Survival Tips for the Holiday Season

As the holiday season approaches, we all think of merry cheer, cozy gatherings, and celebrating with family. It’s a happy time, but for some, it can also be very sad, stressful and anxiety-ridden. I’m not talking about the last minute shopping; I’m talking about the endless reminders that people who are struggling to start their families have to face. Family gatherings with children running around can amplify the feeling that there’s something missing from your own life.  Whether it’s Aunt Rose leaning over to ask “so when are you going to have kids already?” or cousin Jack announcing “we’re pregnant!”, there is a much higher probability that some painful emotions will be stirred up during the holiday season.

But the holiday time does pass and there are things that you can do to help support yourself through it, so here are some Survival Tips for a Happy Holiday Season:

1.     Slow down. It’s easy to get caught up running around to get things done when you find yourself rushing to get to your friend’s party and get thrown off when her pregnant sister greets you at the door. Not only will slowing down help you to prepare for emotional gatherings but it will also help you to be more in touch when the anxiety or sadness creeps in, which will help you to support yourself better.

2.     Plan ahead. Assess the events that you are invited to and decide which ones you can give a miss. You may struggle with feelings of obligation or guilt but weigh them out. Will there be lots of babies or pregnant women there? Will you be in a funk afterward? How many tubs of Haagen-Daaz will you have to try to resist later or how many guided meditations will you have to listen to? Send a nice bottle of wine or some baked goods with a heartfelt card to express your regrets for having to miss out. If there’s an event that you feel you cannot miss, think of it in parts and decide which portion to attend. Skip the cocktails, show up just in time for dinner, and give yourself permission to slip out early if you notice yourself starting to feel down. If you find you’re feeling fine, then you can always stay and enjoy.

3.     Prepare a short response to the prodding questions. If Aunt May asks if or when you will have children, you can answer “we have a whole team of experts working on it” or you could simply reply “in due time.”  Don’t feel obligated to have to get into it. Although many people can be very understanding, there’s no need to share personal details about your fertility journey if you’re not comfortable doing so.

4.     Re-invent Traditions. Plan a special holiday celebration with your partner or some close friends. Plan a romantic getaway or a gathering with close friends who don’t have children. Re-inventing the holidays on your own terms can help transform your anxieties into fun and excitement. 

5.     Performing Acts of Kindness lifts the mood. The holiday season is a time of giving and studies have proven that helping others is therapeutic.  Organize a canned food drive for the Food Bank or volunteer at a shelter; it will feed your soul, help take you outside of your worries, and remind you of how much there is to be grateful for.

6.     Keep a Gratitude Journal. Put some time aside each day to reflect on what you have to feel grateful for. It’s easy to get caught up in our unfulfilled desires and forget that we already have so many conditions for happiness.

7.     Start each day with an Intention. Instead of just rolling out of bed each morning, take a minute to think about how you would like to feel or what you would like to accomplish that day.

8.     Nurture Yourself. Make time to nurture yourself. Whether it’s a nice bath, or a cup of your favourite tea, pamper yourself. Go for a nice walk or spend the day at the spa. Reflect on what little things bring you joy and make a point of including them in your schedule.

Alda Ngo