12 Tips and Strategies to Help Couples and Individuals Cope with Infertility over the Holidays

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Fertility counselor Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski of Fertility Centers of Illinois shares helpful holiday information for couples and individuals trying to conceive

Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski of Fertility Centers of Illinois

The holidays tend to remind us that family building has not gone the way we imagined. Yet there are ways to minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays.

The holidays can be a wonderful time with family and friends, but the season can also be difficult for those struggling with infertility. Regardless of culture, religious affiliation, or socioeconomics, most holidays conjure up media-fed images of happy families gathering together. For anyone who is having trouble conceiving or maintaining a successful pregnancy, these images can dredge up emotional pain.

"The holidays tend to remind us that family building has not gone the way we imagined. Seeing siblings and cousins with their children can remind those what they don't have. That's never easy," says Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski, clinical psychologist with Fertility Centers of Illinois.

Yet there are ways to minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. Here are 12 tips and strategies from Dr. Cymet Lanski to make the holidays less stressful and more enjoyable.

1.    Acknowledge your feelings.

Realize that it's normal to feel sadness and grief. It's OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. Forcing happiness just because it is the holidays is not possible. Holding everything inside also does not help. It actually takes more mental energy to hold feelings back than to express them. Allow time to feel the sadness, anger, and frustration.

“The more you hide your feelings, the more they show. The more you deny your feelings, the more they grow.” - Unknown

2.    Reach out.

If feeling lonely or isolated, seek out support from a partner or a close friend. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering time to help others is a good way to lift spirits and broaden friendships.

3.    Stick to a budget.

Fertility treatment can be expensive and many couples feel stretched financially already. The holiday season can bring a lot of expectations, but before gift shopping, decide how much money is really available to spend. Then stick to a budget. Don't try to buy happiness with an avalanche of presents.

4.    Plan ahead.

People sometimes ask inappropriate questions at inappropriate times. So plan ahead and come up with an answer that feels comfortable. Some examples include: "Not sure. So, how's the new job?" or "Ask the powers that be, because I don't know." A simple response might be: "I'd rather not talk about it, thanks." Or, if you want to go for something gutsier: "That's a rather personal question, don't you think? Anyway, how's the new job?"

Remember: “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.” - Mahatma Gandhi

5.    Learn to say no.

Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if participating in every project or activity isn't possible. If it's not possible to say no when your boss for overtime, try to remove something else from the agenda to make up for the lost time. If desire or strength are lacking when it's time to attend a family party or holiday event, just say no.

6.    Be smart when buying gifts.

It isn't a requirement to shop for young infant nieces and nephews, or good friends' children at baby stores. Instead, buy gift cards.

7.    Avoid emotional triggers.

Don't open Christmas cards from people who will include photos of their happy, smiling family. You can always say “I got your lovely card thank you for thinking of us” and quickly move on to another topic of conversation.

8.    Only adults.

If you want to throw a holiday party, make it "adults-only." You can take this further if you've had a really difficult year, and being around babies and children is the last thing you need for your mental health. Maybe that means skipping the holidays at your parents’ this year. Instead, you can make dinner at home, get together with some adult friends (without children) or even take vacation days and spend them with your partner on an adults-only getaway. Your family may get upset, but they'll eventually get over it, and most importantly, you'll be calmer in the long run.

9.    Practice relaxation.

Learning how to relax and calm yourself can help when feelings become too intense. Relaxation and breathing techniques are all possible ways to calm yourself.

10.    Talk to your partner.

Talk about your feelings together. Keep in mind, though, that men and women cope with stress in different ways. Women are more likely to express their sadness, while men tend to hold things inside. Neither way is wrong, just different.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” - Lao Tzu

11.    Don't let infertility take over your life.

Make sure you fill your life and your relationship with other things. If it seems like infertility is all that you discuss, set a specified time each day for the topic, and use the rest of the day to talk about other things. Do something fun over the holidays like taking a trip or taking a new class at the gym or the local art studio.

12.    Take good care of yourself.

Make sure you are eating and sleeping well. Sleep can make a big difference for our mood and our emotional strength.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” - Eleanor Roosevelt.

Remind yourself that the holidays and the way you chose to celebrate them will soon pass. This is not how it’s going to be for the rest of your life. Your fertility struggles will resolve at some point, things will change and you will be able to celebrate again.

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Fertility Centers of Illinois is one of the leading fertility treatment practices in the United States, providing advanced reproductive endocrinology services in the Chicago area for more than 30 years. FCI physicians, embryologists and support staff are stringently chosen based on educational background, medical skills and their ability to collaborate. With a team of 11 nationally and internationally recognized reproductive physicians who treat thousands of patients each year, the practice has earned a reputation for overcoming hard-to-solve fertility issues. FCI is dedicated to medical and clinical excellence and continues to invest in the latest technologies and research. FCI offers a comprehensive range of fertility treatment options including intrauterine insemination, in vitro fertilization, donor egg, gestational carrier, and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, as well as extensive resources to address financial and emotional needs. Fostering a culture for continuous innovation has made FCI home to the annual Midwest Reproductive Symposium which attracts experts in the field of reproductive endocrinology from around the world. FCI has 10 offices conveniently located throughout the Chicagoland area (Buffalo Grove, Chicago/River North, Crystal Lake, Glenview, Highland Park, Hoffman Estates, Lindenhurst, Warrenville, Oakbrook Terrace, and Tinley Park). FCI is a member of the Attain Fertility Network which provides discounted fertility treatment programs. For more information call 877-324-4483 or visit http://www.fcionline.com

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Gina Kremer