December can be a tough time of year for those who are trying to conceive with every day of the advent calendar bringing more sadness as everyone around you seems to grow with excitement.
Everywhere you look you’re reminded of the family time you aren’t having with your own children at Christmas.
Perhaps you’re relieved that Christmas will look very different this year due to Covid; you can avoid the mass family gatherings and spend more time at home in your lounging wear watching Netflix and eating chocolate yule log.
Here are 19 more suggestions of what you could do to thrive throughout Christmas 2020 whilst struggling with the grief of infertility/ fertility struggles:
1. Crying and or sweating
Accepting that you will be upset at times will allow you to feel prepared. According to net doctor 88.8% people feel better after crying, with women crying around 47 times per year and men 7. The research implies that because men have higher sweat levels they are more likely to release toxins related to emotional stress through sweating.
2. Good distractions
In a recent article in Psyche magazine, Uddipana Gaoswami discusses writing to process pain. She acknowledges that trauma can draw us inwards and away from the world and the people in it.
Options aside from journaling are writing memoir pieces and personal essays that can be brought together to make a full-length autobiography.
Gaoswami says that ‘grief is private, grieving doesn’t have to be’ and encourages those seeking to heal through writing to reach out to a community who can help them improve their technique whilst doing so.
4. Charitable work
Start collecting donations for the children at your school who are less fortunate and who you know will not have much of a Christmas.
Marcus Rashford has managed to secure a £170m Covid Winter Grant Scheme throughout Easter, Summer and Winter, but those of us who work in disadvantaged areas know that a lot of children will go without gifts this Christmas.
Registering with DO IT will help you to find out about volunteering opportunities in your area this Christmas.
5. Try cooking some fertile friendly foods… but still indulge
Zita West’s ‘The IVF Diet’ is a good starting point to learn what to eat to improve the endometrium, eggs and sperm. A great breakfast recipe is the Cranberry and Walnut Granola Cluster. The Preggers Kitchen is also worth a follow as she has super fertility book reviews.
6. Prepare answers to insensitive questions
With a cap on Christmas bubbles this year the chances are you won’t be seeing all of the family members who give you a hard time for not being pregnant or who wave a finger at you before saying ‘tick-tock’ suggesting you need to get a move on with the babies.
Whether you go with ‘i’m waiting for you to have a few more first’ or the blunt and quite rightly straight to the point ‘I’d rather not discuss this’ have a think what you will say in advance to lessen the chance of being caught off guard and flustered.
7. Go on a winter walk
Health Guide state that even a 15 minute walk will help to clear the mind.
‘There’s no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing’. If the snow doesn’t arrive this Christmas consider a walk in the rain; it can be liberating and even euphoric.
Singing releases endorphins that make us feel better. If your favourite part of school assemblies as a child were belting out the hymns then consider signing up for online carol concerts such as this one for Shelter https://england.shelter.org.uk/support_us/carol_service.
9. Jigsaw puzzles
When you’re fed up of eating, cooking, drinking and watching tv, consider pulling out a jigsaw puzzle. Along with banana bread jigsaw puzzles were one of the rages during the first lockdown this year. What is it about jigsaw puzzles that people love? JPs release dopamine every time we do a puzzle and each time we put a piece in the right place.
You’re either a napper or you aren’t. If you have fantasised about there being a private room available during your lunch break where you can climb into a bed and sleep for 30 minutes at lunchtime then chances are you’re team naps.
You don’t need to feel guilty about napping- if you do, know that napping is good for relaxation, reduces fatigue and is a mood booster.
11. Say no when you don’t want to go
Were you hoping for an isolated Christmas? Are you disappointed that you can now join a Christmas bubble? Know that you’re still entitled to that quiet Christmas if this is what you need. Setting boundaries for yourself and what will help you survive the festive period to make it as bearable as possible is important.
Your family might be disappointed that you won’t be making an appearance but they will understand, and putting their feelings before your own won’t make you feel any better.
‘Saying yes to taking care of yourself usually means saying no to someone else in some form or another…’ taken from Reshma Saujani’s 2020 book Brave not Perfect
12. Arrive late and leave early
This is a tactic to try if you struggle with the idea of saying no. Making other plans for the same time/ day of an event you are feeling apprehensive about attending will give you the structure you need to limit the time you are there. It could make you feel more in-control as you’ll have a good reason for not hanging around.
13. Set alarms for when you’re on social media
This is about throwing yourself a rope to climb up after you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of social media when you unknowingly find yourself browsing others enjoying their family time or reading tweets of others’ happiness. An alarm will bring you back to the present and could encourage you to pursue an activity that might bring more comfort.
14. Social media detox
Turning off your phone for Christmas Day could increase your self esteem and help break a habit that you don’t feel too great about. If this seems too large a feat to do all at once then consider introducing small changes and try a 30 social media day detox that can easily be found online.
Send Christmas wishes in advance telling people you’re having a social media detox. Not only will you avoid forcing yourself to reply with ‘Happy Christmas to you too’ on a day that you might not be feeling particularly peachy, but you’ll also give yourself the time you need before you’re reading to turn your phone back on and face reality and those messages once again.
15. Seek counselling
Fertility treatment failure is associated with milld and moderate depression. Women who have recurrent pregnancy loss are also more likely to experience stress and depression. Men are twice as likely than women to believe counselling is ‘self indulgent’ if you don’t have a ‘serious problem’, even though poor mental health is one of the biggest killers in men under 40.
Counselling is not a taboo and it’s not just for the rich and famous. A session could be what you need to help in the run up to Christmas.
16. Skip the decorations if they are too much this year.
It’s not like anybody else will be seeing the inside of your home. Without the tinsel, glitter and lights you’d have the additional wholesome feeling of being climate friendly this Christmas.
17. Buy yourself a Christmas gift.
It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant although if the budget allows then who’s stopping you? It could be a solo spa day, a counselling session, a skin care product, a staple piece for your wardrobe, a night course in Spanish, a National Trust membership, or a book- anything that’s brings you an upbeat feeling.
If you need convincing of spending money on yourself this Christmas think of the gift as being symbolic of how hard you have worked and the sacrifices you have made whilst trying to conceive this year.
18. Write lists.
Grief can distract us and make it harder to remember. Writing lists for the tasks you want to do as they come into your head such as sending cards, buying gifts, texting family member could help to combat this.
Writing your own list of what will help you to survive December. These lists could be on your phone or in a beautiful notebook- whichever makes your heart lift.
19. Don’t feel guilty for the choices you make
You might feel up to Christmas next year, but if you need a break this year then take it. The Christmas period is about spending time with others, giving our time to others and giving presents to others but you don’t need to feel guilty about not doing this. It’s not selfish. It’s self-care.
These ideas will not make everything better, but they will help you to get out of your own head space and give you the strength and energy you need to keep moving forward. If you need to spend a few days in bed over Christmas eating junk food because it’s too much effort to do anything else then do it.
Embrace this time and when you’re ready get up- shower, eat a home-cooked meal and take stock and reflect on how far you have come.