugged
individualism and chided to put on our happy faces even when we feel awful.
I vote this is just plain unhealthy, never mind not
authentic. Faking feelings will, in the
end, merit feelings of low self-worth, a sense of phoniness, and outright
isolation at times. After all, if we’re
busy pretending like we are something we’re not, we can rarely share honestly
with a trusted other what is bothering us.
And if we can’t own what’s bothering us, it will not simply go away on
its own. One hallmark of robust mental
health is if a person feels able to confide in others, trusting them to keep
her confidences. In short, we all need
others to whom we can bare our soul.
I have cherry-picked from our patients, as well as my own
personal experience, the top ten most
helpful coping strategies for thriving, not just surviving, the holiday season
as person affected by infertility.
- Intentionally cultivate trusting, loving
relationships. Start with one person you
can open up to. Tell them what it is
like for you to be infertile during a season when you might feel obligated to
The power of writing down what upsets you, your dreams, in sum, your
feelings, cannot be overstated. Make it
fun: go to a bookstore and purchase a beautiful journal. Write, color, draw, cry into it. Consider it a mental spa between two covers.
- Protect yourself! This is important. Trust your gut! Just because the company holiday party is
where most of your coworkers will be on a given evening of the year does not
mean you need to attend. If you are not
feeling up to it, by all means, go with what you know will be most comforting
to you. Remember, infertility is a major
life challenge and has been likened to the degree of stress that an oncology
patient endures. Be gentle with
- Ask for help.
Yes, I said it and I know that it rubs against most of our American
acculturation, but find someone you trust and ask them to help you, whether
that means rides to medical appointments, phone calls in the middle of the
night, emails, or having dinner together.
Even if your body is (temporarily, most likely) unable to gestate at
this time, try your hand at growing or creating something.
- Consider soothing modalities such as a
massage–yes, you deserve it! You’re in
the sisterhood of us peeps who have gone through infertility—aroma therapy or
even light therapy.
- Eat a little—I said little, meaning less than
one ounce—of dark chocolate per day. Not
only will it increase your serotonin levels resulting in mood enhancement, but
it’s not harmful to a pregnancy like alcohol and it’s great for heart health.
- Moderate lean protein is helpful for many
patients affected by infertility especially PCOS patients. Try new, zesty sources like some of the new
preparations of seasoned nuts (a palmful only per day or per your health
provider’s recommendation), hummus or even tofu.
- Take a walk with someone you love. Challenge each other to forgo talking
fertility during your time together, and instead tell that person how precious
s/he is and how much you love your presence in your life.
- Above all, consider counseling if you feel
overwhelmed or even just to pick up helpful hints about how to deal with
stress. There are many excellent mental
health professionals that specialize in helping those affected by
infertility. It almost goes without
saying that, should you feel depressed to the point where you cannot function
normally or are considering harming yourself or others, you need to obtain
emergency mental health services. You
can also call 911.
Infertility is difficult for most of us. Remember that you have a built-in network of
people who are going through the same.
You can find them on any number of websites including Fertility
Authority. Don’t just get through this