Tips to help navigate the Festive Season

The festive season can be a wonderful time of year to engage with family and friends, as well as take part in meaningful traditions and exciting activities. For some, though, it may be tinged with sadness. It may reignite feelings of grief and loss, for example, if loved ones are no longer here or there may be reminders of emotionally difficult experiences during the year.

For those dealing with infertility and its treatment, Christmas time may be especially difficult if one’s emotions are at odds with the feelings and expectations associated with this time. The focus on families and children, well-meaning but perhaps intrusive questions from relatives, financial stress, and the pressure to maintain a happy and relaxed appearance despite treatment stressors, may be a few of the challenges to navigate.

Given this, it is not surprising to experience an increase in stress, anxiety, low mood, relationship difficulties and emotional distress. Recognizing your limits and planning ahead are key to participating in festive events, whilst protecting yourself from any unnecessary emotional difficulty. We hope that the following tips help!


Coping with Get-Togethers

Get-togethers with family and friends are a central part of this festive season for many. These may expose you to others’ curiosity and insensitive questions or comments about your plans regarding children, and the presence of pregnant family members and/or children. Understandably, you may wonder whether non-attendance would be a better option, and, if so, how to explain this to family. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed, concerned about damaging existing relationships, and unable to make choices with which you are truly happy with. Some suggestions:

  • Approach any challenging event as a team with your partner or close support
    If applicable, speak to your partner about how they are feeling and what they would like to do. Expectations between families and partners can differ and opening up this conversation can ease anxiety and provide you with some support. If you do not have a partner, you may be able to confide in an understanding family member or friend.
  • Monitor your limits
    Decide which events you would enjoy or would feel emotionally doable for you. It may feel sufficient to attend one or two events, more, or none of them at all! This is a personal choice, and front of mind should be what you feel sits best with you emotionally.
  • Have an exit plan
    Consider how long to stay at an event and commit to engaging fully for the time you are there. However, setting a time frame allows you to have a say in what you are committing to, and puts the control and choice in your hands.
    If you will be with a partner, family member or friend who knows how difficult you may find a situation, clarify how to communicate how you are both feeling. A simple and subtle hand gesture or facial expression can indicate that you would like to leave early, need assistance changing the topic of conversation, or reassure one another you are both having a good time.
  • Prepare an explanation for non-attendance or leaving early
    Having a previously decided way of explaining your decision will allow you to feel more comfortable in communicating your absence/desire to leave. These may differ depending on the relationship to the host, but a few examples may be statements like “unfortunately I have another commitment to go to” or “my partner and I have chosen to share this holiday together as a couple this year”.
  • Have pre-prepared replies for upsetting comments
    You may like to think about how you (and if applicable, your partner) would respond to intrusive questions or comments. You may choose to use humor, respond openly to the question, or say nothing at all! The important thing to remember is that it is most likely that the question/comment was not intended to be hurtful, and that your response should be one that feels the most comfortable and natural for you.


Managing Financial Stress

During the Christmas period, our spending tends to increase with gift-buying and more frequent social activity. This can be particularly stressful while already managing the cost of fertility treatment.

  • Avoid guilt
    Match your spending to your priorities. Let go of guilt if you do less or spend less on others this year. There are many ways to communicate how important others are to you.
  • Try less expensive options
    Rather than restaurant dinners or cocktail catch ups, suggest lower cost options such as BBQs at your local park, or meet up in your home with every guest bringing a plate of food.
  • Start new traditions
    Suggest that your family take part in a secret Santa or give handmade gifts or op-shop finds. While this is a lower cost option, it can also add something different and unique to this festive season or serve to create a new tradition within your family.


Taking Care of Your Wellbeing

While this season can feel stressful or overwhelming, it is also a valuable time to connect with loved ones, to reflect on your accomplishments this year, and to set your intentions for the year to come. It is an important time of year to prioritize your wellbeing. You can do so by:

  • Setting time aside regularly to practice activities that you find help you to feel relaxed or comforted e.g., meditation or mindfulness, reading, exercise or journaling
  • Engaging in aspects of the festive season that you enjoy, such as decorating or listening to Christmas music
  • Speaking openly to those you trust, such as a partner or friend, about your concerns and feelings, and how they can best support you
  • Taking care of your mental health helps you cope with any extra stress at this time and allows you the mental space to be fully involved in the enjoyment that this season can bring.


You’re Not Alone!

Remember: There is no right way to cope at this time. Should you feel the need for additional support at this or at any time, you may arrange to see one of the Fertility North Fertility Counsellors. Otherwise, don’t forget to check out some of our other helpful Blog Posts.