Being on a fertility journey is never easy. Yet there are certain times throughout the year when it can seem even more difficult. I know only too well that Christmas can be one of those times.
It can be painful to accept it’s another Christmas without the baby you long for; without the additional name on the Christmas card, the extra stocking to fill and the new mouth to feed. It can be torturous to be a bystander to all the family celebrations around you; to see and hear your peers indulging their children and living out your dreams. It can be exhausting to manage the barrage of unwelcome questions; why you’re not drinking alcohol, why you don’t want the extra slice of cake and why there’s still no sound of the pitter patter of tiny feet. It can be despairing to reflect on the passage of time and experiences you’ve endured, only to feel no further forward; to be left clinging to the desperate hope that next year it will be different.
And of course this year, this Christmas isn’t just any Christmas. It’s a covid Christmas. A Christmas bound in restrictions over where, when and with whom you can spend your time. A Christmas shrouded in the uncertainty of what’s best for your well-being and that of your nearest and dearest. A Christmas that follows a year of unprecedented challenges that may have complicated and added to the everyday afflictions of your fertility journey. A year in which you may have lost loved ones, missed loved ones, lost employment, struggled with new working practices, experienced financial hardship or been unwell.
So if the festivities are seeming a little pointless and misplaced; if you’re struggling to find any Christmas cheer; if you’re lacking in any sense of celebration; if you’re mindlessly going through the motions; if you’re wearily dragging yourself towards the holidays; or if you’re silently wishing it all to be over so you can start afresh in the new year, then know that’s okay and you’re not alone.
And know this too. Whatever your current reality, you already have everything you need to edge towards something better. From where you are, with what you’ve got, you’re able to create your own unique version of ‘thriving’ rather than just ‘surviving’ over the festive period. In your own way and at your own pace, you have the potential to make the most of your Christmas, and I’d like to share a process to support you to do just that. It’s a process which encourages you to make peace with how you feel right now; identify with how you would prefer to feel instead; and engage in activities most likely to generate those feelings. It’s a process which has worked for me, which I hope will work for you too.
- Acknowledge and accept how you feel right now.
Take a quiet moment to ask yourself the simple question, “how am I feeling?”, and notice what words spring to mind. You might find it helpful to write them down or record them on your phone – whatever works for you.
Resist the temptation to censor or edit what comes up, or to slip into analysing why you feel that way, or to start judging yourself for it. Avoid assessing whether you should or shouldn’t have those feelings, whether they’re just or unjust, good or bad, wanted or unwanted. This is an exercise of complete openness and honesty. Just acknowledge what’s there and accept it as your current reality.
And if, and when, and to the extent you can tolerate it, spend some time with the feelings you’ve identified. Sit quietly with them. Notice where and how you experience them within your body.
By completing this step, you may find you’re starting to experience a greater sense of ease.
- Set an intention for how you want to feel instead.
Take another quiet moment to ask yourself “how do I want to feel this Christmas?”. Not “what do I want to do?” or “what do I want to have?”, which you may be more accustomed to considering, but “how do I want to feel?”. Again, notice what words spring to mind and make a note in your own way.
You may identify just one or two words, or you may end up with a huge long list. If it’s the latter, then narrow it down to those one or two (ideally no more than four) words that really stand out, the ones that resonate with you the most.
And when you’ve done that, ask yourself whether the prospect of feeling those feelings over the festivities seems challenging but achievable. There’s no need to over think this. Be guided by your intuition, and if you need to, make appropriate adjustments.
For example, if you’ve just suffered a loss and you’re grieving, it may seem unrealistic to feel joyful, but plausible to feel at peace. If you’ve spent months working long hours and you’re exhausted, it may seem too ambitious to feel energised, but viable to feel restored. If you’re expecting to start fertility treatment in the new year and you’re anxious, it may seem feasible to feel calm and even to feel excited.
Trust yourself to know when you’ve identified the feelings that are right for you, then consider what those feelings mean to you. Identify how you will know when you feel that way. Imagine what it will be like. What sensations will you experience? What will you see? What will you hear? What will you be doing? Set yourself the clear intention to feel that way this Christmas.
By completing this step, you may find you’re feeling closer to those feelings already.
- Get creative.
This is the fun part!
Brainstorm all the things you could do to enable you to experience the feelings you desire. Allow your imagination to run wild. Think big, think small, think inside the box, think outside the box, invite ideas from family and friends, ask Siri or Alexa if you want to. Be open minded. Be playful. Enjoy the process and notice how once you start to have ideas, more and more come your way.
Maybe you could wrap up warm and go on long winter walks; go in search of the brightest and wildest Christmas lights; make your own decorations; call a friend you’ve not spoken to for a while; listen to your favourite Christmas tunes; sing carols; snuggle under a blanket reading a good book or watching a classic movie; enjoy luxurious hot chocolates (without guilt); bake sweet treats; forget Christmas dinner and order take-out; stay in a hotel; lie in until noon; put away your laptop and turn off your phone; do some volunteering.
You can generate as many and as varied ideas as you like, provided they’re about you and creating the feelings you desire.
By completing this step, you may find you’re feeling more positive about what’s possible.
- Make a plan.
Now you’ve been inspired, it’s time to decide exactly what you’re going to do to enable you to feel the way you want to feel this Christmas.
Reflect on your ideas. What would be the greatest gift you could give yourself this Christmas? What would be most likely to generate the feelings you desire? What is your heart telling you to do? What would be the easiest option? What would be the most stretching? What excites you?
Being mindful of what’s possible and what’s permitted, choose the action you intend to take. Check, double check and even triple check that what you’ve chosen has the capacity to make you feel just as you want to feel over the festive period. Check it isn’t another ‘to do’ list you’re introducing through the back door. Check it isn’t just an opportunity to get done the things you meant to do but didn’t get around to earlier in the year. Check it isn’t geared towards meeting everyone else’s needs, wants and expectations and neglecting your own. Check it isn’t simply falling in line with usual timetables and traditions.
Address your mind to when you might do the things you’ve chosen to do, what you might need to make them possible and who you may need to involve. Allow a plan to form; as thorough and specific as seems right to you. And especially since we live in such uncertain times, consider contingency plans too. If you can’t do any or all of these things, what will you do instead? How will you ensure you still get to feel the way you want to feel?
And once you’re clear about what you’re going to do, spend some time getting clear about what you’re not going to do as well. What are you not going to do that would otherwise get in the way of you feeling the way you want to feel this Christmas? Who or what are you going to say ‘no’ to so that you can say ‘yes’ to yourself and your desired feelings. Maybe you don’t want to stay with your parents this year. Maybe you don’t want to FaceTime your friends with their newborns. Maybe you don’t want to have another conversation over Zoom.
This is the part that can feel a little more scary but if there’s a year for doing things differently, surely this is it! And remember, this is about being able, in your own unique way, to ‘thrive’ not just ‘survive’ this Christmas. So be honest. Be true to you. Be faithful to the feelings you want to create.
By completing this step, you may find you’re feeling more empowered and in control.
- Own and execute your plan with compassion
Last but not least, live in alignment with your plan.
Now this doesn’t mean sticking rigidly to your plan at all cost. It doesn’t mean following it even if it no longer feels good; or turning it into another list of things you must achieve; or disregarding anyone or anything else; or missing out on other opportunities. And it absolutely doesn’t mean beating yourself up if you come off course.
It means honouring your intention to feel a certain way, and giving that the importance and priority it deserves. It means proactively doing the things you’ve committed to doing (understanding that those things may change and evolve), and establishing and upholding boundaries to make it possible. It means noticing when you’re off track and gently returning to how you want to feel and the actions which are most likely to elicit those feelings.
By completing this final step, you may find you’re making made the most of your Christmas.
We all know we can’t change the past, and we certainly can’t predict or control the future. We can only make the most of ourselves and our situation in the present moment. We’ve been starkly reminded of this in 2020. And this is the essence of the process I’ve shared. The invitation is simple; fill your cup with whatever makes you feel good this Christmas (I mean that metaphorically and literally) and ensure you’re as well resourced as you can be for whatever lies ahead.
Wishing you good health and happiness in 2021.
Emma Menzies | 07 December 2020
Copyright © 2020 Emma Menzies t/a Ready Steady Coach