The holidays can be stressful enough, but for those coping with infertility, it may be difficult to enjoy a traditionally joyous season. From seeing the baby’s first Christmas ornaments while out shopping to the abundance of holiday-themed pregnancy and gender reveal announcements on social media, there seem to be reminders at every turn. And don’t get us started on the well-meaning relatives at the family gathering and strangers at cocktail parties who ask “Why haven’t you had kids yet?” or “Do you have any kids at home?”

As difficult as this season can be, especially due to its child-centric nature, it is still possible to enjoy it–or at the very least survive it. Here are some great tips from Psychology Today and the National Fertility Association regarding how to handle holiday stress:

  • Be selective: Don’t feel obligated to accept every invitation to parties and holiday celebrations, especially ones where you know there will be a lot of children and pregnant women. Even if that would otherwise not bother you, the holidays can exacerbate underlying feelings. Instead of feeling guilty for declining, use that time for self-care so that you feel ready to take on the new year. For the events that you choose to attend, remember that you can either arrive late, leave early, or even both.
  • Have a plan: Anticipate questions and insensitive remarks you may encounter and have a plan for your responses. However, don’t feel as though you have to disclose every detail about the circumstances of your infertility.
  • Embrace your feelings: Allow yourself to feel sad, jealous, angry, depressed or bitter. You are entitled to those feelings. In the next minute, you may find yourself experiencing joy, happiness or gratitude. Feelings are not mutually exclusive. Talk with your partner about how you’re feeling and encourage him or her to do the same.
  • Focus on others: Prioritizing your physical, mental and emotional health are an important part of your fertility journey. But, you may find that helping others can be rejuvenating for your spirits. Deliver flowers those in a nursing home or volunteer in a holiday program to help those less fortunate.
  • Hold all the babies (or don’t): Everyone processes infertility or infant loss differently. If holding a loved one’s baby or playing in the floor with your nieces and nephews soothes your aching heart, then take advantage of the extra opportunities the holiday season brings. On the flip side, if those things are too painful for you, don’t be afraid to say so.
  • Rally your support system: Whether it’s your partner, a family member or group of trusted friends, lean on your support system. Invite them for a quiet night in or ask them to help run interference when crazy Aunt Susie just won’t’ stop asking uncomfortable questions. Infertility is very personal, but that doesn’t mean it’s a journey you have to navigate alone.

For even more tips for coping with the holidays, here is an in-depth guide from the National Fertility Association. From all of us at Carolinas Fertility Institute to you, we hope you are able to find joy during this holiday season and we look forward to serving you in the new year.