10 Self-Care Strategies to Get You Through the Holidays— That aren’t Mani-Pedis

I think that mani-pedis are delightful, but often times the long and tough road of infertility requires deeper self-care. Even the term “self-care” may make you roll your eyes. (Sorry!?) Especially during the busy pace of the holiday season, when there is an expectation to be merry and to put a shiny bow on your feelings, it is important to take care of yourself by PUTTING YOU BACK INTO THE EQUATION.

It’s that time of year again, when amidst the tinsel and egg nog, I encourage you to create moments that add up to the YOU that you know– and may be missing. Here’s how…

1. BE GOOD TO YOU

The holidays are a time of giving. It seems simple, yet it can be surprisingly difficult to give to ourselves when the gifts under the Christmas tree are designated for everyone else. Take a minimum of 10 minutes daily to do something kind for yourself. Take a walk. Dance. Soak in a bubble bath. Buy yourself a treat. Put a gift under the Christmas tree labelled To: Me. Do something that makes you connect to your heart and to yourself. Every. Day.

2. TAKE A MOMENT TO REFLECT

Why wait to reflect on those New Year’s resolutions? Ask yourself now– “How am I doing?” and “What do I need to get through the holidays this year?” Take an emotional barometer reading often, and don’t be afraid to change course depending on what answers you discover along the way.

3. FIND YOUR KRYPTONITE

What makes you feel powerful? Brave? Strong? Holiday stress offers many opportunities to draw upon your own personal power source. That fire within that makes you feel like the bad-ass you are. Own your kryptonite and use it as needed.

4. REHEARSE YOUR SCRIPT

With your holiday calendar full of social events, you may be confronted with those uncomfortable or inappropriate “kids” questions. These questions may not be something that you want to discuss over Chanukah latkes, so practice what you want to say. If you feel comfortable with the person asking, you may receive support by sharing a little about what is going on. However, it is possible that your great Aunt or husband’s colleague will corner you at the party. In these cases, you can deflect and say, “Great question!” or “We’ll make sure to keep you posted.” And move onto the next topic. You can also be more direct and say, “I’ll let you know if I want to talk about having kids.” Or “We’ve got this. No need to discuss.” Feel free to excuse yourself from the conversation, or make it an early night if you are better off being cozy in your bed at home.

5. SEEK LOVE

Plan a date night or a special trip just for you and your partner. Create new holiday rituals with your family or friends. Cuddle with your dog. Tell your best friends that you need a girls’ night out. You will feel a whole lot better finding strength in the connections that nourish your spirit right now.

6. SAY “NO”

There is a tendency to over-schedule during the holidays. Remember that your time is valuable. And your well-being is even more valuable. I encourage you to decline invitations to holiday celebrations that may be too stressful—especially if there will be a lot of children or pregnant women. Be mindful of engaging in activities that re-charge you—and saying “No” to those that don’t.

7. WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL…LIKE YOU??

It may seem like an odd question. But, I have found that infertility is one of those things that can make you lose track of what makes you feel most like yourself. With so many rules about taking medications, having sex and exercising, many people just plain don’t feel like themselves. Ask yourself what you can do this holiday season that will help you connect with something important about who you are or that will make the holidays feel special. Even if you can’t do it fully (ie: travel abroad or hop on that SoulCycle bike), maybe you can incorporate a different version into your life (ie: plan a weekend getaway or do a yoga class).

8. FEEL YOUR FEELINGS WITHOUT JUDGMENT

Perhaps this year you give yourself a Free Pass to not rejoice or be in the holiday spirit, if that is not how you are feeling. Remind yourself that the infertility landscape is a complicated buffet of sadness, worry, disappointment, hope, hopelessness–and everything in between–even during the holidays. You are already working so hard. Accept what you are feeling rather than adding more struggle to the mix.

9. TAKE A BREAK

Give yourself a break–a real break. Not the kind where you are in a spin class running through your To Do List. Maybe skip the gym. Take time alone. Chill out in front of a funny TV show. Read that book that’s been sitting on your dresser for a year. Some people even choose to give themselves a break from infertility treatments during the holidays. You may find it has never felt so good to do nothing for awhile.

10. GRATITUDE

Even though the holidays pose a unique set of challenges, try to count your blessings. Express appreciation to family and friends who have loved and supported you through the high’s and the low’s. And back to “#1 BE GOOD TO YOU”–The holidays are exactly the right time to express gratitude toward yourself. For all that you have faced head-on this year. For being a positive influence in someone else’s life. For things big and small that you do every day. Take a moment to give yourself the holiday gift of gratitude.

Michele Weiss, LMFT

Can Holiday Cheer Hinder Your Fertility?

By Diana Zic

As I write this, it’s the start of the holiday season. Some would say it’s the most wonderful time of the year and I would agree, except for the encouragement to do everything in excess. It starts with early commercials from car dealerships and jewelry stores, leading people to believe it’s necessary to buy extravagant gifts, in order to have a joyous holiday (I’m still waiting for my Lexus with a red bow). Then come the food and liquor companies’ ads, promoting their views on how holiday cheer should look and feel. Generally, that picture looks like a cocktail in hand, and a huge table of food nearby, to accompany it. Before I go any further, I want to state that I’m not trying to be the Grinch who stole Christmas, but I find that now, more than at other times of the year, drinking becomes much more prevalent, and acceptable. For example, I received a text from my neighbor: “Feel free to swing by for a glass of wine! We’re drinking all day!” If you’re curious, I didn’t go, as that certainly didn’t sound like a “glass of wine” type of invitation.

In the “pre-pregnant” stage of life, it’s hard to say no when you’re not yet pregnant. Or, you may be in the two-week wait, and don’t want to disclose to your grandmother that you may be pregnant soon. If you are new to pre-pregnant terminology, as referred to in the book, “ It Starts with the Egg ,” this means “protecting your eggs the way you would protect a growing baby if you were pregnant.” So, what’s a hopeful mom to do?

Let’s start with what moderate, and excessive drinking looks like. According to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] , moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day, for men. Excessive, or heavy drinking, is defined as eight drinks or more per week for women, and 15 drinks or more per week, for men. The CDC also recommends that women who are, or may be pregnant, not drink alcohol at all. Oddly, there is no mention that men should not drink while trying to father a child, even though studies indicate that alcohol consumption decreases sperm count, sperm motility, and fertilization rates. Not to mention the oxidative stress alcohol causes throughout the body.

And of course there’s the issue of size, in our oversized culture. If you’re like the pre-research me, you may not have a clear understanding of what one drink actually looked like , because the glass typically given at a restaurant or bar is huge, so let me describe. A standard drink is defined as12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content); 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content); 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content); or 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey). Now that we understand what moderate and excessive drinking looks like, and what a drink size actually looks like, I was curious if it was okay to have drinks in moderation on my pre-pregnant journey. What I found was quite clear to me. See what you think about these five different studies:

  • First up, during an 18-year period, 252 women underwent infertility examinations and what it revealed was high alcohol consumption increased risk of infertility and fewer first and second trimester pregnancies in those women compared to moderate or low consumers of alcohol.
  • Next up was a bit different, it’s a study done with 430 Danish couples trying to conceive for the first time. They found that women consuming five or fewer drinks per week led to decreased fecundability. That would mean moderate drinking would not be recommended, although they do say further corroboration is needed.
  • Another study done in Denmark, was conducted to determine if alcohol use is a predictor for infertility. It’s finding was interesting as researchers found more problems among women in the later reproductive age group above 30 years of age who were drinking seven or more drinks per week.
  • This study researched whether alcohol consumption affects female fecundability. It indicated that “consumption of 14 or more servings of alcohol a week was slightly associated with reduced fecundability, but consumption of lower amounts seemed to have no discernible effect on fertility. Nonetheless, because the fetus may be particularly vulnerable to alcohol during the first few weeks after conception, it would seem prudent for women who are actively trying to become pregnant to abstain from alcohol during their fertile window until a pregnancy has been ruled out.”
  • Last but not least, there’s data indicating that alcohol has a negative effect on IVF success rates . This study determined that as few as four alcoholic drinks per week are associated with a decrease in IVF live birth rate.

In my personal research on hormonal health, and its connection with the gut, I’ve found that alcohol is an inflammation-causing agent . This means that alcohol can inflame the intestinal track, and hinder nutrients from being absorbed properly. So, if you’re trying to conceive it may be best not to interrupt this process whenever possibly, as being deficient in nutrients can negatively impact upon pregnancy, and pregnancy potential.

After researching the issue, it’s become quite clear to me that steering clear of excessive drinking is important while trying to conceive, whether it’s with assisted reproductive treatment or not, and of course, giving it up while pregnant. Unfortunately, because of the social pressures of the holiday season, avoiding it may be more difficult.

So here’s my trick. It works every time! Have sparkling water in a glass with a lemon or lime wedge. Most people will think you’re drinking a cocktail.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey, and happy holidays!

Diana Zic is a Health and Wellness Coach specializing in fertility health, Yoga Instructor (RYT) and Prenatal Yoga Instructor (RPYT) in Chicago, Illinois. Struggling to start her own family, she has devoted herself to learning how our lifestyles can affect our fertility health. She has made it her mission to help individuals with fertility challenges get balanced in their bodies so they can be in the most healthful place while trying to conceive.

Get to know Diana at the Pulling Down the Moon by joining her Yoga for Fertility Class!

Don’t know what Yoga for Fertility is all about? Check out the research here . Save your spot in a FREE class here .

Happy New Year: Rethinking New Year’s Resolutions

by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

As we transition into 2018, it’s so tempting to make New Year’s resolutions that are sweeping and very non-specific, such as “I’m going to eat healthier” or “lose weight” or “be more organized.” Ultimately, these resolutions are well intentioned, but often we focus on overly lofty goals that are difficult to continue beyond a few months, and we are left feeling demoralized and disappointed that we weren’t able to stick to our resolution.

One way to get around this, in my opinion, is to think about our intentions for the New Year and then get really specific about the behaviors we need to implement to get there. For example, if your intention is to improve your diet to maximize fertility, then it’s important to look at your diet and decide what areas need improvement. Do I need to reduce my sugar intake? Increase my intake of vegetables in order to increase my nutrient/fiber/antioxidant intake? Eat more home cooked meals instead of eating out so frequently? Once you’ve decided the habits that need improvement, then it’s important to choose small, specific, and very doable changes that you feel you can make for the long-term. For example, if you decide to focus on increasing your vegetable intake, first assess your current vegetable intake. If you do that and find you’re eating about 1-2 servings of vegetables per day, the next logical step may be to set a goal of eating at least 3 servings of vegetables per day (1 serving = 1/2 cup) instead of jumping right to 5 servings per day, which may prove to be quite challenging. Then decide how you’re going to achieve that. Strategies you might find helpful include adding vegetables to smoothies, eggs, soups, and chili. Roast a large batch of vegetables every Sunday to eat for the first part of the week. Check out this previous blog post about ways to eat more greens. Once eating 3 servings per day becomes a habit, you can always increase to 4-5 servings per day.

The most important thing for your goal setting to help propel you forward and build your confidence instead of get discouraged, which is what can happen when we overcommit ourselves to too many goals and goals that are too difficult to fit into our already busy lives. Tiny Habits is a great a resource when you’re thinking about habit change for 2018 or anytime of the year.

Learn more about how customized nutrition support can help!

Start the Year with a Cleansing Ritual

Cathy McCauley, LMT

As 2017 comes to a close, you may be writing and sharing resolutions for 2018 or imagining what’s in store for the new year. This passing of time may give you pause to reflect and look forward to letting go of some things and creating space for others.

The coming of the new year also brings the opportunity to renew your commitment to your health, and we would want nothing more than for you to turn to Pulling Down the Moon for support.

It’s no secret that keeping resolutions can be difficult. Instead, a cleansing ritual can be the perfect way to commit to your health without the pressure and stress of maintaining a resolution. Some cleansing rituals may involve quiet reflection or meditation, conscious breathing, gratitude, writing, burning sage or reciting health-focused mantras or affirmations. Another ritual could be receiving a massage like the Cleanse the Body or Detox session at Pulling Down the Moon.

This amazing massage triggers your body’s detoxification response through the use of therapeutic-grade essential oils and light-touch lymphatic massage. It is safe for anyone who is currently not in an ART medicated cycle and provides an array of benefits. The session can help to bring the body back into hormonal balance, reduce stress and anxiety, aid the body in detoxing, improve immune function and increase feelings of emotional well-being. Clients who receive this massage often comment on how relaxed and lifted they feel after it is over.

Turn this massage into a cleansing ritual by taking some easy steps. In the days before the massage session, carve out some time to focus on your health. Perhaps spend some time in meditation, yoga or actively breathing. Next, write down anything that came up for you as you were quietly focused. Maybe it’s a goal of letting go, starting new or inviting in. Maybe a vision came to mind or a prayer, mantra or intention. Then say thank you. Gratitude will shift your perspective from what is lacking to the abundance that exists.

When you come to Pulling Down the Moon to receive your Cleanse the Body session, do so with an open heart. Be willing to let go of what is not serving your optimum health. Visualize the joy of starting something new. Imagine your body releasing toxicity, rebalancing hormonally and refreshing emotionally.

After your massage session, be gentle with yourself. Nourish your body by drinking plenty of clean, fresh water and eating food that supports your system. Rest and relax. Offer yourself gratitude. And revel in the beauty of starting a healthful new year!

Cathy McCauley, LMT, practices the Fertility Enhancing Massage protocol as well as prenatal, postpartum and therapeutic massage at Pulling Down the Moon. She started her work as a fertility massage therapist in 2011 and soon found her passion for rubbing bellies! Having dealt with a PCOS diagnosis and receiving holistic treatments to manage it, she supports and encourages clients struggling with reproductive health issues while providing them with specialized massages for wherever they were on their journey.

After taking some time away in 2014, Cathy recently returned to the Moon with a renewed spirit and connection to fertility massage. Her love for the work is rooted in her trust in the feminine spirit that ties us all together. She deeply believes in Pulling Down the Moon’s mission of providing holistic care for fertility, pregnancy and family health, and she has immense gratitude for the company, its owners, directors, practitioners and staff.

Cathy is available for appointments at the Highland Park office on Monday from 4-8:30pm and Thursday from 12:30-5pm. Book with Cathy or any of our massage practitioners today !

Baby It’s Cold Outside

Burrrrrr!

It’s officially cold in Chicago, dry in our homes, and time to get down to the business of hydrating our way into a new year! Whatever your goals are, make sure you hydrate. If you are frequently cold and dry, it will warm and moisten you. If you have heat, it will clear it out, via sweat and urine. Remember, blood is mostly water. So to keep the blood moving, and warming those toes, drink water, eat a piece of fresh fruit or veggie. Drink broth, eat soup, sit by a fire, and hydrate! If you are actively warming up by having a cocktail, enjoy it and rehydrate between drinks.

Winter is as yin as it gets. Build your most yin substances—blood and water, and remember to hydrate!

Have a wonderful season,

Kelly Lyons, L.Ac., MSOM
Pulling Down the Moon

Learn more about holistic health can support you this season!

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