The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination, Inc

INCIID Insights December 2006: A Grab Bag of Coping Skills for the Holidays


Coping can be thought of as learning to get out of your own way.  We all get tossed around in life and we all form defenses which make it possible to live in our early environment.  As we mature, we sometimes get stuck with learned patterns which resist change. Yet, when something as painful and demanding as infertility hits, we are called upon to adapt to an unwanted reality.  And our coping styles may need to evolve to a level of sophistication that goes beyond what we have had at our disposal. 


There are two other definitions of coping that suggest the kind of evolution that is demanded of us.  One is the rounded tile that is used to give a bathroom or kitchen wall or a swimming pool a finished edge.  And the other refers to the strips of fabric that go in between the sections of a quilt which help to make up for imperfections.  Infertility leaves us feeling at a loss and suggests that there is something more that is needed to create a sense of wholeness.


The following is a compilation* of the various coping strategies from which you can choose.  All strategies are more likely to be useable if you can    discipline yourself to 1) stop when you feel overwrought, 2) take a breather and 3) refer to this list so as to decide what would work better for you than what you’re doing.





Change any of the following:


            Communication style




            Family or work routine


            Life style habits


Do any of the following:


            Make a pro-con list

            Clarify values

            Evaluate relationships

            Notice stressors at home, at work, socially

            Evaluate your needs

            Build self-esteem

            Set goals

            Exercise, yoga, tai chi (to feel physical strength and relax the body)






            Exercise, yoga, tai chi (to release endorphins and relax the mind)

            Learn relaxation techniques

            Distract yourself

            Monitor thoughts to avoid being trapped in negativity

            Reframe situation in a better light (how is the glass half-full?)


            Social support


            Release emotions into a journal

            Recognize and release judgment







  Affirmations, positive self-talk



            Guided imagery or hypnosis tapes


            Purposeful breathing

            Music, Dance, Singing, Chanting, Drumming

            Art projects



            Energy Healing such as Reiki





As you can see, there are many ways to break into the stress cycle.  You may be able to recognize one or several approaches that resonate which you could be relieved to appropriate.  Infertility is notorious for creating a need to think and feel clearly at the same time that it scrambles your brain.  If infertility does anything universally, it leaves people feeling out of control.   This list is designed to organize your options in a straight-forward way, giving you a fighting chance to feel mastery over these unwanted circumstances.



*The organization of this list is adapted from The Wellness Book by Herbert Benson, MD and Eileen Stuart, RN.


Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD


420 East 64th Street – 1D (East)

New York, NY 10021


212-888-2558 (FAX)


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